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A Guide to the Palmetto State River Trails,

2nd Edition

by Gene Able and Jack Horan

From the crashing, clear waters of the Chattooga River in the northwestern mountains to the tranquil blackwater swamps of the Lowcountry, South Carolina’s rivers and streams travel about 30,000 miles__a significant amount navigable by paddle craft. This book offers a guide for canoers and kayakers to the state’s best river trails, free-flowing sections, which cover more than 1,300 miles.

This volume includes photographs, maps, and specific written instructions, including mileage and times between put-ins and take-outs, length of trails, difficulty in paddling, and hazards specific to each trail.  The river trails are categorized at four skill levels: beginner, intermediate, advance and expert.  Every trail has been paddled by the authors.

The book also includes information about wildlife in the state, varying seasonal weather conditions, pre-trip preparations, and first-aid information.  Appendices provide addresses and phone numbers for outfitters, forest service district offices, map sales outlets, and weather service. 

Full of useful planning information as well as schematic drawings, important data, driving directions, and descriptions of all floatable rivers from the Mountains to the Piedmont, Midlands, and Lowcountry. This is THE BOOK that you need for planning any paddling trip.

160 pages.6 x9.  B/w photographs. (1986) 2001. Sandlapper Publishing.

13 ISBN 978-0-87844-161-7/  ISBN 0-87844-161-1, $19.95 (Softcover)


About the Authors:
Gene Able was a writer, journalist, and teacher of college English in Georgetown, South Carolina. A native of Ridgeland in Jasper County, Able worked for The Island Packet on Hilton Head Island, The State in Columbia, the Independent News in Irmo, the Rock Hill Herald, and the Coastal Observer on Pawley's Island. He was the author of Exploring South Carolina and had paddled more than 2,500 miles on the state's rivers.

Jack Horan, a paddler for more than thirty years, is outdoors correspondent for The Charlotte Observer. His 1993 newspaper series, "Vanishing Carolinas," won the Southern Environmental Law Center's first annual Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for outstanding environmental writing. He is the author of the  guidebook, Where Nature Reigns: The Wilderness Areas of the Southern Appalachians.

Review by William W. Starr (The State Newspaper):

A "paddler's paradise" is what outdoorsmen Able and Horan call South Carolina, with its extraordinary diversity of streams and rivers. And this is the best guide to the river trails you'll find.  It appeared first in 1986 and now in an updated version, published soon after the death of Able, a former outdoors writer for The State.  This guide is specific and accurate: Able and Horan, a Charlotte Observer editor and writer, must have paddled these waterways many times.  The book includes a series of useful maps and illustrations.

Review by Susan J. Young (

This isn't a book that wows readers with fantastic color photography or razzle-dazzle features. It's a meat-and-potatoes kind of book that does precisely what's needed. Appropriate for both beginner and experienced paddlers, the book is methodical in its approach to paddling on South Carolina rivers. It will be particularly helpful to first timers.

Initial chapters deal with such topics as the state's climate and river landscapes. The authors provide tips and general advice for paddlers in handling outdoor flora and fauna (including poison ivy, snakes and alligators) and outdoor nuisances like thunderstorms, hypothermia and insects.

In addition, the book provides basic information on how to plan a canoeing trip, what to take along, the ins and outs of South Carolina road signs, travel time, boating regulations, and what else to know before you head out. 

A big part of the book is dedicated to details about specific rivers, so one chapter covers "How to Use River Information." It's critical to understanding the rest of the book.

Then we get into the guts of the book -- the specifics about the state's rivers by region, from Low Country waterways to the Piedmont and Midlands rivers, and from mountain rivers to others that don't fit the preceding categories.

The book talks about difficulty of the rivers, the gradient, access points, distance between put-in points, hazards, rapids and so on. It's a straightforward approach to what you'll find on the rivers and how best to enjoy your time on the river.