Primary safety concerns are the same as any other type of outdoor activity:
– Ensure you’re properly hydrated. Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
– Have ample protection from sun exposure — sunblock, long sleeve shirts and wide brim hats.
– Share your put-in/take-out location, paddling route and launch & return times with family and friends.
– It’s always a good idea to bring a buddy along with you. Share your awesome Berkeley Blueways experience!
Alligators are the number one concern asked about when discussing the Berkeley Blueways with newcomers. There are alligators in many of the waterways. After thousands of miles paddled on the Blueways, we can tell you that alligators are not a concern. They are exciting to see, but they are also difficult to see. Why? Alligators don’t want anything to do with you. If you see an alligator, count yourself lucky. They don’t stick around long and move away very quickly. Use common sense. Treat alligators with respect. Never feed an alligator (or any wildlife). Never approach them on purpose, and just paddle on.
Would you believe wasps are a bigger concern than alligators? With that said, wasps are rarely an issue, but here’s some things to keep in mind. Wasps like to build their nests in branches that overhang or are adjacent to the water. Wasps will normally not bother you, but if you strike a branch with your paddle, you could make some new buzzing, stinging friends that you don’t want. FOLLOW THIS RULE: Keep your paddle low and out of all branches! This is usually only a concern when paddling close to shore or in the narrow waterways of the blackwater creeks.
PFD’s or “Life Jackets,” and Whistles
South Carolina law states each person must have a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) in the kayak or canoe. Children under 12 are always required to wear their PFD when in a kayak or canoe. We recommend that everyone wear a PFD at all times. In addition, each person must have a whistle attached to their PFD. Reference: SC Laws Sec. 50-21-870 for more information.
Rising water levels, tidal influence and flooding can be a concern for some waterways. We have done our best to provide precautions for each paddle trail. It is paddlers’ responsibility to use common sense and do due diligence in researching current water levels. If you still have concerns, you are always welcome to contact the Berkeley Blueways and we can direct you to the right information.
South Carolina Law
As a canoe or kayak enthusiast, your rights and privileges as a paddler are protected by the State of South Carolina. This is not true for all states. South Carolina has taken a positive stance to ensure that the State’s waterways will always be available for public use. The State of South Carolina has established a law declaring “Navigable Waters” as public-trust properties, protected by the State and held in trust for the use of the public. This includes all waters now navigable, previously navigable, or those that would be rendered navigable by removal of accidental obstructions. If the water will hold a canoe or kayak, it is considered navigable and you are allowed to use the waterway. In addition, those properties from the normal high water mark to the water’s bottom are considered public property.
The waters of Berkeley County are easily accessed due to ample launching facilities provided by South Carolina DNR, Santee Cooper, Berkeley County Government and various private fishing and boating oriented marinas. It is incumbent on all users of these facilities to quickly launch their craft and remove their vehicles to make the ramp available for the next person to launch or retrieve their boat. It is suggested that you off-load your craft on the side of the ramp along with your gear and place your vehicle in the parking area. You can then leisurely load your boat and prepare for your trip without inconveniencing other users of the facility.