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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

South Carolina's Edisto River

Not much company along this stretch of Deep South blackwater -- and that's just fine.

by: Bill Coursey

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Contact Information:

Colleton State Park Canadys, SC 29433 (803) 538-8206 Givhans Ferry State Park Route 3, Box 327 Ridgeville, SC 29472 (803) 873-0692

Location: The Edisto lies along the midcoastal plain of South Carolina, about 75 miles from Charleston, Columbia, or Savannah and three hours southeast of Atlanta. For area information, contact:

Walterboro-Colleton Chamber of Commerce 213 Jefferies Boulevard, P.O. Box 1763 Walterboro, SC 29488 (803) 549-9595.

Getting There: Take I-95 to Exit 68 at Highway 61. Then head east to U.S. 15 or Highway 29. The river parallels Highway 61.

Seasonal Information: In winter (January and February) it can be cold, but never for an extended period. Frost is rare. Rain is possible, but it's usually warm and sunny.

In spring, the flowering starts as early as March, with full spring by Easter. With it comes extremely pleasant weather with highs in the low 80s and cool nights.

Summer begins in mid-May and stretches through September, with the annual Edisto Riverfest the highlight of June. Water temperatures climb to the mid-80s. The river level is usually low but always passable, despite the many sandbars. Daytime temperatures are in the mid-90s, with high humidity. Insects can be a problem after dark.

Fall (October through December) is perhaps the best paddling season. The foliage changes color in November. Wildlife is active, and days are warm with cool nights.

A 24-hour information message (updated daily) gives water levels and air and water temperatures. Call (803) 538-3659.

Wildlife: Common species include wood ducks, great blue herons, kingfishers, wild turkeys, pileated woodpeckers, whitetail deer, raccoons, foxes, opossums, alligators, water snakes (poisonous cottonmouth and nonpoisonous species, most notably the brown water snake), and turtles.

As for fish, you'll find redbreast (especially in April and May), shad, and other Southern fish.

Insects: There are lots of mosquitoes, ticks, and redbugs.

Plant Life: Wildflowers bloom along the banks both in spring and fall.

Giant live oaks majestically draped with Spanish moss, along with black willows, frame the river's bends. Red swamp maple, pine, gum, willow, bald cypress, water tupelo, alligator weed, and orange trumpet vine also grow along the river.

Facilities: Camping is available at Colleton State Park and Givhans Ferry State Park. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis and offer water and electrical hook-ups. Heated restrooms and showers are conveniently located outside the campground. Primitive camping for organized groups is also available.

River camping is permitted where designated. During low-water months, camping is allowed below the high-water mark.

Four vacation cabins on the Edisto sleep up to six people.

Five boat landings offering easy public access exist along the trail and are designated by float plan deposit boxes.

Parking: No information available.

Permits: No permits are required, but float plans are suggested for your safety.

Policies: Each person afloat must have a life jacket readily accessible.


  • Watch out for poison ivy.
  • The river is not considered safe when above 7.5 feet.

Leave No Trace: The threat of forest fires from campfires is especially critical during dry months.

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: Maps, brochures, and information are available from the park superintendents at Colleton or Givhans Ferry state parks.

Other Trip Options:

  • Slip in to the bordering state parks - Colleton or Givhans Ferry.
  • Old Dorchester State Park contains the site of the town of Dorchester, established in 1686 by members of England's Congregationalist Church. At one time, Dorchester was the third largest town in South Carolina.
  • In Walterboro, walk down the avenues lined with moss draped and live oak past restored homes dating to the early 1800s.

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