My Canoeing and Treehousing Adventure on the Edisto

Renae Brabham

I had their link saved for two years before moving back to South Carolina from North Carolina, hoping that one day I would be able to take that 23-mile self-guided canoe trip down the Edisto River with an overnight stay in a treehouse. The Edisto is one of the longest blackwater rivers in North America, winding 300 miles from its headwaters in Edgefield and Saluda counties to the Atlantic. I debate the blackwater label, describing it instead as the color of Charleston Tea.


A few weeks ago, I contacted Anne Kennedy of Carolina Heritage Outfitters. I was instantly enamored with her sweet spirit. We set a date. 


I had a few tummy flip-flops as I thought about the experience for the next few weeks. I confess that on several occasions, the soundtrack for the movie Deliverance interrupted my brain waves. And then there was the dream of Noah's Ark running aground and emptying itself of every creature known to man, right there on the Edisto River. I knew that everything that went bump in the night would have to be tended to by my sweet husband, who I'd send out in his skivvies with a flashlight. I pitied him before we even left the house. 
Renae vs the Wild.
Anyone who knows me, knows that this combination can lead to disastrous consequences. My husband, for instance, knows full well I can't stay in my house on dry land for five hours without getting hurt. Much less add a canoe, water, animals. Did I mention that we had never set foot into a canoe or kayak?
The early morning ride to the Edisto River, near Colleton County State Park, took us about one hour and 45 minutes. My bladder refused to pass up any establishment with a restroom. Get 'em while you can, I decided. I knew it would be days before I would see another. 
We arrived and met Anne and Scott Kennedy. I instinctively knew that they are very interesting people. I could see myself sitting on the banks of the Edisto talking past sundown getting to know them. We also had the pleasure of meeting their friend and our transport guide Steve Bond. Steve and his wife are mural artists and have painted many surrounding establishments (take a peek here).
Sitting outside the rustic Outfitters building on benches, Anne explained our map and gave us basic river information. Then we picked up our paddles and loaded the canoe with our cooler and backpack. Steve drove us 23 miles upstream to put in. Once there, I spied with my eye, another restroom! I scampered up the hill while Don and Steve carried the canoe to the landing. 
When I came back, we took a crash course on canoeing safety and paddling. I got into the front of the canoe. I assumed that was the part pointed towards the water. Hubby said his laugh of the day was how fast I put on my lifejacket. And then we pushed off! The river travels at a speed of about two miles an hour. Stopping at a sandbar about halfway, we picnicked on pimento cheese sandwiches, gulped water, and rested.
We were guided the first 10 miles by a blue heron that we named Ichabob Crane. Every time Don would pull out the camera, he flew away. My favorite raptor, a beautiful red-tailed hawk, crossed our path several times and I was pleased to be the transport for many dragonflies along the way. Turtles plopped from fallen logs and large fish splashed as they came up for the surface bugs.
And there were challenges. Trees down. Run-ins with sandbars and riverbed rock. A few narrow passageways. I found out quickly that this wasn't a lazy river.
Five and a half hours after entry we arrived at our treehouse. It was adorable and rustic.
We spent the evening in a large hammock under the tree canopy and, later, up above watching the river flow by from the patio deck (lit by tiki torches). The house was equipped with a propane grill outside and propane cookers inside, plus all utensils, dishes and cookware. Let me tell you that was the best cheeseburger and can of baked beans I have ever eaten!
There was no need for me to worry about sounds that go bump in the night. I was totally gone within minutes of lying down for evening. I awoke at sunrise and started gathering things for our journey back. Then I sat quietly on the deck of the treehouse watching the river sluice quietly by. It was Sunday, my favorite day of the week. One of my first thoughts that morning was that I was worshipping in my creator's most reverent service.  
But it was after we left, about five miles downriver, that I had the most incredible experience. We hit a calm, clear patch and paddled gently, letting the river take us for a bit. Faintly at first, my ears leaned in and I quit paddling. A church organ in the distance wafted through the trees—it was surreal. The song was "Softly and Tenderly." The sound will reverberate for the rest of my life in my audio hard drive. 
We pulled into the landing in good time—four hours. 
Now, as the novice adventurer, these are my layman's terms to describe the level of difficulty of the canoeing experience. Rated from a 1 being the least difficult to a 3 being the most.  
* If the extent of your daily exercise is walking to and from the fridg, lifting your TV remote, chewing food and walking to mailbox.... the level of difficulty will be a 3.
* If you occasionally ride your bike, walk a treadmill, take beach strolls, and like jigsaw puzzles and problem solving... the level of difficulty will be a 2
* If you tramp through woods without snake boots, love the feel of mud squishing between your toes, could fit all your gear for two days in a breadbox. Hello Daniel Boone, the level of difficulty for you is a 1.
Here is some contact information to book your treehouse experience! Carolina Heritage Outfitter's, 1 Livery Lane, St. George, SC 29477 (843) 563-5051