The Wateree River Blue Trail, near Camden, South Carolina, winds 75 miles to meet the Congaree River Blue Trail at Congaree National Park. The first section is dominated by rocky shoals and changes downstream as it flows through floodplain forests. Its east bank is bordered by Manchester State Forest and Poinsett State Park for the lower third of the trail. Congaree National Park lies on the west side of the river for the trail’s final 10 miles.
The Wateree River is one of South Carolina’s most precious resources. There is much to discover along the Wateree River Blue Trail. Starting near Camden, the oldest inland city in South Carolina, the Blue Trail offers paddlers opportunities to learn about the area’s rich history along its rocky shoals.
Continuing downstream, paddlers cross the fall line and enter the coastal plain known for its countless sandbars, high bluffs, and extensive floodplain. The Wateree River Blue Trail offers one of the best opportunities for multiple overnight trips east of the Mississippi River. Due to its extensive floodplain there is little development in the river corridor. It’s possible to paddle for days without seeing a soul.
The Wateree River Blue Trail snakes along the eastern edge of the newest section of Congaree National Park, a protected wilderness that’s home to the largest continuous tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the U.S. The park boasts 90 tree species, roughly half the number found in Europe. The section along the Wateree River Blue Trail offers paddlers opportunities to discover State and National Champion Trees.
As the result of the success of communities connecting to the Wateree Blue Trail, in 2010 Kershaw County took bold steps to protect the river and its clean water by unanimously passing an ordinance that protects all rivers and streams by requiring a 100-foot strip of trees and plants along the riverbank to limit polluted runoff that flows into the county’s waters.
American Rivers worked closely with planners and others in the county to protect the Wateree River Blue Trail, its clean water, and to reconnect communities to the recreational, economic, and cultural values of the Wateree River. The county’s river safeguards are an important part of the effort to ensure the Wateree remains one of the area’s most valuable assets.
Additionally, The Congaree Land Trust, a partner in the Wateree River Blue Trail Coalition, secured a conservation easement on the Wateree River that will protect the river’s unique natural values, wildlife habitat, and clean water. The 1900 acre easement protects a significant section of the Wateree River near the Congaree National Park as well as 800 upland acres from development.