Best Places to Kayak in South Carolina

Kayaking At Th River

South Carolina is a state that is known for its beautiful beaches, rich history, and diverse wildlife. It is also an excellent place for kayaking enthusiasts. With its many rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, South Carolina offers a variety of kayaking experiences for both beginners and experienced paddlers. This article will explore some of the best places to kayak in South Carolina.

One of the most popular kayaking destinations in South Carolina is the Congaree River. This river is located in the heart of Columbia and is known for its calm waters and scenic beauty. Paddlers can enjoy a leisurely trip down the river, taking in the sights of the lush forests and abundant wildlife. The Congaree River is also home to several parks and nature preserves, making it an excellent place for a day trip or weekend getaway.

Another great kayaking destination in South Carolina is Lake Jocassee. Located in the northwest part of the state, this lake is known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain views. Paddlers can explore the lake’s many coves and inlets, home to various fish and wildlife. Lake Jocassee is also a popular spot for camping and hiking, making it an excellent place for a weekend adventure.


Top Kayaking Spots in South Carolina

  • Congaree River
  • Edisto River
  • Saluda River
  • Waccamaw River
  • Lake Jocassee


1. Congaree River

Congaree National Park


  • The Congaree River is in central South Carolina, primarily flowing through Richland and Lexington counties.
  • The river stretches for approximately 47 miles (76 kilometers) from its headwaters to its confluence with the Wateree River.
  • The Congaree River and its associated wetlands support a rich and diverse ecosystem. The Congaree National Park is renowned for its biological diversity, hosting various plant and animal species.
  • The Congaree River offers various recreational opportunities for visitors. Fishing is widespread, with anglers targeting species such as bass, catfish, and bream.
  • Flows through a large floodplain and swamp known as the Congaree Swamp. This floodplain has extensive wetlands, cypress-tupelo swamps, towering bald cypress, and water tupelo trees. It is a critical flood control area, absorbing excess water during heavy rainfall.
  • The river played a vital role in transportation and trade during the colonial and antebellum periods, serving as a critical water route for the movement of goods and people. The area also witnessed military actions during the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

The Congaree River is a popular kayaking spot in South Carolina. It offers a serene and peaceful environment with beautiful scenery. The calm and gentle river makes it perfect for beginners and experienced kayakers. Paddlers can enjoy the lush greenery, wildlife, and historic landmarks along the river.


Pros: Cons:
ProsThe Congaree River is known for its natural beauty and picturesque landscapes. As you kayak along the river, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding forests, wildlife, and diverse ecosystems. ConsDepending on the time of year and weather conditions, the water level and flow of the Congaree River can vary. The river can become more challenging to navigate during heavy rainfall or flooding, potentially leading to stronger currents and hazards.
ProsThe Congaree National Park, through which the River flows, is home to various wildlife. While kayaking, you may have the opportunity to spot various animals, including birds, turtles, otters, and even alligators. It’s a great way to connect with nature and observe wildlife up close. ConsLike many other natural areas, the Congaree River and its surrounding forests are home to various insects, including mosquitoes and biting flies. Particularly during warmer months, insect activity can be significant, and you may need to take appropriate precautions, such as wearing insect repellent to avoid discomfort or potential health risks.
ProsKayaking in the Congaree River can offer a peaceful and serene experience. The river’s calm waters and relatively quiet surroundings provide an ideal setting for relaxation and solitude. ConsThe Congaree National Park is a protected wilderness area with limited amenities along the river. You may not find facilities such as restrooms, restaurants, or equipment rental services directly on-site. Plan and bring your supplies, including food, water, and necessary kayaking gear, which is essential.
ProsKayaking is an excellent recreational activity that combines adventure with physical exercise. Paddling along the river helps to strengthen your muscles, improve cardiovascular health, and enhance overall fitness. ConsWeather conditions can play a significant role in your kayaking experience. Thunderstorms and inclement weather can arise unexpectedly, posing risks to the water. It’s crucial to check the weather forecast and be prepared with appropriate safety equipment, including personal flotation and communication devices.



