One of our favorite trips was a weekend of canoeing down the Waccamaw River in the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. We first heard about the Waccamaw River while researching Blue Trails, or designated water trails. The Waccamaw River Blue Trail stretches 140 miles from near the North Carolina border to the coast of South Carolina.
There is a stretch of 16 miles that goes through the wildlife refuge. I love to visit National Wildlife Refuges because they tend to be less touristy than national and state parks, so you can experience nature more peacefully. The mission of FWS puts the protection of the fish, wildlife, and plants before the benefit of people. This means that refuges tend to have fewer trails and commodities than parks, but if you are willing to forgo some of the luxuries, then you will find yourself in a truly special place.
While researching the trip, we came across Black Rivers Outdoors Center to rent a canoe, but we were not able to find any camping locations online. A good lesson here: park rangers are still more knowledgeable than Google. The refuge informed us that there was only one campsite along the Waccamaw and it was closed to normal use. However, they occasionally open the site up to volunteers who agree to pick up trash. We eagerly agreed and we were so happy we did. The campsite was located on an isolated river bluff upstream from Peach Tree Landing. We wanted to canoe 10-15 miles total, so we put in the river at Cox Ferry Lake, trail mile 45, and ended the trip at Bucksport Marina, trail mile 60. Due to a significant amount of rainfall this year, the river was higher than normal and provided a strong current. However, the Waccamaw feeds into the ocean, so when the water level is lower the tide may reverse the current. We started canoeing in the early afternoon and reached the campsite in roughly three hours, which gave us plenty of time to set up camp before sundown. There was hardly anyone else on the calm waters causing the river to seem even more tranquil. In the morning we had time to wander the swampy side creeks and soak in the eerie landscape.
We ended the trip around noon feeling physically exhausted but mentally refreshed. The Waccamaw proved to be a pristine area that allowed us to recharge our batteries.