March 19th 2017 – Broad River Spring Kickoff Paddle Trip Report

Steve Crabb


When I started paddling in 2007, I was both new to the Columbia area and to Kayaking.  So, for that first year, I paddled alone or with a family member the entire year just about every weekend. I learned a lot about the Columbia area and rivers in general.  As I entered the winter of 2007/2008 and kayaked less, I became involved with a few outdoors groups and met some more people who shared my interests in the outdoors.  As March came around, I organized what would become my “Spring Kickoff Paddle” as an opportunity to encourage my paddling friends to get on the water after winter.  While I did not organize one in 2015/2016(was too busy keeping up with a New baby to commit) I look very positive on the event as it was what kick-started my interest in leading kayak trips at all levels and I have seen it encourage many people to take their first steps into kayaking!


Now on to the 2017 event!  The weatherman gave us temp in the mid 60’s with sunny blue skies.  There was a light wind with a few gusts here and there.  We had 16 paddlers (15 boats) all meet up at Riverfront park to drop boats and gear.  My amazing supportive wife and son helped get everyone signed up and with shuttling boats and gear down to Rosewood.  We got all the boats down to the put in just below the diversion dam.  After a brief safety talk, everyone launched their boats into the water.  Myself and Ian Randolph were on point (Instructions being follow whichever one of us is up front since, one of us will be eddying out for safety at certain points) and John Derrick on sweep.  We also had several other experienced long time paddlers Jim, Marie, and Mike Hollis stepping in when needed to provide help.  Right after the put in is probably the most difficult/most technical rapid of the entire run.  The route generally for a move from the initial eddy, back toward the center of the river over the first small drop and then back toward the right toward the next drop in the center of the river.  In the 6 previous times, I have hosted this trip, this has been one of the most troublesome spots for beginners.  This year was no exception.  I eddied out after the first drop and Ian led the group down through the second drop.  One canoe did not get far enough over and caught a rock sideways at the top drop causing an out of boat experience.  At the second drop, we had another swim.  Gear was collected quickly after both swims and after warming up, both paddlers were eager to get back in their boats and paddle on!


The next mile we continued and enjoyed the sunshine at a relaxed pace.   Once we reached I-126, Ian eddied out after the first drop and I continued guiding the group down to the next large eddy in between the bridges.  We had one paddler on a Sit on top flip and the group quickly performed an in current open water rescue and got the boater back in the boat.  All boaters successfully navigated the remaining shoals and reached the confluence.


At the confluence, Eagle eye-d paddlers were treated with a view of one of the Bald Eagles who populate the nest in the center of the river.  Although, it was not a clear view and at a distance.  After a couple.  We navigated the rest of the shoals with a couple of minor incidents and reached Gervais street.  After reaching Gervais, we paddled the remaining stretch without incident reminiscing about some of the moonlight paddles we had done on that section in the dark and how we need to schedule some more of those this Summer.  At the railroad bridge, we jokingly attempted to persuade a few guys standing on the bridge to do a backflip off the bridge down to the water.  They were nowhere near drunk enough to even consider the request though.


All in all, everyone appeared to have a great time, and I had a blast hosting.  Looking forward to the next one!




Link to Word document

Video links only:



Not a trip report per se, more of a spotlight...

American Rivers Videos featuring Rivers in Columbia

Submitted by Edye Joyner

Members pose for a group photo on the Lower Saluda River

Enjoy this great video featuring our local run, the Lower Saluda. Regular Saluda boaters, and participants in Aimee Norris’ paddling clinics will really love the appearance of the entire Norris family enjoying our backyard treasure.

Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler canoeing on the Congaree River

Another spotlight on Blueways; opening sequence features Jay Alley with Canoeing for Kids (CFK) and the Congaree River Blue Trail. Palmetto Paddlers proudly supports CFK and American Rivers. Consider lending your support to these great organizations! You’ll find a link to their sites, as well as other great organizations in our Useful Links section.

Report on a portion of a trip (bike shuttle) on the Congaree Creek in Cayce.

