Beauty Away From The Beach

The beach is what draws the vast majority of visitors to the Grand Strand, but make no mistake about it…..there is some fascinating history and beauty off the beaten path and not very far from the beach. One such location of notice is the Waccamaw River. If you’ve ever tried driving a little deeper into Horry or Georgetown Counties, you’ve likely noticed that it takes 20 miles to go just 5 sometimes. The winding Waccamaw with its fingers and inlets covers a truly vast amount of real estate throughout both counties making it difficult to get from point A to point B without circling the county!

The Waccamaw is steeped in history. From it’s Wikipedia page:

The Waccamaw River begins its course at Lake Waccamaw, a Carolina Bay in Columbus County, North Carolina. Downstream it forms the county line between Columbus and Brunswick Counties, flowing generally southwest and parallel to the coastline; it is separated from the ocean by approximately 15 miles (24 km). It enters South Carolina and flows southwest across Horry County, past Conway. Near Burgess it is joined from the northwest by the Great Pee Dee River which rises in north central North Carolina. It continues southwest, separated from the ocean by only five miles (8 km) in a long tidal estuary. The long narrow point of land along the ocean formed by the lower river is called Waccamaw Neck. At Georgetown it receives the Black River (South Carolina) from the north, then turns sharply to the southeast and enters the ocean at Winyah Bay, approximately five miles (8 km) north along the coast from the mouth of the Santee River.


 

The lower river is navigable as far as Conway, and has formed an important commercial route for the region since the 18th century. Before that, it was equally important for various Native American cultures. Its lower course in South Carolina forms part of the recreational Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, which joins the river from the northeast at Bucksport, South Carolina.

The river’s extensive wetlands offer habitat for diverse species, including the Carolina pygmy sunfish and the American black bear.

“Extensive forest communities cover the Waccamaw floodplain, including cypress-gum swamp and bottomland hardwood forests. The bottomland hardwood forests of the Waccamaw are unique in the Carolinas in containing abundant Atlantic white cedar and live oaks, along with the more typical laurel and overcup oak and loblolly pine.”[1]

A portion of the habitat has been acquired by The Nature Conservancy. Land along the Waccamaw, the lower Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee rivers has been acquired for habitat preservation. Additional land is being acquired for the new Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge.

In the 19th century, planters had extensive rice cultivation on lands of the lower Waccamaw River. This labor-intensive crop required thousands of slaves, mostly Africans and their descendants. After the American Civil Waremancipation lead to decline of the industry.

 

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The Waccamaw flows very near to our home along and between the Highway 9 & Highway 22 corridor. We’ve been aware of an access point just a mile or so as the crow flies from our home. We finally decided to hop on our bikes and meander through the deep woods along the dirt roads leading down to the river banks where one location of Great Escapes Kayaking can be found. It was indeed a rewarding experience to travel to a spot seemingly days away from civilization.

We biked down a quiet, winding dirt road through open fields surrounded by thick, tall Carolina pines dotted with deer stands which gave their hunter owners clear views for hundreds of yards across the fields. Passing the fields brought us into the dark, black, swampy, bayou underbelly of the forest and marsh bordering the river. I half expected to hear a banjo faintly playing off in the thick of the swamp! Along the road we came upon horses and riders and a random goat (quite large I might add!) bounding through the woods. A few hundred yards later after passing the Great Escapes property, we came upon the stunning views of the peaceful, black bottom, Waccamaw in all its glory. It was easy to see why this would be an ideal spot to launch your kayak and discover the dark beauty of the river. 

Below you’ll find some of the photos from our little adventure as well as a map giving you the location of this spot on the river. Click on any of the photos to view full size and feel free to share to the social media site of choice or send any photo as a *Free* E-Card by clicking the link on the photo. 

 

 

The map below will provide you with the exact location of Great Escapes as well as giving you a good idea of the scope of the Waccamaw in this area. Please click on “view larger map’ to drill down to a much closer view.


 

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