It may not seem like it at the moment—what with the 40 degree temperatures and overcast skies—but spring is just around the corner in Charleston. The days are getting significantly longer, it's gradually getting warmer outside, and local paddlers are foaming at the mouth to ditch their cold gear and soak up some rays while they paddle.
Charleston fosters a strong paddling community due to its proximity to so many awesome waterways around the city. It doesn't matter if you're brand new to the sport or if you've been paddling for decades, the Lowcountry is the perfect place to become more in tune with the marsh. So do yourself a favor this spring, and head out to one (or all) of these worthwhile lowcountry waterways paddling destinations.
1. Dewees Island
Dewees is a small, residential island located just north of Isle of Palms , about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. It's the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on the East Coast. The best paddling is found behind the island through its massive estuary. Launch out of the marina on Isle of Palms and head up the coast until you see one of the most beautiful beaches you've ever laid eyes on. On a good day, you'll see a minimum of 30 dolphins, a million different kinds of sea birds, and maybe a turtle or two. Remember, planning your trip around the tides will be the difference between a good time and a bad time, so make sure you’re paddling with the flow of the tide on your way in and out. A tide-chart app on your smart phone is a big help here.
2. Bulls Island
This is a favorite spots to pull up on the beach and hang out after a long paddling trip. The primitive beach on Bulls Island is littered with petrified trees (Boneyard Beach), vegetation, and plenty of spots to check out while you're taking a break from paddling. Bring a lunch to eat in the shade, and if you're into it, go look for some shark's teeth—there are truck loads of them on the beach here.
3. Morris Island
Morris Island is perhaps the most controversial of all the islands on Charleston's coast. Morris Island played a huge role in the Union's capturing of Charleston in the Civil War, and its ownership has changed hands nearly 10 times in the past 30 years. It came close to development several times, but it is now protected and serves as the perfect place for paddlers to go out and explore. Accessing the island is best done from the beach. If you try to pull up to the island from the marsh, you're going to sustain some gnarly battle scars from plants you've probably never seen or heard of before. Trust us, we've learned the hard way. Besides Morris Island's harsh marsh, the interior of the island is an awesome place to roam around and get a feel for how the Carolina coast must have looked 200 years ago.
Kiawah, located just south of John’s Island, is a great spot to quickly drop into a creek and paddle around some beautiful marsh. Guided trips are available through the resort. But there are a few drop-in points located along the marsh on your way out to the island if you want to explore on your own. Park, load in your boat, and make Kiawah your playground for the day. If you plan on being out for a while, bring a lunch, park your boat on Sandy Point , and hang out in the sun for an awesome time on the beach.
5. Stono River
If you're looking to paddle into an amazing tidal river, the Stono is the perfect place to check out. Drop in at the dock in the back of James island County Park , and either paddle up toward John's Island or down toward the ocean. There are plenty of tidal creeks and marsh on either side of the river, making the Stono the perfect place to go back to time after time.
For additional Resources, go see the folks at Half Moon Outfitters; they have all the literature and information you need for a great day of paddling, as well as rental boats and safety gear.