Santee River # 1: Wilson’s Landing to HWY 52 — Rated: Very Strenuous, 25 Miles
Wilson’s Landing is located on the tailrace of the Lake Marion dam. It is accessed on Wilson’s Landing Road off of Highway 45, west of St Stephen.
About the Trail
Being a distance of 25 miles, the Wilson’s Landing section of the Santee River is too long for a day trip and is recommended to be attempted as a two-day trip with camping overnight. This will not only lessen the demands on the paddler, it will also add another enjoyable aspect to the trip. While the properties bordering the Santee River along this section are privately owned, the exposed sandbars and properties below the normal high water mark are state properties that permit recreational camping. During the summer months, the lower water levels in the summertime allow for numerous sandbars and offer many opportunities for campers.
Immediately after launching at Wilson’s Landing, you will experience about one quarter of a mile of shallow waters. After that, the water will deepen, and you should not experience any similar shoals until over halfway through your trip. At the halfway mark, you you will experience several more shoals including a couple of fast riffles, where the river narrows and the water shoals dramatically. You will normally be able to see bottom in these areas, and they should present no problems for canoes or kayaks.
About 8.5 miles into your trip, you will come upon a right-hand bend in the river with a small cabin, boat ramp, and dock on the left bank. The cabin, ramp and dock are private property and are mentioned only for landmark purposes. The next landmark will be a small concrete boat ramp on your left bank in another right-hand bend about 12.7 miles into your trip or just over halfway. There are a number of sandbars between these two landmarks that are suitable for camping. There are also several sandbars beyond this area, but they will be less plentiful than during the first half of your trip. Just beyond the concrete boat ramp you will enter a relatively straight section of the river about two miles in length. Just beyond this section, you will experience the first of several shoal areas and riffles. While they should present no problems to the paddler, motor boaters may find they will need to exit their craft and walk the boats through the faster shallow sections. Good wading shoes are a must on this trail.
Your takeout for this section of the river will be on the left bank adjacent to the Highway 52 Bridge. It is recommended that you arrange for pickup rather than positioning a vehicle at this location because it is a fairly deserted area.
Overall, this section of river is a very pleasant trip. While there are very little signs of human habitation, wildlife is abundant. Keep this in mind while camping and ensure that food is stored in a safe place such as a cooler with a latch or perhaps under an overturned canoe or kayak. Take plenty of food and particularly water and beverages. Sunscreen and hats are a must, as you can plan on spending extended time in direct sun. As always, be sure that all of your trash and beverage containers go home with you for proper disposal. This is a beautiful river; and, with a little effort, it can be kept that way for future generations.
Santee Cooper maintains a toll free information line for river and lake conditions as well as release information for the dams. It is advised that you check this number, 1-800-925-2537, on the day of your departure to ascertain any water releases that might affect your trip. Normal releases during the day should not be a problem. Rising water at night while sleeping could result in previously grounded boats floating away. Use common sense and take appropriate precautions.
Fishing is always great on the Santee River
At the end – paddling under HWY 52 bridge.
Dam at Lake Marion/Santee River, just upstream from Wilson’s Landing.
Santee River-Wilson’s Landing Map
Santee River-Wilson’s Landing Aerial
Berkeley County Blueways Map
Start Here — Downloadable Santee River Wilson’s Landing to HWY 52 Trail Guide