(Congaree Swamp National Monument)
Cedar Creek Slide Show
Banister's bridge to the Take-out
Lower Canoe Launch
Cedar Creek runs through the Congaree Swamp National Monument and a private hunt club. There are two regular put-ins. The first is at Bannister's Bridge on Old Bluff Road at the edge of the park, a put-in/Take-out at the Eastern edge of the park. The other is on the north-central part of the park.
Cedar Creek was cleared of MAJOR blockages all the way to the Congaree river in the summer of 2001, but water levels change, so what was not on obstacle when the clearing team passed that part of the creek may be one now. Be prepared to slide under or over some trees. Water levels can be checked here: Cedar Creek at Wise Lake
If the water is high, be sure to follow the canoe trail markers in the trees. They are not obvious, so pay attention. When the water overflows the banks, the main streambed is hard to follow.
National Park Service's Congaree Swamp Map
Link to Congaree Swamp Canoeing Page (includes a map)
SAFETY: Be aware of potential hazards such as poison ivy, mosquitoes, wasps, spiders, and snakes which inhabit the swamp in ample numbers. Bring insect repellent, a first-aid kit, compass and water.
Directions from Columbia: Take the Bluff road exit from I-77, (which is near the intersection of I-77 and I-26). Follow the road East until it forks ( not an obvious fork-just bear straight ahead on Old Bluff Road as the main road (Bluff Road) veers left at the intersection). When you cross the bridge to the creek, Stop, turn around, go back across the bridge and take the first dirt road on the left. (no matter how many times you go, you will still miss the turn!) There is a fairly long portage to the creek ( about 300 yards ) so rest up accordingly. Take the trail running along the road to the put-in.
Description: This section should take about 4-6 hours. The first quarter to half mile of the creek is very narrow and twisty, then it begins to open up to a very nice paddle. Watch for the current, and enjoy. Several times along the creek you will see hikers following one of several trails that run along the creek. These can be used as emergency exits if necessary, or to entertain the rest of your clan while you paddle. They can have cokes and sandwiches ready as you drift by!
In times of low water, 4 feet or less at the Wise Lake Gauge, the upper section of this stretch is the most difficult due to tight turns, current, and foliage. Above four feet and the stream width tends to spread out more, making the turns easier, but the lower section becomes more tricky with the increased current and tree branches that are now sweeping the top of the water, requiring good boat control to avoid sweepers and strainers. In both conditions, be alert for potential hazards.
There are several service trails that the park rangers use to access remote parts of the park as well, but you should not plan on using them to access the creek except for emergency extraction.
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Lower Canoe Access
Directions from Columbia:
Follow the directions to Bannister Bridge above, but continue down Old Bluff Road until it runs dead end into South Cedar Creek road. Turn right for approximately one-half mile and take the turn off clearly marked "Canoe Launch"
There is a fairly long portage ( 1/5 mile or so ) from the parking area to the creek. Bring a set of wheels, or two people to one boat for carrying! The launch point is on either side of the trail at the bridge which is also the start of the Kingsnake Trail. (The left side is better). Be careful, as the mud is slick when it gets wet, and the Cypress knees can be very painful when you trip on one and fall on top of another from waist height. Buy me a cup of coffee and I'll tell you how I know!
Description: From the put-in, you can travel either upstream or down. The current is not difficult to go against, and you can travel whatever distance feels good to you. Just remember that there IS a current, so if you go downstream, the return will be longer and more tiring than the first leg. If the river gauge is at 2.1 or higher, you might try a trip all the way to the Congaree, a distance of about 7 miles downstream, however there will be several pullovers and the entrance to the Congaree is often clogged with downfall requiring a portage. From the confluence of Cedar Creek and the Congaree, it is still 13 miles or so to the HWY 601 bridge, so plan a LONG leisurely drift to it. The drift on the Congaree is a very nice change to the sometimes rigorous Cedar Creek section, but will take about 4-6 additional hours to drift down to the bridge. A nice trip.
Mike Boone's Trip description Lower Cedar Creek, South Carolina, June 9, 2002, Water level was 1.84 Feet. at the Wise lake and the Hunt Club gauges.
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