Five South Carolina Adventures You Don’t Want to Miss
June 2021 Issue
By Edwina Hoyle
Whether you're 8 or 80 and have an adventurous spirit, you don't have to travel to exotic international destinations to quench your thirst for adventure. The Palmetto State has plenty of options for discovery, exploration, magic and wonder. Discover South Carolina! From the majesty of the mountains to the beaches and marshes and everything in between, there are so many options: hiking, scuba diving, water sports, backwoods camping, spelunking, fossil hunting and soaring in the sky. Here are a few of our favorite suggestions!
Congaree National Park
Wilderness for Exploration
Congaree National Park is a 26,276-acre national park situated 18 miles southeast of Columbia. The park boasts incredible biodiversity in the largest, intact expanse of old-growth, bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees. Whether you come out for a short stroll on the boardwalk, or serious hiking and exploration, there are many opportunities to experience the wonders of wilderness. To explore the splendor of one of the oldest and tallest forests east of the Mississippi, you can hike, canoe, kayak, fish or camp. “The big draw is that it’s a world away in natural wilderness where you can experience a great ecosystem. Whether you like it rough and tumble, or easy and lazy, we’ve got you covered,” said Greg Cunningham of the National Park Service.
There are a number of trails at Congaree available for foot-travel only. The majority of the park lies within a floodplain, so the terrain is generally flat with only slight elevation changes. Many trails are in the park's wilderness area and can be impacted by downed trees and flood damage. Hikers are encouraged to utilize navigational aids such as a compass, map and offline GPS navigation tools. Trails are rated EASY, MODERATE or DIFFICULT based on length, conditions and difficulty of navigation. Camping in the backcountry is a great way to experience the wilderness at Congaree. The park's backcountry can be reached either by foot, canoe or kayak. Camping in the frontcountry is limited to the campgrounds only.
www.nps.gov/cong | 803-776-4396
If you go:
> Be sure that you (and your pet) have adequate water and choose those activities that fit your level of physical fitness.
> Cell phone reception within the park is unreliable and may not be available where you hike or paddle.
> Leave an itinerary behind or let someone know what your intended route is in case of an emergency.
> Be prepared with the proper clothing and footwear, and carry essentials such as water, snacks, a first aid kit, a hat, bug spray, a map and a compass.
Soar to Great Heights!
Are you someone who dangles on a Ferris wheel with white-knuckles? If so, SkyWheel in Myrtle Beach may not be for you. A classic Ferris wheel normally stands approximately 40-feet tall, but SkyWheel rises 187 feet into the sky, more than four times as tall. At a whopping 20 stories high and practically right on the beach, imagine the sprawling vistas over the Grand Strand and ocean! SkyWheel is definitely not for the acrophobic, but it’s a great adventure for thrill seekers.
One difference between SkyWheel and a typical Ferris wheel is the seating. In a Ferris wheel, riders dangle in open bucket-like seats, but in SkyWheel riders are in enclosed gondolas. SkyWheel has been closed for major renovations over the past year, and as they reopen, visitors will enjoy a completely revamped experience. All 42 gondolas are refreshed with emergency call buttons and heating/cooling. A new LED lighting system has been installed, and a new, huge, decorative center globe has been added. The refurbished SkyWheel will add a whole new dimension to twilight on the beach. The gondolas are handicapped accessible and can accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. And for the ultimate experience, a VIP flight for up to four people in the VIP gondola includes Ferrari leather seats and a glass bottom floor.
www.skywheelmb.com | 843-839-9200
If you go:
> The weather is monitored and the wheel may be closed if winds are sustained above 35 mph or if lightning is within a 5-mile radius of the wheel. Otherwise the gondolas operate year round.
> Each gondola can hold up to 1,300 pounds or six people.
> Every gondola is equipped with an emergency call button that patrons can push for any reason to be brought down immediately.
> Be sure to bring a camera.
Edisto River Treehouse Adventure
Canoe the best of South Carolina
If you're searching for a one-of-a-kind adventure, look no further. Paddle the Edisto, North America’s longest free-flowing, cypress-lined, blackwater river where you’ll uncover one of South Carolina’s hidden gems of the great outdoors: the Edisto River Treehouses nestled deep in the woods along the riverbank. Owner Chris Burbulak said, “If you’re looking to get away from the day-to-day grind, this escape is for you. People don’t really understand quiet. Here you can hear a pin drop or a mouse sneeze. The only noise is the sound of rushing water.”
Provided by Carolina Heritage Outfitters, this unique, 23-mile trip is divided into a 13-mile paddle on day one to the treehouses, and a 10-mile paddle on day two—both are downriver and leisurely. Whether floating down the Edisto, walking the trails, or relaxing on the deck of your private treehouse, you will be immersed in a fragile ecosystem and annual flood plain, where great blue herons, egrets, wood storks, pileated woodpeckers, wood ducks, wild turkey, deer, owls, muskrats, raccoons and many other creatures are residents. When you reach your destination, you'll be greeted by rustic, wooden treehouses that rise out of the swamp, towering 15 to 20 feet above the forest floor.
