Lake Marion Wildlife Preserve
Skill level: Beginner and better. Some open lake water paddling, but you can hug the shoreline and move among the trees to avoid the open water. Suitable for canoe, rec boats, and sea kayaks. Power boats create some wave action.
Location: The wildlife preserve spans several miles along the edges of Lake Marion. The section we are describing lies to the west of the I-95 bridge, on the north side of Lake Marion, SC. We put from a commercial boat launch named Billup's on Jack's Creek. Jack's creek Forms into into a bay of Lake Marion, and the landing is actually on the northwest side of the bay.
Trip Description: We met the rest of the trip members at a restaurant named Goat Creek Island Resort and Restaurant (at the end of SC 38, 803-478-8165) where everyone got off to a fun start. The restaurant is at a nice resort with a wonderful view of the lake and woods across the bay. The restaurant offered standard lunch meals, (Burgers, ribs, etc), and the staff was very friendly and enjoyable. A nice homey atmosphere.
From the restaurant we traveled to the put in at Billup's, where we paid $2.00 per car to launch. This is well worth the money, because we had no worries about the vehicles or contents, and the presence of a real rest room and ice cream on this hot day made it quite nice indeed.
From the put in, we traveled right into the woods a short distance down the coast. The main objective of the day was to observe the Lotus blossoms in full bloom, and we were not disappointed. Everyone beached the kayaks and waded into the lotus fields in the shallows, taking pictures of all the blooming plants- the Lotus, Water Lilies, Pickerel Weed, as well as each other. While moving through the Lotus fields, we saw a large deer and a fawn moving along shore. Unfortunately, they became spooked and ran off.
From there we traveled further down the coast to observe the large number of cormorants, osprey, ibis, and Greta Blue Herron. Moving across the bay, we saw more Lotus blossoms, and two small alligators. The water was perfect, few waves, and just enough breeze to maintain a comfortable paddle. The rest of the afternoon was used to wander in a generally counter-clockwise direction, winding through the tupelo forests. Near the end of the day, we were in a marshy area which would be to the left of the put-in, when I approached an ibis fishing in the water, the ibis flew off, as expected, but a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) in mating plumage was sighted within ten feet of my boat! The heron was not impressed by my presence, and eventually everyone moved their boats in to watch the bird wade and fish. This was unbelievable! After what must have been 30 minutes and hundreds of photographs, we backed off and continued around the bay toward the take-out, when we observed a large deer grazing on shore nearby. The deer was also not scared, and slowly grazed out of sight.