Bohicket Creek/Botany Bay
From Wadmalaw’s Cherry Point Landing, head right past sleepy Rockville. You’ll soon reach the open waters of Botany Bay, often teeming with dolphin pods. Venture across the bay to Botany Island, a haven for shell collectors, or head toward Privateer Creek, where pirates reportedly cleaned their ships’ hulls. (843) 953-9300, www.dnr.sc.gov
Charles Towne Landing
Brittlebank Park’s floating dock harbors a fantastic put-in, and from there it’s a quick paddle upriver to Charles Towne Landing. Pull alongside Adventure, a replica of the 17th-century cargo vessel that brought the first European inhabitants here. (843) 852-4200, www.charlestowne.org
If you don’t have two weeks to paddle this 300-mile system of narrow swamps and coastal marshes, bring the family for a day trip from Givhans Ferry State Park. You’ll wind around massive sandbars fit for picnicking and encounter several rope swings on the 10-mile float to Long Creek Landing. www.edistofriends.org
The vast marsh between James Island and Folly Beach harbors myriad tucked-away tidal creeks. From Folly Landing, head south to Bird Key for a peek at nesting oystercatchers, piping plovers, and terns. (The island is closed, so gaze from your craft). Then make the 45-minute paddle to Bowen’s Island Restaurant and enjoy a cold brew.
Old Santee Canal Park
The Old Santee Canal, America’s first navigable canal, lies at the heart of Berkeley County’s network of “blueways.” Maintained by Santee Cooper, the park rents canoes for $6 an hour—explore as far as you please up the peaceful waterway. (843) 899-5200, www.oldsanteecanalpark.org
Wambaw Creek Canoe Trail
Tucked into the forest near McClellanville, Wambaw Creek boasts stands of cypress and tupelo trees that are home to warblers and other songbirds. The Wambaw and Still Landings allow for a five-mile one-way trip or longer out-and-backs. (843) 928-3368, www.fs.fed.us/r8/fms
THE INS & OUTS: Before you put in, be sure to check the tides. You want to plan your paddle so you’re not returning against the tide with tired arms. The state Department of Natural Resources offers a weekly tide table with information from various stations at www.dnr.sc.gov/news/tide.html.
Who: Ralph Earhart, age 60, owned the same motorboat for 16 years. Fed up with repair fees, he gave it to his mechanic in 2002. His true passion soon revealed itself when a coworker lent him her son’s kayak.
Paddling Resume: While researching his book, Kayak Charleston, Ralph paddled more than 2,200 miles through every navigable waterway within an hour of the city. The guide details each trip, from landings to tidal recommendations. Ralph also recently began a guide service (www.kayakcharleston.net).
Favorite Lowcountry Paddle: “I love the Ashepoo River in the ACE Basin, from Price’s Bridge Landing down Horseshoe Creek.”
Gear Up: Ralph always packs zinc oxide, sport sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat when heading out in his favorite recreational kayak, a “Pungo 120” by Wilderness Systems.
PADDLE PARTY: On April 16, 2010, the three-day East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival celebrates its 20th year of premiere lectures, on-water classes, and exhibitor demonstrations for both novices and pro paddlers. www.ccprc.com/ecckf
Charleston County Parks
For new paddlers seeking guidance, the parks’ programs provide an excellent first stop with a wide range of trips, from overnights to after-work cruises. www.ccprc.com
Charleston Sea Kayaking Meetup Group
Sponsored by Sea Kayak Charleston, this Internet group organizes workshops and fundraising paddles. www.meetup.com/the-charleston-sea-kayaking-meetup-group
From five locations, Charleston’s oldest outfitter covers every corner of the Lowcountry. Kayak with a top-notch naturalist or canoe down the Edisto River to their tree house cabins.
This club hosts weekly excursions for variable skill levels, from treks deep into the ACE Basin to a morning jaunt on Wadboo Creek. www.lowcountrypaddlers.net
Based on Shem Creek, this outfitter leads at least five daily tours in the East Cooper area, from the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge to Capers Island. www.natureadventuresoutfitters.com
Bohicket Creek to Botany Bay Island caps Paddlefish’s exciting roster of tours, which also includes a trek from the peninsula to Charles Towne Landing tracing the path of our original settlers. www.paddlefishkayaking.com
Sea Kayak Carolina
These pro paddlers offer trips to Bull Island and Deveaux Bank, plus evening paddles on the Folly River. Beyond touring, they can teach you to ride the waves and roll a kayak. www.seakayakcarolina.com