Once finished paddling for the day, the treehouse accommodations, which come in small, medium and large, offer amenities such as relaxing on the deck, exploring hiking trails, swimming or fishing from the riverbank, floating down the lazy river around the peninsula, or just lounging in the hammock with a good book or escaping into the sounds of nature. Spend the twilight hours laughing, talking and rejuvenating. Each treehouse campsite has benches and a fire pit that beckon sing-alongs, telling ghost stories and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows—all in the great—and wild— outdoors.
www.canoesc.com | 843-563-5051
If you go:
> Bring drinking water, food and snacks, bug spray, hooded raincoat, sleeping bag, towels, and a pillow case.
> There is no electricity or running water. Outhouse facilities are located near each unit.
> The treehouses are equipped with propane stoves and/or grills, plates, flatware, pots and pans, beds, screened sleeping areas, torches and oil lamps, a deck, rope hammock, a few games like dominoes and playing cards.
> If you’ve got limited or no experience in a canoe, you can ask for a kayak instead.
> Understand you will be in a flood plain and water levels can change in a hurry.
A nature lover’s wonderland of gorges, waterfalls and mountains
Scenic vistas, waterfall tours, trophy-sized trout, breathtaking gorges, primitive rock art and rock shelters, and an underwater town make Lake Jocassee and the Jocassee Gorges a bucket-list site. This wilderness jewel was named one of "50 of the World's Last Great Places" by National Geographic. With 50,000 acres of lush mountain forests, crystal clear streams and the highest concentration of waterfalls in the eastern US, this area certainly deserves the recognition. Must-see itineraries include Jumping Off Rock for a breathtaking panorama of Lake Jocassee and Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina. From the 3,553-foot summit you can see three states—North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The observation tower offers a 350-degree panorama with a magnificent vista of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Lake Jocassee is a 7,500-acre, 300-foot deep reservoir within Devils Fork State Park. It’s known for the clean, cold Appalachian mountain rivers and waterfalls that flow into it. The park offers hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking, biking and geocaching. The lake and streams boast trophy rainbow and brown trout. There are myriad water sports including paddleboards, water skiing, boating and swimming. You can even take a boat tour of the waterfalls. Scuba divers have unusual, hidden gems to explore on the bottom of the lake. The lake was created on the site of a mountain town, and many structures are still intact under the water. The Jocassee Dive Shop provides the equipment and guidance needed to visit the old inn, the sunken boat, a cemetery and even a basketball court.
www.discoversouthcarolina.com | 866-345-7275
If you go:
> Public access to Lake Jocassee is through Devils Fork State Park. Pick up a map and driving tour guide at the visitor center. It will take you to more than a dozen points of interest in the Jocassee Gorges and surrounding area.
> Purchase your admission online when you arrive at the park. Admission is only valid on the day purchased. Or purchase an Annual Park Passport.
River Island Adventures
Wilderness river adventures! Are You Up to the challenge?
If you love “Survivor”, “The Amazing Race” and escape rooms, think what a real outdoor challenge you would face if they were all combined. River Island Adventures offers a fun, competitive adventure called Escape River Island. Teams of two must work together, competing against other teams, to escape from a secluded island on the Waccamaw River. Up to six teams are guided to a secluded 48-acre private island where they will compete in up to 10 Survivor-style challenges, solve clues to unlock their tandem kayaks, and race a half-mile upriver back to the outpost. This wilderness adventure requires participants to be able to paddle, navigate through a forest environment, solve clues and complete physical challenges.
For the less competitive, River Island Adventures offers a variety of activities. Spend the day tubing down the river, exploring on a kayak or paddle board, relaxing in a hammock, or playing one of many super-sized yard games. Arrive anytime and stay as long as you want! Go camping, or if glamping is more your style, you can spend the night in a canvas glamping tent furnished with a comfortable queen size bed with a custom hand-made headboard, chandelier, propane heater, fan and other comfortable amenities. Wooded campsites where you can pitch your own tent are also available. Located just seven miles away from North Myrtle Beach, Manager Cherish Collins said, “When people think of Myrtle Beach they think of the ocean. It’s special here on a beautiful, private river in the woods away from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Strand.”
www.rivr.info | 843-882-7487
If you go:
> Wear closed-toe shoes (water shoes or old sneakers) and a swimsuit.
> You’ll get wet, sweaty and dirty (and love it) so a dry change
of clothes is a good idea.
> Bring a hat, bug spray, sunblock and a towel.
> You can bring a cooler with food and drinks.