Congaree Creek-A Trip Report (sort of)

by edye

Teresa and I were planning on a paddling Congaree Creek, one of our favorite flat water trips right here in town, this weekend. Actually, I was supposed to lead the outing for our club. The creek is a great little black water run with lots of bends and twists, and nice current that keeps the pace and scenery interesting. It is always surprising how remote and at one with nature you can feel, minutes after sliding a boat in the water mere feet from a busy highway and within town boundaries. Anyway, with natural obstacles (trees and sandbars), zippy current, and switchback type bends, it is a great place to practice boat control and paddle strokes.

Usually, we have to travel for quite a distance to experience such a place. So given the added benefit of a short drive across town to Cayce, we were really looking forward to spending the day on the water with old friends, and new alike: Mike, Jan, Mark, Nick, Betty, Sue, Marie, Jim, and Jeffrey. An extra bonus for this trip was a bike shuttle! A quick 3-mile ride on bicycles from the takeout back to the starting point; our vehicles would be at the end of the trip so we could load up our kayaks and be on our way after the paddle. We experimented with running these types of dual exercise trips last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. While it complicates the shuttle math, which is surpassed in difficulty only by Calculus, it is a lot of fun. So we were really looking forward to the entire experience.

Sometimes life has a way of rearranging even the best laid plans; I mean there are important priorities that trump a paddling trip (however unfortunate it may be). So with the pending birth of a first grandchild, a nursery that needs to be put together, and a cosmic alignment of everyone’s schedules that freed our family to get together and assemble cribs, etc…; our paddling plans were changed.

I didn’t have much problem getting Mike to take over the leadership responsibility for our trip. And while Teresa stayed home to cook potato salad, marinate ribs for grilling, and all the accoutrements; it happened that I would be able to at least participate in the bike riding portion of the trip. Mike, Betty, and Sue were in for the full adventure excursion, so while the others stayed behind and watched kayaks, we set off for our bike ride. We rode along a newly constructed boardwalk that winds near the creek below our designated takeout, and then back onto the roadway and into town once again. Once we finished our ride, I stayed to help everyone get their skirts on, boats launched, and on their way. I hope they had fun; I had too much potato salad!

Here is a link to a video I made of our bike ride, and the festivities at the put-in:

USGS Gauge: FB at Marshall 1840 cfs.

Cast of Characters: Thirteen intrepid kayakers, assisted by two handsome shuttle buddies, on a springtime run from Barnard to Hot Springs on a Palmetto Paddlers club trip.

Paddlers: Karen Swank Kustafik, Karla Fulmer, Wolfgang Buchmaier, Charlie Smith, Tage Brunik, Steve Crabb, Deb Rosengrant, John Derrick, Les Case, David Hutchens, Josh Flynn and Isaac Jones.

Shuttle: Bradley Anderson and Sergio Aparacio.

(As observed by Karen)

ONE of the things I love about club trips is the opportunity to get on the water to meet new friends. Our group consisted mostly of Palmetto Paddlers, with some COAN (the Columbia Outdoor Adventure Network) Meetup members along with a couple of Charlotte Mecklenburg paddlers. The trip was a new run for some of us, and for others the trip offered an opportunity to retest our river reading skills on a Southeastern classic. Frank Bells rapid looms large at the end of this run; the suspense can build all day to a wonderful crescendo. Mr. Bell did not disappoint us on Saturday…but more about that later.

Bradley and I arrived in Hot Springs Friday afternoon. I have got to tell you that Hot Springs is a fun destination. There are wonderful day hikes for non-paddling companions, good restaurants featuring regional food and beer with entertaining local musicians, assorted lodging options including a campground beside the take-out (or beside the put-in for interested flatwater types), and of course hot springs. It is wonderful to come off the river and relax instead of hitting the highway. More paddlers need to make time to spend the night!

Everyone else on the trip rode up Saturday morning. Our plan Saturday was to meet at Barnard put-in at 11. Because Karla Fulmer and I were travelling with non-paddling companions, I figured that we had shuttle handled. In the fine tradition of paddling trips, I managed somehow to succumb to yet another Murphy’s Law shuttle. Hindsight shows me clearly that we should have simply run most of the shuttle on the back end of the trip; my apologies to Les Case for not limiting the initial shuttle to his single Boxter run. I do not believe that Les managed to return to Columbia on time.

Yes, readers, I did say Boxter run. One of the wonderful things about whitewater rivers is that they are surrounded by stellar roads for sports cars. Steep terrain makes for hairpin turns. Most every river trip, I hear a voice in my head telling me that I have to get my boyfriend Bradley to come back to run the same roads in his Porsche Boxter. Fun is good. Those of you who have downshifted into the turns between Barnard and Hot Springs are no doubt smiling. Love. Mountain. Roads.

