This past Saturday Spartanburg Water held their first annual Paddlefest on Lake Blalock. In addition to highlighting paddlesport opportunities on the lake, the event was designed to promote water quality and watershed awareness. The Western Carolina Kayaking group announced the event, so I decided to sign up and check it out.
Lake Blalock is located in northern Spartanburg County. It is fed by the Pacolet River, which it shares with its upstream neighbor, Lake Bowen, and by Buck Creek. The lake is a small lake with limited boat motor size, and a watershed buffer zone around the lake between landowners and the lake’s edge. That makes it ideal for paddling.
I hadn’t signed up for the event online ahead of time, so I arrived early at Lake Blalock Park on Sandy Ford Road. Folks were just getting set up for the event. There were to be paddling lessons and demonstration, a couple of races, and booths and displays. The event that interested me, though, was the “sunrise paddle” (even though it was already long past sunrise.) This was to be a guided wildlife tour by one of the lake wardens.
While waiting for things to get set up and read I checked out the facilities. The park has a nice boat ramp, as well as an excellent paddling launch site. A nice groomed sandy area is perfect for launching kayaks.
I watched as trailers arrived with a huge set of identical kayaks for the lessons later on in the day. It looked like they were using boats suitable for beginners – Wilderness System Tarpon 100s.
Eventually others arrived, and our tour guide, Dusty, met us at the ramp. As nice as this launch site is, it was not to be our point of departure. We were headed further up the lake so that we could explore some of the back waters.
Our group caravaned up to the Buck Creek arm of the lake. The launch site was off of a dead-end side road with little or no parking. We made the best of it as twenty fellow paddlers hauled their boats down to water’s edge and launched.
As one might imagine, the group had paddlers of various skill levels, as well as various types of boats. There were several touring boats and rec boats, and one of the shortest sit-on-tops I had ever seen.
Introductions were made, but I didn’t recognize anyone as regular paddlers with the Western Carolina group. I had no way of knowing which of my fellow paddlers had signed up with the group. I guess that’s the problem with a “club” that has so many loosely affiliated members. Regardless, there were some nice folks paddling with us, and I chatted with several as we worked our way upstream.
A few of the long-time residences were grandfathered in, but new construction on the lake has to observe the riparian buffer. At least in this area, this gives the lake a much wilder feel. The lake is even home to one type of endangered species. I can’t remember the plant’s name, but it has heart-shaped leaves.
We rounded a bend in the lake and saw an osprey in the top of a tree. Just beyond the osprey was its nest. Herons were also in the trees and wading in the shallows. We saw several wood ducks, turtles, and kingfishers out and about on the lake.
The route narrowed as we headed further up Buck Creek. Soon we reached a confluence between Buck Creek and Little Buck Creek. Both channels were inviting, and fairly deep and clear of debris. If I had been with my regular paddling partners we would have ventured as far up each creek as we dared. Apparently this group didn’t share that sense of adventure, and turned back at the confluence. I found myself paddling like crazy to catch up as they headed back.
Before I knew it we were back at the put-in. We had only paddled a few miles, and were on the water for only a couple of hours. It was 10:30 am and our trip was ending. I took an extra few minutes to paddle under the Buck Creek Road bridge.
Once the boat was loaded back onto my truck I headed back to the park to see what was happening with the rest of the Paddlefest. There was one display for a vendor selling folding kayaks…
While these looked nice and portable, they also looked like a pain to put together. In addition to this vendor, there were also several conservation groups with literature and other materials.
The boats I had seen so nicely lined up earlier were now out on the water, as folks gave them a spin.
Since our tour was so short I was tempted to haul my boat back out and join the fun. However, it was hot and it seemed a bit crowded down there. I decided to call it a day and head on home. It was only 11:30.
Spartanburg Water did a great job with their first Paddlefest. There were a few organizational glitches right at the beginning, but those seemed to be minor. While I was happy to see the conservation groups there, I wish there had been a few more vendor displays. Still, any day on the water is a great day, and I was happy to have an excuse to try out a new paddling venue.