2. Edisto River

Edisto River


  • The Edisto River is one of the longest free-flowing blackwater rivers in North America, with a length of approximately 250 miles (400 kilometers).
  • The river is renowned for its natural beauty and tranquil surroundings. The lush greenery along the riverbanks, cypress trees, and Spanish moss-covered branches create a picturesque landscape.
  • The Edisto River is classified as a blackwater river due to its slow-moving nature, and high tannins leached from decaying vegetation. As a result, the river has a dark, tea-colored appearance.
  • The Edisto River supports a diverse range of wildlife. The river and its surrounding wetlands provide habitats for various species, including fish such as bass, bream, catfish, turtles, alligators, otters, and numerous bird species.
  • The Edisto River is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and offers various recreational activities. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing are popular ways to explore the river.
  • Several state parks and recreation areas are located along the Edisto River, offering facilities and amenities for visitors.
  • The Edisto River has historical and cultural significance. It was an important transportation route in the past, used for timber floating and trade.
  • Various organizations and groups are actively conserving and preserving the Edisto River.

The Edisto River is another excellent kayaking spot in South Carolina. It is known for its clear water and sandy banks, which make it perfect for swimming and picnicking. The river has a gentle current, making it easy to navigate. Paddlers can enjoy the beautiful scenery, including cypress trees, Spanish moss, and wildlife such as otters, turtles, and birds.


Pros: Cons:
ProsKnown for its natural beauty and picturesque surroundings. Kayaking allows you to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes, lush vegetation, and diverse wildlife along the riverbanks. ConsThe Edisto River’s water levels and flow rates can vary depending on the time of year and weather conditions.
ProsThe river is home to many wildlife, including birds, fish, turtles, and sometimes alligators. Kayaking provides a unique opportunity to observe these creatures up close in their natural habitat. ConsWhile the Edisto River is generally calm and gentle, there may be some hazards to be aware of, such as fallen trees, submerged branches, or occasional strong currents.
ProsKayaking on the Edisto River can offer a peaceful and serene experience. Paddling through calm waters surrounded by nature can be a great way to relax and unwind. ConsIn a natural environment, you may encounter mosquitoes, gnats, or other insects during your kayaking trip.
ProsKnown for its fishing opportunities. Kayakers can enjoy this and casting a line while exploring the river. ConsRelatively remote, and amenities such as restrooms or refreshment facilities may be limited or nonexistent along certain river sections.
ProsThe river offers several camping and picnic spots along its banks. Kayaking allows you to reach these remote locations, giving you a chance to have a secluded camping or picnic experience. ConsDuring peak seasons or weekends, the Edisto River can attract many kayakers, boaters, and tubers. This can lead to crowded conditions and potentially impact the tranquility and solitude you seek.



3. Saluda River

Saluda River


  • Part of the larger Santee River Basin, with its headwaters originating in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
  • The Saluda River spans approximately 200 miles (322 kilometers) in length. It covers a drainage area of around 1,756 square miles (4,547 square kilometers).
  • One of the critical features of the Saluda River is its significance as a source of hydroelectric power. Along its course, several dams have been constructed to generate electricity.
  • Offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities and recreation. Fishing enthusiasts can find a variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish, and trout (in the upper sections).
  • Known for its scenic beauty, particularly in the upper sections as it flows through the mountains. The surrounding forests and the river’s clear waters make it an attractive destination for nature lovers and photographers.
  • Support diverse wildlife, including bird species, deer, beavers, and turtles.

The Saluda River is a popular kayaking spot for its rapids and whitewater. It is perfect for experienced kayakers looking for a challenge. The river is also surrounded by beautiful scenery, including waterfalls and rock formations. Paddlers can enjoy the thrill of navigating the rapids while taking in the area’s natural beauty.


