August Waccamaw Riverkeeper Paddle Patrol

When I first became the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, I set a goal of paddling the entire river in the first year. That did not happen. I naively underestimated the amount of work it takes to be a Riverkeeper and my time was soon consumed with projects, meetings, and email. River time took a back seat. So, there is still a lot of the river I have left to see from my kayak.

Though I have visited Reaves Ferry Landing countless times in the past four years, I had never paddled from the landing. Somewhat selfishly, I chose Reaves Ferry as the location for my August patrol. Reaves Ferry typically has good water quality and I hadn’t had any reports of pollution or issues there, but it seemed as good as any location to patrol.

I met my fellow patrollers at the landing, and we hit the water around 9 am. I had a good group with me that Friday morning and they were determined to collect some trash while we were out! Before leaving the landing, two paddlers and myself cleaned up around the parking lot. Reaves Ferry often has a trash problem, but it was relatively clean. Still, I wandered the parking lot collecting cigarette butts and bits of trash left behind.

It was a great morning for a paddle – cool and overcast. While it looked like we might get some rain, we were all determined to patrol the river. We headed upstream after introductions and a quick debrief. We all trained our eyes on the banks for pieces of trash, but the river was remarkably clean.

One paddler spotted a strange item floating in some trees near the bank. Someone had lost the cover to their hot tub! Unfortunately, the cover was a little too heavy for any of us to tow back to the river and would have to be collected by someone with a bigger boat. (As would the water heater and two large barrels we later spotted upriver.)

We did manage to find some trash to collect, though. Frank and I paddled into a swampy area and filled our boats with trash. Because the water was still there and hemmed in by trees, it had collected debris and trash as it floated down river and out of the swamps. Plastic bottles, beer cans, bait containers, and liquor bottles accounted for most of our haul.

We also pulled a large 5-gallon water cooler bottle out of the mess which I wedged into my kayak for safe keeping. This made for a strange paddling position for the rest of the morning, but I was proud of my find and had plans to use it for work in the future.

The rest of our paddle was mostly uneventful. Other than the trash gathered in that one spot, there wasn’t much evidence of pollution on the river. We marveled at the beautiful houses along Bear Bluff and continued on up the winding river. It was a quiet paddle. With all the winding of the river, we often lost sight of each other and it was possible to imagine you were completely alone on the river for a few moments.

The rain started around 11 and it was time to head back. The river was moving pretty well so we all simply floated back to the landing. I propped my legs on the front of my kayak and only used my paddle to make small corrections as we floated. None of us could be bothered by the rain; it was a welcome reprieve after fighting the current upstream. I don’t think any of us really wanted our paddle to end.

But as the Riverkeeper, I had more work to do. Once we hit the landing, I collected up all of the trash and loaded it into the car along with my kayak. After spending the morning on the river, I felt refreshed and reinvigorated. Connecting to the river always helps me remember why I do what I do and why it is so important. Without Riverkeepers and people who support us, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy these kinds of mornings on the river.

Reaves Ferry Landing is near Conway, SC on the Waccamaw River.
The Paddle Patrol paddles upstream from Reaves Ferry. Seven people were on the September patrol.
A hot tub cover floats in the river where it has been snagged by trees along the bank.
Frank helps collect trash where it has collected among the trees on the river bank.
Trash tends to collect in areas where water is slow moving and there are obstacles like trees.
Your Waccamaw Riverkeeper, Cara Schildtknecht, filled her kayak with trash from the river.
Our Paddle Patrol spotted this fishing spider with an attached egg sac. Fishing spiders are common on the Waccamaw River.
Rain on the water created little bubbles across the river making for a whimsical paddle.
The Paddle Patrol floats back the landing in the rain after fighting the current to go upstream.
We collected nearly 5 bags of trash during the patrol at Reaves Ferry Landing. Interesting finds including a water cooler bottle, multiple Fireball bottles, and a completely intact fluorescent light tube.

I’ll be visiting another new landing for me on September 17th for the next Paddle Patrol. I’m looking forward to exploring at Pireway Boat Ramp in North Carolina. Pireway is the only public landing on the Waccamaw River in North Carolina. It is one of my favorite locations to sample and I cannot wait to get on the water there! Maybe I’ll see you on the river!

Winyah Rivers Alliance

P.O. Box 554
Conway, SC 29528
843 .349 .4007

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