Thursday, May 24, 2018

Take a Paddle: It's Rocky Shoals Spider Lily Season!

Photo: SC Conservation Bank-SC Gov.
Last year, I wrote about Landsford Canal State Park, a wonderful destination just over 45 minutes from uptown Charlotte in Lancaster, SC. Anytime you go to Landsford Canal, it's a fantastic place for a relatively short, flat, natural surface hike along the banks of the Catawba River with some interesting canal history along the way.
But it's especially compelling now -- from May through June -- when the largest stand of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in the Southeast are in bloom. I highly recommend a hike to see them this time of year. Or, better yet, go for a paddle!
There's no better way to get up close and personal with the stunning display of flowers than by water. And it's feasible, even if you don't have the necessary gear or experience.
A number of outfitters offer outings, complete with boats, paddles, life vests, a guide and a shuttle. Thrifty Adventures and Catawba River Expeditions are two for your consideration. They'll help you launch, lead you down the 1.25-mile stretch of river, and bring you back to your car.
If you're an experienced paddler with your own boats, this is a very doable trip. Simply drop your gear at the main Landsford Canal State Park area, then double back with your car, taking a left out of the main entrance onto Landsford Rd. When it dead ends, take a left to find another simple, cul-de-sac State Park parking area. To get back to your boats, walk a short (pleasant!) 1.25 miles along the Canal Trail. Trailhead is to the left of the parking lot, marked with a State Park fee box. On the water, you'll see signs directing you back to the take-out point, a short walk through the woods from the shore to your parked car.
Note: Whether you're going with a group or on your own, river conditions matter. If the water is too high or rough, the Riverkeeper will advise against making the trip (and outfitters will comply). You can check the Landsford Canal State Park FAQ page for river status. River levels can be affected not just by heavy rains, but also by Duke Energy's release of water from power plants upriver.
If you'd just as soon stay on land, read my earlier post about hiking options and what you'll find along the way. You can still take in the Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies from an overlook at the end of the Nature Trail.
It's a pleasant visit -- and one I highly recommend this time of year -- however you choose to experience it.
Note: South Carolina state parks charge an entry fee for guests. You’ll need $5/adult, $3.25/S.C. senior, $3/children 6-15, and children under six are free. Bring cash for the self-serve envelope kiosk at the entrance. Just drop your money in the box and hang the punch-tag from your rear-view mirror.

How to get there:
Landsford Canal State Park is located at 2051 Park Dr., Catawba, SC, 29704. Take I-77 South to exit 77 onto US-21. Take a left on S. Anderson Rd. and go 10 miles. Turn left on Landsford Rd. You’ll see the park entrance signs just under two miles down the road.

Don’t forget to pack:
  • Cash: For the Park entry fee.
  • Water: A must-have for any hike. You don’t need to pack extra; you can refill at the visitor center when you finish your hike.
  • Snacks: Throw in a granola bar, trail mix or crackers. It buys you time on the trail when your tank starts running on empty.
  • Backpack or bag: Something lightweight and comfortable to carry your essentials.
  • Bug spray: Fend off mosquitoes and ticks.
  • Shoes: If you plan to do a little rock-hopping, consider Keen sandals or water shoes you can hike in. Otherwise, comfy sneakers will suffice.
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: Especially if you plan to paddle.

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