Pros: Cons:
ProsThe Saluda River is known for its picturesque surroundings, stunning landscapes, lush vegetation, and diverse wildlife. ConsDepending on the time of year and recent weather conditions, the water levels and currents in the Saluda River can fluctuate.
ProsKayaking is a great way to engage in physical activity and enjoy the outdoors. ConsKayaking has inherent risks, including capsizing, collisions, or getting stuck in debris.
ProsThe Saluda River is easily accessible, especially if you live in or near the area. ConsThe popularity of the Saluda River for recreational activities means it can become crowded, especially on weekends and holidays.
ProsAs you navigate the river, you can encounter various wildlife species, including birds, turtles, fish, and sometimes even otters or deer. ConsWhile the Saluda River is accessible, kayakers may have entry and exit point limitations.



4. Waccamaw River

Kayaking in Waccamaw River


  • Flows through the states of North Carolina and South Carolina. It originates in Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina and winds through the coastal plain region before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near Georgetown, South Carolina.
  • Stretches approximately 140 miles (225 kilometers) in length. Its drainage area covers about 1,650 square miles (4,270 square kilometers).
  • The river passes through diverse landscapes, including swamps, cypress-tupelo forests, bottomland hardwoods, and marshes. Its surroundings are characterized by lush vegetation, abundant wildlife, and scenic vistas, making it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor activities.
  • Provide crucial habitat for various plant and animal species. It supports a diverse ecosystem, including numerous fish species, migratory birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The river also serves as a migration corridor for many species.
  • Offers numerous recreational activities for visitors. These include boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. The river is known for its abundant populations of largemouth bass, catfish, and sunfish, making it a popular spot for anglers.
  • Has played a significant role in the history and culture of the surrounding regions.

The Waccamaw River is a peaceful kayaking spot in South Carolina. It is surrounded by cypress trees and wildlife, making it an excellent place for nature lovers. The river is calm and gentle, making it perfect for beginners. Paddlers can enjoy the tranquility of the river while taking in the beautiful scenery.


Pros: Cons:
ProsKnown for its stunning natural beauty. As you kayak along the river, you can enjoy picturesque views of the surrounding landscapes, including cypress swamps, lush forests, and diverse wildlife. ConsThe weather can significantly impact the kayaking experience. Unpredictable weather patterns, such as heavy rainfall or storms, can make the river conditions unsafe for kayaking.
ProsThe river is home to various wildlife species, including birds, fish, turtles, and alligators. Kayaking allows you to observe these animals up close and in their natural habitats. ConsThe Waccamaw River region is known for its dense mosquito population and other insects.
ProsKayaking on the Waccamaw River offers a peaceful and serene environment away from the hustle and bustle of city life. ConsA natural environment with limited infrastructure and amenities. There may be a need for more facilities like restrooms, picnic areas, or food vendors along the river.
ProsA great recreational activity that offers a full-body workout. Paddling through the river helps strengthen your muscles, improve cardiovascular health, and enhance overall fitness.  



5. Lake Jocassee

Jocassee in South Carolina


  • One of the most striking features of Lake Jocassee is its stunning natural beauty. The lake is surrounded by the lush forests of the Jocassee Gorges, creating a picturesque backdrop.
  • Lake Jocassee’s water is renowned for its exceptional clarity. The lake is fed by several mountain streams carrying little sediment, resulting in remarkably transparent waters.
  • It spans approximately 7,500 acres (30 square kilometers) and has a maximum depth of around 300 feet (91 meters). Its expansive surface area provides ample space for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
  • One of the unique features of Lake Jocassee is the presence of several stunning waterfalls that flow into the lake. These include Laurel Fork Falls, Wright Creek Falls, and Mill Creek Falls, among others.
  • Rich biodiversity and serves as a haven for a wide variety of plant and animal species.
  • Provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. Visitors can enjoy boating, water skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding on the lake’s calm waters.
  • Several state parks and access points around Lake Jocassee provide facilities and services to visitors.

Lake Jocassee is a beautiful kayaking spot in South Carolina. It is known for its crystal-clear water and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The lake has several coves and waterfalls, making it perfect for exploring. Paddlers can enjoy the calm waters and beautiful scenery while kayaking on the lake.


