Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kayaking on Lake Keowee at Keowee-Toxaway State Park, SC

Click here for the first post in this series.

To enjoy direct access to Lake Keowee from Keowee-Toxaway State Natural area you must rent the lakeside cabin I mentioned a few posts back. We RVers and tent campers have to travel a few miles to reach one of the Lake’s several public access boat ramps. Be sure to go, though, even if you don’t have a boat with you. The scenery there is worth the trip.

On Wednesday, the 11th, I checked the Advanced Elements Expedition inflatable kayak in the back seat of the car, and headed for Crowe Creek Landing. It’s just over four miles from the Park, about halfway down on the eastern shore of the Lake. It’s a great drive, down Crowe Creek Road. Known less poetically as Route 133. Meandering through typical foothills country. By late morning on Wednesday, weather was perfect for a paddle. Overcast sunshine, with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. And just enough wind to keep the voyage interesting.

[Click each photo for larger version]

This Lake Keowee landing, like many of the others, was built and is maintained by Duke Power. The folks responsible for the lake. They keep it in good order. Few signs of wear or vandalism. At least, on the days I visited. The newly blacktopped road in from Route 133, with its bright yellow double center line suggests recent attention to the facility. At the top of the hill leading to the ramps, there are plenty of elongated parking spaces for trucks pulling boat trailers. And even a two-door privy! Down at the water’s edge, the landing boasts two solid boat ramps and a nice floating dock. All maintained in tip-top condition. The ramps appear to be substantial enough to accept most any size boat that could be comfortably trailered.

Having scouted out the area the day before, I drove straight down to the concrete turn-around you see in the photo above. Two teenagers sat out on the end of the dock enjoying the sun. As I unloaded and began to inflate the kayak, the young man walked back to ask if I needed any help. I didn’t. But it was a nice gesture. Characteristic of folks living here. He watched with interest and answered questions about the area as I prepared the Expedition for launch. Though he balked at the suggestion of a photo! In twenty minutes or so, all safety and paddling equipment was stored in the boat.

But I’d forgotten the water bottle! A foolish mistake. One that for a longer paddle would have been a trip-breaker. Plenty of snacks, but no water! The bottle was on back the Aliner table, right where I’d left it. Live and learn.

Speaking of water, I mentioned before how clear the water is in Lake Keowee. Here’s a photo taken right near the ramp. From a distance it appears to be blue. Might be drinkable. But I didn’t take a chance.

It seemed wise to bring along the collapsible kayak cart. In case of unanticipated take-out on another part of the lake. So I strapped the Expedition to the cart, and headed for the ramp. The young man who so kindly offered to help with the preparations watched the whole procedure out of the corner of his eye from his perch at the end of the dock. Trying to be inconspicuous. I’m sure he doubted that an elderly kayaker wannabe would be able to launch that big yellow boat without mishap. And he was ready to spring to the rescue!

As usual, the launch was easy; without mishap. No unanticipated dunking. Though I’m always prepared for one, with everything in the kayak tied down and dunk-ready. And me always wearing a good life jacket. Or PFD (personal flotation device) as the boating people now call them. [Don’t even mention “Mae West” these days …] Aided, in part, by the gradual slope of the concrete ramp out into the water.

I’ve been paddling a kayak now for only a year. So it’s still a thrill to glide out quietly from the shore into interesting territory. The rhythmic swish of the paddles and that soft gurgle of the bow slicing through the water adds to the sense of peaceful excitement. If there is such a thing as peaceful excitement! I’ve got nothing against power boats. But can’t imagine one providing this sense of serenity or accomplishment

Oh, and speaking of power boats, there are quite a few of them on Lake Keowee. Certainly outnumbering kayaks and canoes. Some quite large. Others smaller two-person fishing boats with small sputtery outboard motors. A number of them zoomed by my kayak during this paddle. Yet every one slowed upon seeing me to reduce the force of their wake. I’m sure there will be exceptions. But such courtesy in my experience is common on South Carolina’s lakes and rivers. Nice to see.

Development along the shores of Lake Keowee is quite spectacular. Maybe I just selected a special part of the Lake. But the “cottages” pictured below were not at all unusual. Enormous houses! On large, beautifully landscaped lots. Quite a sight from the water.

Many of them were built around or near golf courses. I never saw so much territory devoted to golf courses in one place. I’m not a golfer. But these all looked nice.

Paddling along the eastern shore of the Lake, admiring all of the fancy houses and golf courses, I was delighted to find at least one community with a somewhat different character. It was on a point of land extending out into the lake. Beautifully situated. No golf course in view there!

A wind of about 10 miles per hour blew fairly steadily from the northeast. Enough to provide a cooling breeze. I’d paddled directly into it, knowing the return trip would be easier on the paddler than the trip out. About three-quarters of a mile along the wind intensified. So at a narrow spot, I crossed over to the other side of the Lake for some protection. It helped. And before long I found an inviting sandy beach that looked ideal for a rest stop and a snack. No water to wash it down, now. Just the snack. It’s remarkable how far out one can see through this clear water.

The trip down the lake and back to the boat ramp was even more pleasant than the trip up. In part because the wind was at my back, making paddling much easier. But also because of the stunning view of the mountains in the distance throughout the paddle.

All too soon I was back at the Crowe Creek boat ramp. It would have been nice to continue the paddle past the landing, and explore further down the lake. But by then the wind had picked up a bit more, and there was a hint of rain in the distance. Better not to take the chance.

So, after only a short detour, I paddled back into the ramp to haul out the boat. Again, the gradual slope of the concrete ramp made for a dry and simple landing. The teenagers were gone by then. Replaced by a couple of fishermen. They were standing on the landing, casting up under the floating dock. Of course, I stopped to ask what they were doing. “Fishing for bait!” Small brim, they said, hide under the dock. They’re easy to catch, they said, and make ideal bait for larger fish. Learn something every day! These fishermen too turned out to be lifetime residents of the area. In response to my questions they provided interesting background on local developments.

The whole paddle, according to the GPS, lasted only an hour and 45 minutes, for 3.43 miles. It seemed longer. Not from tiredness. But from the diversity of interesting scenery visible from the kayak. I’m eager to return to Crowe Creek Landing. And to try some of the other public boat landings on Lake Keowee.

Speaking of inflatable kayaks, those of you who find such craft interesting should visit the Inflatable Kayaking in B.C. blog. As the name suggests, it’s hosted from British Columbia. Beautiful photos and all sorts of advice on kayaking successfully with inflatable boats. Steven’s owned a number of different inflatable models from different manufacturers, and knows what he’s talking about. Enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment