Go Columbia

Cool waters: New offerings to lure you to local waterways


What’s new on the local waterways?

How about standup paddleboard races with your buddies on Thursday nights on the Columbia Canal?

How about a Saluda River paddle that ends with a wine tasting at Saluda Shoals Park?

How about a float trip on the Congaree River below Columbia without having to go the full 50 miles to the next public takeout spot?

Local outfitters keep trying to come up with new twists as the local waterways draw more people. Here are a few of those alternatives:

▪ River Runner Outdoor Center plans to offer Thursday- night standup paddleboard races on the Columbia Canal. The concept is two-person races, upstream around a buoy and back to a floating dock area at Riverfront Park, said River Runner manager Jesse Koch. As long as the racers have about the same experience level, that could be fun for anyone, from beginners to experts.

The canal is underused as a recreational waterway, in part because of the safety concerns with a power plant at its southern end. This sort of organized event would feature safety boaters who could scoop up anyone having problems. www.riverrunner.us.

▪ Saluda Shoals Park, with more than a mile of Saluda River frontage just south of Lake Murray, has come up with several interesting programs. Sunset on the Shoals combines an interpretive paddle tour on the Saluda River, which is gorgeous in that area, followed by a wine tasting at one of the park’s large picnic shelters. The monthly events are set for June 19, July 17 and Aug. 21 and cost $37 per person.

If beer is more to your taste, Saluda Shoals offers an evening standup paddleboard excursion on Lake Murray followed by a craft beer tasting at one of the park’s shelters. (June 12, July 10 and Aug. 14, $37.) www.icrc.net.

▪ Carolina Outdoor Adventures, a newcomer to the field, is focusing on a trip other outfitters haven’t been able to offer. The section of the Congaree River below Columbia features sweeping curves and large sandbars – but no public access points from just above Interstate 77 to the U.S. 601 bridge nearly 50 miles downstream. That’s way too long for a casual paddle trip. But Carolina Outdoor Adventures owner Billy Easterbrooks has worked out an arrangement with a landowner to use a private dock about 12 miles downstream.

The $99-per-person guided trip takes about six hours, with a stop for lunch. Also, each of the five or six boats will be equipped with a waterproof digital camera. The photos will be loaded onto a thumb drive for paddlers to take home. www.carolinaoutdooradventures.com.

▪ Tubing on the rivers keeps growing in popularity. In addition to its standard tube shuttle to the zoo area, Palmetto Outdoor Center this summer will offer a trip that might appeal more to families with young children. Each customer gets a tube and a life jacket, and a guide walks the group to the northern end of the Cayce Riverwalk. The group enters the river there and floats downstream. It’s a shorter trip and allows for scared kids to get out and walk back on the Riverwalk, or excited kids to run back up the Riverwalk and do the trip more than once. www.palmettooutdoor.com.

▪ The opening of the Timmerman Trail has brought more people to the Congaree Creek area of Cayce. The folks at Get Your Gear On hope some of those people will want to get on the meandering blackwater creek in a kayak. They offer several tours of different sections. www.getyourgearon.com.

▪ And there are more options for one of the old favorite trips – Cedar Creek through Congaree National Park. River Runner has joined Adventure Carolina in offering trips on the blackwater creek through the old-growth forest. River Runner runs Saturday trips and Adventure Carolina runs Sunday trips. The park also offers canoe trips on the creek. www.adventurecarolina.com.

Most outfitters also offer a variety of trips on the Saluda River (including a taste of whitewater rapids) and the northern section of the Congaree River (more placid). During May and June, several of the outfitters also schedule Rocky Shoals Spider Lily tours on the Broad River.

Joey Holleman