Pros: Cons:
ProsPicturesque landscapes, crystal-clear water, and pristine wilderness. Kayaking allows you to explore the lake’s beautiful coves, waterfalls, and the surrounding mountain views up close. ConsLike any outdoor activity, kayaking in Lake Jocassee is subject to weather conditions. Storms, high winds, or rapid weather changes can make kayaking challenging or unsafe.
ProsThe lake is home to diverse wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys, otters, and various fish species. ConsGet crowded, especially during peak seasons and weekends. This may result in limited parking spaces, crowded launch areas, and increased boat traffic, potentially affecting the tranquility of the experience.
ProsKayaking on Lake Jocassee can be a peaceful and tranquil experience. Away from the noise and crowds, you can enjoy the solitude and connect with nature, finding a sense of relaxation and calmness. ConsWhile Lake Jocassee has some amenities, such as public boat ramps and picnic areas, it only offers limited facilities or commercial establishments near the lake.
ProsRenowned for its fishing opportunities. Kayakers can access secluded fishing spots and cast their lines in search of bass, trout, and other game fish, making it a favorite spot for anglers. ConsThe water in Lake Jocassee can be chilly, especially during the early and late months of the year.



Why South Carolina for Kayaking?

South Carolina offers diverse kayaking opportunities for both beginners and experienced kayakers. The state has something for everyone, from calm lakes and rivers to challenging rapids.

One of the main reasons South Carolina is an excellent place for kayaking is its mild climate. The state enjoys a long kayaking season, typically from March to November, with water temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-80s. This makes it an ideal destination for kayaking enthusiasts who want to enjoy the sport for most of the year.

Another reason South Carolina is a popular destination for kayaking is the state’s natural beauty. The state has diverse ecosystems, including coastal marshes, swamps, and forests. These natural environments provide kayakers with stunning scenery and the opportunity to observe various wildlife, including alligators, otters, and birds.

South Carolina also has various kayaking destinations catering to different skill levels. For beginners, calm lakes and slow-moving rivers provide a gentle introduction to the sport. For more experienced kayakers, challenging rapids and whitewater courses offer an adrenaline-pumping experience.

In addition to its natural beauty and diverse range of kayaking destinations, South Carolina also has a thriving kayaking community. Numerous kayaking clubs and organizations throughout the state offer training, support, and camaraderie to kayakers of all skill levels.

Overall, South Carolina is a fantastic destination for kayaking enthusiasts. With its mild climate, natural beauty, a diverse range of kayaking destinations, and supportive kayaking community, it’s no wonder that the state is a popular choice for kayakers from all over the country.

The water is the only thing that can soothe my soul.


Best Time to Kayak in South Carolina

South Carolina offers a variety of kayaking opportunities throughout the year. The best time to kayak in South Carolina depends on the location, weather, and water conditions.

The best time to kayak in South Carolina is from late spring to early fall when the weather and the water are calm. During this time, kayakers can enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife South Carolina offers.

However, it is essential to note that the weather can be unpredictable, and kayakers should always check the forecast before heading out. Thunderstorms and high winds can make kayaking dangerous, so it is best to avoid kayaking during these conditions.

Additionally, some locations may be better for kayaking during certain times of the year. For example, the Congaree National Park is best for kayaking when water levels are higher during the summer.

Overall, the best time to kayak in South Carolina is during the warmer months, but kayakers should always be aware of the weather and water conditions before heading out.



South Carolina is an excellent destination for kayaking enthusiasts. With its many rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, many places exist to explore. The state offers diverse environments, from the Edisto River’s peaceful calm to the Chattooga River’s challenging rapids.

Kayaking in South Carolina is a great way to experience the state’s natural beauty and wildlife. Paddlers can spot alligators, turtles, and various birds along the way. Some of the best places to kayak in South Carolina are also home to rare and endangered species, making it an eco-tourism destination.

In addition to the natural beauty, South Carolina has a rich history and culture that can be experienced while kayaking. Paddlers can explore historic sites and landmarks like the Congaree National Park and Fort Sumter National Monument.

Overall, kayaking in South Carolina is an adventure that should be noticed. Whether you are a seasoned paddler or a beginner, there are plenty of places to explore and enjoy. So grab your paddle and hit the water to experience what South Carolina offers.

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