October Waccamaw Riverkeeper Paddle Patrol

ce a creek or maybe even part of an oxbow on the meandering river. Now it is a winding path through the swamp, perfect for a quiet paddle amongst massive cypress. The seclusion of Pitch Lodge Lake from the mainstem of the Waccamaw means more wildlife and fewer people.

Downstream of Conway, Pitch Lodge Lake can be reached by crossing the river from Pitch Landing. The landing is great for kayakers because in addition to a floating dock, it has a soft sandy launch area. Though somewhat primitive with an unpaved parking lot, it is a popular spot for paddlers, fishers, and swimmers.

It had been awhile since I had paddled at Pitch Landing, so I chose it for the Waccamaw Riverkeeper’s October Paddle Patrol. Sometimes, I get to be a little selfish in my role as your Riverkeeper. I think I chose well because I had five other paddlers join me that morning. Our small group set out across the river to venture into the lake.

As we stopped to check out the sunken boats, I had no idea it would be my last visit to the paddlewheel boat. For my entire career as the Riverkeeper, the paddlewheel had sat partially submerged at the mouth of Pitch Lodge Lake. In fact, it had been there for fifteen years! The two other derelict boats had joined it since I had been around. Unlike the paddlewheel boat, which was unique, wooden, and fascinating, the newer boats were ugly, fiberglass, and annoying. Abandoned boats are not only a threat to water quality due to leaking fluids but are also dangerous to boaters who may not be aware of submerged boats in the river.

Boats like these litter the Waccamaw River. The boats are often abandoned by their owners for a myriad of reasons – none of which are appropriate or responsible. Worse, thought, is how difficult the abandoned boats are to remove! It is illegal to simply remove any boat from the river. South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources follows a time-consuming procedure to track down owners in order to properly remove the boats. Even then, removal and disposal of the derelict vessels can be incredibly expensive costing up to $100,000 for a single boat!

Just weeks after our paddle, collaborative efforts between Wounded Nature and Black Water Dredging removed some of the massive debris at the mouth of Pitch Lodge Lake. The dedicated team removed more than 30,000 lbs. of debris including the 80-foot paddlewheel boat. As the Riverkeeper, I am incredibly grateful to everyone who helped remove the debris. We now have a cleaner, safer, and more beautiful river thanks to their work.

Even without this unique landmark, Pitch Lodge Lake is still a picturesque paddle worth experiencing. As we ventured back into the lake, we saw turtles, birds, and spectacular cypress. There is a quartet of cypress growing in the middle of the lake which offers one of the prettiest scenic images on the river, in my opinion. It is impossible not to notice the beauty of the trees as you paddle along.

Deeper into the lake is a humongous osprey nest. During nesting season, the parent ospreys’ shrill call warns paddlers to keep their distance when paddling beneath the tree. The fishing in the lake must be good because the pair returns every year to breed and raise their brood. The pair has picked an excellent location for their young to learn to fly and fish. Osprey are one of my favorite birds and I never get tired of seeing them. But on this morning, the family had already left their seasonal home.

We didn’t encounter any other humans until we were paddling out of the lake. After hitting the dead-end of Pitch Lodge Lake, we turned around and headed back out. We met some other kayakers on the way. They were visiting from out of state and just happened to wander into the lake by accident. We assured them it would be worth it for them to paddle onward but let them know they would not reconnect to the river going that way.

The soft sandy launch at Pitch Landing is great for our kayaks! The soft launch means no scrapes on the boats.
Pitch Lodge Lake is not a true lake, but a dead-end creek with plenty of cool things to see!
The Paddle Patrol checks out the old paddlewheel boat which had been a landmark for the past 15 years.
The Patrol discussed the abandoned boats and wondered why they had not been removed.
It was a cool and foggy morning as we paddled into Pitch Lodge Lake that October morning. Perfect for spooky season!
The quartet of cypress growing in the middle of the lake were cloaked in fog and perfectly reflected in the water.
We reached the dead-end of the lake. Through the swamp is the Waccamaw River, but it cannot be reached by kayak from here!
The Paddle Patrol gathers for a group photo at the end of Pitch Lodge Lake!
Any opportunity to get out on the water is a reason for your Waccamaw Riverkeeper to smile!
As we paddled back to the landing, the fog began to clear revealing a film of pollen on the water.
The blue skies arrived just in time for us to reach the landing and pack up. The Paddle Patrol would enjoy a sunny Friday after all!

My paddlers were all exhilarated after our patrol of Pitch Lodge Lake. This hidden gem on the Waccamaw is always a favorite and I love sharing it with people. These patrols have allowed me to share my love of the river and kayaking with so many people already. I can’t wait to share more river time with y’all!

Join the Waccamaw Riverkeeper Paddle Patrol on November 19th at 9:00 am to explore the river at Peachtree Landing! Be sure to visit our calendar to see where our Paddle Patrol is headed monthly every third Friday. See you on the river!

Winyah Rivers Alliance

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

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