It was time. The Second Saturday in July marked our Ninth Annual Edisto River Rope Swing and Beer Commercial Float. This trip is by far the most relaxed of all of our trips and, as the name implies, features rope swings and beer. Throw in a few sand bars, bratwurst and sauerkraut, and good friends, and it becomes the epitome of why we do this.
This second Saturday happened to come at the end of the Fourth of July holiday week, so we had several that couldn’t make it due to family vacations and other travel. I would be driving by myself from Greenville, so I left out early. There was a stop at Bill & Fran’s for breakfast in Newberry, where I was supposed to meet the Spartanburg contingent of Larry and Albert. There was some miscommunication, and they got there just as I was leaving.
I drove straight on down to our put-in at Mars Old Field Landing. There I found long-time friend Steve Serkiz waiting for me, first on the scene. Steve is an excellent whitewater paddler and he and I had done several trips on the Nantahala in the 1980s. Before I met Laura I used to date his wife’s roommate. Steve is a PhD chemist now working at the National Laboratory at the Savannah River Plant. He and Laura have been doing some work together, and he had expressed interest in these trips. I brought a spare boat down for him for this trip.
The rest of the group gathered slowly. While we waited for everyone else to show up I waded on out into the water. It was quite warm, but there was a strong current. The water level wasn’t as high as I’ve seen it, but it wasn’t butt-dragging low, either.
Finally everyone arrived. There would be ten of us on this trip, which is a good number. Alan had driven down from Greenville the night before. Coming up from Bluffton would be Todd, Ray, Matt, and James. Rounding out the group was Tim from Savannah. We ran the shuttle down to Messervy Landing, then got ready for departure.
Right off the bat we ran into trouble. There is one spot just below the launch that can cause problems if you don’t watch out. The river narrows through some strainers. Todd managed to get caught and flip his boat. He lost his phone and was quite upset, but I think he was embarrassed more than anything. We recovered his boat and got him resettled and reassured him that many had flipped at that same spot. He should just consider it baptism into the group.
Shortly after getting Todd settled a john boat and two jet skis came through. I’d never seen motorized boats this far up the river. As they came back through we had another upset. The wake flipped Larry in his boat. Larry managed to hang onto his boat and get over to the bank with no trouble.
Our favorite rope swing is only a couple of hundred yards down from the launch. Given our recent mishaps it also seemed like a good place to stop and regroup. Last year we noticed that the swing was looking a bit…iffy. This year it looked even worse. The limb from which the rope hung had broken just beyond it, and it didn’t look like it would support weight without coming crashing down. Matt thought about it, but we decided that this one had passed its prime. We toasted its demise and all the good memories it had brought us with a bit of James’s new brew.
We paddled on downstream at a leisurely pace. Steve fit right in with the group. He and Alan had known each other from Furman, so they spent some time reconnecting. I was impressed with Steve’s boat handling skills, especially during the rescue missions. The rest of us chatted and caught up as we paddled along. It was hot out, but the skies were clear.
We came to a point where the river takes a deep bend to the left. At the point there is a nice beach where we pulled up to just kick back for awhile. We pulled up the boats and played our usual game of skeet shooting with a Frisbee and water cannons. We also sampled more of James’s brew. We kept the samples small, as this was some potent stuff.
More motor boats passed us, going both upriver and down. Oddly enough, we didn’t see any of the massive float parties that we’ve encountered on this trip. There was more motor traffic than I ever remember.
We pulled up to another sandbar where a couple on a jet ski had stopped for a bit. More wading, more beer, with a bit of moonshine thrown in.
We had dallied long enough that it was lunch time. It was tempting to pull up to the next sandbar to cook our brats, but we decided to head on down river a bit further. It turned out to be quite a stretch before the next stop.
When we did reach our next sandbar we found it occupied by two boats. There was barely enough space for us to squeeze our boats in, but we did so anyway. Despite pushing our way in, we made friends by letting the young boy in the group do some skeet shooting.
Matt set up the stove and got lunch underway. We occupied our time wading in the river.
There was an excellent rope swing here and we had to give it a shot. The young boy from the boat was fearless, and swung out without hesitation. Matt also had to give it a shot, as our official rope tester. The first images below will go to video clips if you click them.
The day was getting away from us. We still had miles to go, and if we didn’t get moving it would get dark before we got to our landing. Often we paddle up Four Holes Swamp, but this time we paddled right on past. To be honest, we reached it before I even realized. Beyond the swamp the character of the river changes. It’s a bit wider, and limestone walls line the river on the way down to Givhans Ferry. A marl shelf lines river right, and eventually gives way to cypress trees and knees.
We reached Givhans Ferry and the non-motorized traffic picked up. Still it was nothing like what we had seen in the past. Most of it seemed fairly family friendly, except for one intoxicated dude who was upset with someone drinking his beer. I think his fellow floaters were about to drown him. Everyone was tired of his shouting profanity.
About a half mile below the Highway 61 bridge Larry and I spotted what looked like old bridge abutments on either side of the river. The twisted steel on the right bank made me wonder if it had been an old steel truss bridge.
I checked historical topo maps and those don’t seem to support that conclusion, though. The only bridge in the area was Givhans Bridge, and the old bridge was further upstream from the current one, about where the swimming area is for the park. Most likely these were the remains of an old dock, and they just coincidentally line up with another feature across the river.
It always surprises me how far it is from Givhans to Messervy. Taking out down here adds three miles to the trip. Out group had gotten somewhat strung out, but we paddled along. The weather was holding, but we heard thunder off in the distance.
Eventually we reached the take out. It wasn’t as crowded as some times, but was still hopping. We got off the river about five, taking us all day to paddle 10.1 miles.
We retrieved vehicles, loaded up boats, and said our goodbyes until the next time. I drove back to Greenville by myself, hitting a horrendous storm around Orangeburg. I was glad it hadn’t hit while we were on the river. A dramatic sky awaited on the other side of the storm.
It was another successful trip, despite the missteps at the beginning. Sadly, I’m going to have to miss next year’s trip since we will be in Washington. That trip will mark 10 years that we’ve been doing this. It’s a great tradition, and I hope to keep doing it for years to come.
UPDATE: I almost forgot this. I made a time-lapse of our Edisto trip. It’s funny how the first part stops so frequently, but the last bit is just paddling. Click on the image below to view the video.