Kayaking, Canoeing, and Whitewater
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Because of its position at the confluence of the Saluda, Broad, and Congaree Rivers, and the presence of Lake Murray nearby, Columbia is a haven for water-based pastimes. These rivers are undeveloped or less-developed along much of their length through and around the city, and they provide a peaceful paddle with a minimum of fuss.
Generally speaking, most put-in spots are in West Columbia, using the large Gervais Street Bridge over from downtown as a major landmark. The Three Rivers Greenway (www.riveralliance.org, daily dawn–dusk, free) joins several different hiking and biking paths as well as provides numerous river access points.
A deceptively easy put-in that will eventually lead to some fun Class II and III whitewater is from the ramp on the Saluda at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden parking lot. From there, you can take out at the Gervais Street Bridge at the West Columbia Riverwalk. Besides the rapids, there’s a lot of good nature viewing on this stretch as well.
A great place to put in on the Saluda is Saluda Shoals Park (5605 Bush River Rd., 803/731-5208, www.icrc.net, daily dawn–dusk, $4 per vehicle), a 350-acre park on the Saluda River outside of town with a good launch ramp. They offer periodic guided kayak trips; call for details. To get here, take I-26 west and exit at Piney Grove Road and turn left. Go about 1.5 miles to St. Andrews Road and turn right, then left at the first traffic light. Saluda Shoals Park will be nearly two miles farther up, on your left.
The Broad River is more peaceful. There’s a dam at Broad River Road you can use as a launching spot, and from there you can paddle to the West Columbia Amphitheater at the Gervais Street Bridge. The Congaree River is also mellow, with a good put-in spot at the West Columbia Riverwalk at the Gervais Street Bridge, with a take-out at the Rosewood Drive landing. On this run you can paddle through the old canal locks.
There are several good outfitters in town for rental, purchase, or guided tours. Adventure Carolina (1107 State St., 803/796-4505, www.adventurecarolina.com) runs several trips on all area rivers, including a quick and easy selection of three-hour, three-mile paddles at about $50 per person. They also rent anything you might need.
Palmetto Outdoor (731 Meeting St., 803/360-4697, www.palmettooutdoor.com) specializes in whitewater rafting trips and also rents kayaks and canoes at about $40 per day.
River Runner Outdoor Center (905 Gervais St., 803/771-0353, www.riverrunner.us) is the designated outfitter for Saluda Shoals Park, but will rent for any trip at about $45 per day. River Runner has an impressive inventory of regionally-made kayaks and canoes for purchase. They run periodic paddles throughout the year; check the website or call for details.
© Jim Morekis from Moon South Carolina, 4th Edition