Have you visited Givhans Ferry State Park or the surrounding Edisto River area? KAG contributor Liene explored the Lowcountry, including the Edisto River area and Givhans Ferry State Park, as a correspondent to the South Carolina 7 Wonders expedition. What she found is that not only is the Edisto deserving of the title 5th Wonder of South Carolina, but together with the surrounding area makes a unique destination for a family weekend in the Lowcountry!
Places to Stay Near Givhans Ferry State Park and the Edisto River Area
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The Edisto River
The Edisto River is the longest, free-flowing, blackwater river in North America, the water appearing tea-like from the tannins released by decaying vegetation. Blackwater rivers such as the Edisto are typically slow-moving waterways that flow through forests, swamps, or wetlands. From the spring-fed headwaters in the central Sandhills, the Edisto flows through the heart of old-growth stands of tupelo-cypress forests to the rich estuary of the ACE Basin.
Edisto River’s name originated from the word edisto, a Native American term that means “black.” It was most likely named as such by the Edisto Tribe, a member of the Cusabo family of tribes that lived along the river in present-day Edisto Island and surrounding Charleston and Colleton counties. This tribe disappeared from the area in the early 1700s as a result of disease and warfare, however, the Kusso-Natchez Tribe adopted Edisto Indian Organization as their new name in the 1960s in honor of their ancestral settlements along the river in present-day Dorchester and Colleton counties, and communities of their descendants live there today.
Paddle the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail
There are many ways to experience the Edisto, but one of the best ways to explore it is from the water: by kayak, canoe or tube. The Edisto is a paddler’s paradise, with 62 of its 250 miles officially part of the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail (ERCKT), and among a multitude of public and private camping and access points to the ERCKT are two state parks, Colleton and Givhans Ferry. Both offer camping & picnicking sites and have convenient launch sites for an Edisto paddle – it is 23 miles from one park to the other via the river.
For maps, river access points, and more information, check out the ERCKT website.
Go fishing, hiking, or tubing at Givhans Ferry State Park
Givhans Ferry State Park is one of 16 SC State Parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, including its 4 cabins and Riverfront Hall on a bluff overlooking the river. It is the closest park to Charleston with overnight facilities, and also has 25 full-service campsites and 2 picnic shelters. Both Givhans Ferry and Colleton participate in the SC Dept. of Natural Resources sponsored Tackle Loaner Program, with rods and reels available for loan at the park office. With a valid SC fishing license, your family can fish the Edisto for flathead, catfish, bass, and eel.
The Park also offers hiking, with the 1.5-mile River Bluff Nature Trail boasting scenic views and opportunities to birdwatch, bike, and geocache. It is a very short walk down to the kayak launch, where there is a small beach area and riverfront. Although there are no lifeguards on duty, the Edisto access is very popular with families looking to cool off during the hot summer months. For admission information, please visit the SC State Parks website for Givhans Ferry.
A favorite Givhans Ferry activity is tubing with Edisto River Adventures. After launching from the kayak launch, you’ll float the two miles to the Edisto River Adventures take-out where you can play a game of sand volleyball or cornhole, picnic, and utilize the changing rooms before the drive home. For more information and pricing, please visit the Edisto River Adventures website.
Discover the wildlife of Audubon Beidler Forest
Another great way to experience the area is with a visit to Francis Beidler Forest, the 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest, home to thousand-year-old trees and a wide range of wildlife. It is a great place to visit for families, as the entire 1.75-mile trail is a boardwalk: easy to follow, and provides safe viewing of wildlife without getting muddy or wet. On our recent visit, we saw numerous lizards and snakes, as well as birds of all sizes, even in the heat of a summer afternoon!
Tickets are required for boardwalk admission, and the Center’s hours are currently limited; please visit the Audubon Beidler Forest website for more information. The second Saturday of every month is free admission, or if you are unable to register for a walk on the boardwalk, there is the new Grasslands-Woodland Trails near the entrance to the center instead that doesn’t require tickets. You can follow Beidler on Instagram and also Beidler Forest on Facebook for a virtual look at the Sanctuary and the animals that call it home!
For the adventurous kayaking the ERCK Trail to Givhans Ferry: a short side trip will take you to the confluence of the Edisto River and Four Holes Swamp in Beidler Forest; keep your eyes open for wild turkey, beaver, kingfisher, great blue heron, and egrets along the way!
An uncertain future: America’s Most Endangered Rivers
In 2014 the South Fork of the Edisto appeared in America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, and the year after that Edisto was added as well. As the state’s most heavily used river for irrigation, excessive water withdrawals continue to be a major threat; lower water levels allow sunlight to penetrate further into the water, allowing for more vegetation in the water as well as algae blooms, as well as causes saltwater to encroach higher upstream.
Together with the Ashepoo and Combahee Rivers, the Edisto is part of the ACE Basin. More than 130,000 acres of land have been protected through public/private partnerships in the heart of the ACE Basin, and organizations such as American Rivers continue to work to provide sustainable water supplies for all, while supporting river health and recreation on the Edisto and neighboring rivers.
The South Carolina State Parks such as Givhans Ferry and Colleton are excellent places for us to learn more about these unique ecosystems of South Carolina, including the black waters of the Edisto. It is easier to protect the places that we know and love, and the opportunity to get our families outside and to be active in these beautiful places is a blessing. I hope you’ll enjoy discovering the beauty of this area of South Carolina as much as our family has!
Givhans Ferry State Park
746 Givhans Ferry Road, Ridgeville, SC, 29472
Have you ever been swimming in a blackwater river? Please let us know about your family’s favorite place to visit on the Edisto River!