Choose your own adventure: Upstate paddle trips for all skill and thrill levels

September 25th, 2020
By Katie Hottel

As Upstate Forever’s GIS Coordinator (that’s GIS for geographic information system) I spent a lot of time working with maps. When I joined the UF team in 2013, one of the first big projects I worked on was our initiative to reconnect people to the Upstate’s rivers. This gave me the unique opportunity to paddle many of the Upstate’s blueways and experience the diversity of river recreation offered in our own backyards firsthand. The Upstate has rivers in rural and urban, rivers wide and narrow, laid back and thrilling — there’s truly something for everyone!

As we celebrate World Rivers Day on September 27, I wanted to share a few of the fantastic paddle trips I discovered across the Upstate. Happy paddling!

Before we get started, a quick note about our blueway maps: You'll find Paddle SC links with trip information and downloadable maps below. If you’d like to request waterproof copies of (a great resource to take with you when paddling!), please email me at Waterproof maps are complimentary, but we ask that you help offset the costs of shipping by paying $5 for up to 5 maps and $10 for up to 10.

If you like safe challenges and wildlife encounters, try the Saluda River. 
This river is easygoing with a hint of flair and perfect for those wanting a bit more of an exciting challenge. My favorite trip starts at the Saluda River Yacht Club and ends at Dolly Cooper Park. You’ll encounter a few mild rapids, plenty of flat water, and even a hidden river-side rope swing if you look hard enough. Find trip details here

If you crave wide open spaces (cue The Chicks), head out to the Broad River.
My husband David and I loved the Broad River. It felt vast and exciting but still safe and convenient. We paddled from the Broad River Greenway to the Big Bay River Access and didn’t see another person the whole time. We found a cool rock outcrop to enjoy our packed lunch and saw a ton of wildlife. Find trip details here 

If you’re looking for some short-lived drama, the Pacolet River has what you want.
This is one of my favorite river adventures I’ve had in the Upstate! One year for Staff Fun Day, Upstate Forever staff took a guided trip down the Pacolet from Clifton Beach to Goldmine Road and it was a thrilling adventure for my beginner-paddler-self. We encountered many rapids and had a great time maneuvering down the river. I’d do this trip again in a heartbeat! Find trip details here

If you like binge-watching 5 seasons of anything on Netflix, maybe a “park-n-paddle” is more your style.
These trips don’t require any car shuffling — simply park your car and get in the water, you’ll begin and end at the same spot! Most of these trips are flat water or reservoirs (an honorable mention this World Rivers Day!), so they’re perfect for short trips, bringing kids, and minimal effort but maximum reward. My favorite spot is Lake Robinson. It is easy to access, has plenty of amenities, and a fantastic view. Find trip details here


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