It started with a fortune cookie found by Gregg Davis.
Boats and water are in your future.
I told Gregg that we had to make that a reality, and so Water Wednesday was born.
Alan Russell came up with the name Water Wednesday, and planned to join us. In the end it was just Gregg and Jeff Holland present for the actual event. For this inaugural Water Wednesday we decided to check out the new ADA boat ramp on the Saluda River in Pelzer. Yes, I know. Very exciting.
I got there early, as I had planned. I was actually hoping to get a jump start and try out the ramp before the others arrive. However, just as I pulled in a couple of locals also pulled up. They were full of questions about the boats as I pulled them out and got them set up. They then proceeded to walk out onto the launch and spread out their fishing gear. This could be a problem.
Since we’d already talked about the boats I told them that the ramp was where we planned to launch and how it worked. They understood, and moved to one end of the platform so that we could use the other.
Jeff arrived, followed shortly by Gregg. The two had not met, although both had several mutual friends and moved in similar circles. Introductions done, I got them set up with gear and we headed to the ramp.
Jeff was the first to try out the ramp while I shot video. Launching was trivial. You get in while dry and just slide down – no damp feet. This ramp is great even if you aren’t handicapped.
Here’s the video:
Gregg was up next.
Then it was my turn. There is a slight drop as the back end of the kayak falls into the water, but even with my longer boat it wasn’t a problem. I was just disappointed that my GoPro had chosen this morning not to work.
While the ramp is great, I can’t say as much about the venue. The Saluda at this point is basically an industrial waterway. The river is brown and muddy, and I had jokingly told the guys to bring their HazMat suits.
When I visited this landing several years ago it was basically an illegal dump, with bags of trash and old tires strewn everywhere. Upstate Forever and the folks that are putting in these ramps have done an excellent job of cleaning up the area. I just have to wonder how long it will stay that way. The small adjoining fishing dock has already been carved up and vandalized.
For boats like ours there is actually a limited path on this section of the Saluda. You can paddle south about a half mile downstream to where a cable is stretched across the river preventing boats from getting to close to the dam at Pelzer. Heading upstream you can paddle about a mile and a half before reaching Allen Shoals. You wouldn’t want to paddle upstream through these, but with the right boat you could do a point-to-point from further up the river, assuming you find a place to launch. There’s not much access between here and the Piedmont Dam.
My plan was to do as much as was available to us. It would be a short paddle in comparison to some of my other treks. We set off downstream first. A strange halo/rainbow encircled the sun. It was a bit ominous.
At this point the river runs next to a mill village for one of the old Pelzer textile mills. Typical mill village homes dot the hillside above the river. Just down from the launch was a brick structure right on the river. I’m sure it had something to do with the old mill, but it didn’t look like it was doing much now. Next to it was an effluent pipe that at one time dumped something into the river, back when rivers were regarded more as big sewer pipes rather than waterways.
Soon we were within sight of the town of Pelzer and the Highway 8 bridge. Beyond the bridge is the dam. We paddle up to the cable that prevents boats from traveling further. Jeff found a possible tributary, but we couldn’t get back into it.
As we paddled back through the mill village the communal nature of the riverbank struck me. There were some spots that were clearly privately owned and back up to houses, but large parts just looked like land anyone could use. And it looked like everyone was doing just that. There were lots of little fishing perches – pieces of chairs and other accoutrements. There was even a shack on stilts from cobbled parts. A large black racer rested in a downed tree next to it. All of these places were littered with trash.
We continued on past the put-in at a relaxed rate. The scenery, such as it was, was fairly consistent. Beyond the mill village the houses receded from the banks, so it didn’t look quite as trashy.
We came around a sharp bend and found an old railroad trestle. I believe this one is still in use.
It wasn’t much farther than that when we spotted the SC 20 bridge. As we approached we could see the abutments for a much older bridge.
The concrete and arches on the current bridge were striking. We lingered a bit under the bridge, doing our best troll impressions.
As we continued upstream the downstream current was getting more noticeable. It was still manageable, but seemed surprising since there was a dam just a little ways downstream. Even though civilization was just over a ridge, the banks seemed a bit wilder.
Long before I saw the shoals I first heard them, then felt them, then smelled them. I came around another bend and a waft of cool air hit me, bringing with it the crispness of moving water. Compared with the flat water through the mill village it was quite refreshing. Jeff and I paddled up and caught a coupe of eddies and just admired the view for a bit.
As far as rapids are concerned, Allen Shoals looked like it wouldn’t be a problem to run, even in a Pungo. I’ve done more difficult rapids in these boats. However, I’ve never tried to paddle UP rapids like these. I did try to get a bit closer, but the Tsunami just wasn’t the boat for this. I did manage to surf a small wave.
This was as far as we could go. We turned around and mostly just floated back with the current at a nice lazy pace. I even pulled out my harmonica at one point.
Before we knew it we were back at the ramp. I decided to built up a good head of steam and hit the ramp at full speed to see how far up it I would go. I got pretty far, but still had to pull myself up with the rails. Jeff and Gregg came aboard at a more reasonable pace.
Even though this isn’t the best venue, it was a good trip. We paddled 4.65 miles.
Jeff and Gregg are good paddling partners, and I hope we can make Water Wednesday a regular thing. At the very least, we’ll need to plan more trips and get more of our Upstate friends involved.
As for the new ADA ramp, it was a rousing success. I understand that more ramps are planned for the river. That would be great. Heck, I’d love to see these at Jocassee, Sparkleberry, and anywhere else I paddle.
As I drove out, though, the condition of the houses surrounding the new ramp reminded me that this might not last.
Perhaps. But maybe seeing this area cleaned up so nicely they will take pride in it and try to keep it in good shape. We shall see.