At any rate, our group eventually got on the water. The level was absolutely perfect: not too pushy for first descent kayakers and not so low that the Windy Flats made the trip beyond Stackhouse impossible. We all know that a river’s personality changes considerably with level. I remember reciting my beloved Heraclites’ “never stand in the same river twice” quote at the put-in and laughing, as this would be my third visit to the French Broad since October. Each of those trips has a story. John Derrick is my witness to that.

Backstory: In October, I attempted to take a group of students from Barnard to Stackhouse. The level that day was around 1200 cfs, appropriate for new boaters. Additionally, I had so many experienced boaters with me that there was a 1:2 mentor to student ratio. What could possibly go wrong? Everything that could go wrong did. The weather turned raw and windy, our students did not have ample cold weather gear. After a couple of chilly swims, the weaker paddlers in the group were well on their way to hypothermia. I pulled everyone off the water above Pillow Rapid and we commenced a long haul down the railroad tracks to the take out at Stackhouse. John Derrick and Deb Rosengrant were among the support team that day, and both of them can attest to the wonders of a well-stocked dry bag and rescue kit. John provided lawn and leaf bag ponchos for our chilliest victims, we all contributed material for an impromptu pair of shoes (duct tape and sanitary napkins, my friend), and everyone joined in the boat hauling and morale boosting. Somehow, the group got off the river that day convinced that they had just enjoyed the best adventure of their lives. Thank God. I knew that I needed to reacquaint myself with the French Broad and to pay more attention to the voice in the back of my mind that occasionally whispers dissenting opinions about my plans. More on that later, too.

More Backstory: One thing the October trip did accomplish was to rekindle my affection for the French Broad. Talking about it with Deb and Edye, I resolved to get on that section again in order to remember the lines so we could host a Palmetto Paddlers club trip in the spring.

To that end, I organized a wee reconnaissance paddle in January. Edye Joyner, John Derrick, Tage Brunner, Steve Crabb and Ian Randolph joined me. It was cold. The water was rather fluffy: 4400 cfs. The eddies at the put-in where our October group assembled were gone. The river was honking! As we paddled under the bridge and the put-in disappeared, I wondered if I could even recognize the rapids with so many of the rocks out of sight. It turned out to be a wonderfully affirming day for “read and run” genre of river navigation. Giant wave trains and a few impressive holes abounded. We all ended that day with big grins on our faces and intentions to revisit the river for repeated runs.

I digress, I know. Sorry.

The thing is, you can never stand in the same river twice. Heraclites was right.

The Story I Have Been Promising to Tell: So Saturday’s run began with more rock visible than in January and less than in October. While some things looked familiar, there were still times that I named the rapid after we eddied out at the bottom. Oh, THAT was PILLOW. Boulder garden; must be Pinball.

And here is what is so wonderful about club trips: everyone looks out for one another. With Steve Crabb leading alongside me, we picked our way through the lines, setting up guidance from the eddy below. John, Les and Tage served as sweep. In between, we had a great variety of boaters. I have got to admit that I had some hesitation when David Hutchins signed up, admitting that he had just purchased a whitewater boat, and had one Lower Green run to his credit. I understood that he has a wonderful boating resume, and I can now attest to his ability to read water and brace. His line through Pinball, as seen from below, was textbook. He pulled off a Class III pivot followed by a just-in-time brace to slink through a boulder garden with style. Proof in and of itself.

We took a leg stretch at the Sycamore Shoals surfing wave, but the level was a bit too high for play. Well, for most of us to play, anyway. Tage enjoyed a very dynamic surf, much of it sideways. We enjoyed watching. We soon moved on, taking lunch at Stackhouse before entering the appropriately named Windy Flats. This section is notorious for its unrelenting headwind. Even during our January high water outing, the Windy Flats demanded effort, stinging our faces with frigid spray off wind whipped whitecaps. Thankfully, Saturday’s conditions were not as brutal, but our effort was substantial nonetheless. At last, we rounded a bend and caught sight of the Needle Rock atop the island that splits the river into a “heroes right, sneak left” configuration. Kayaks Ledge loomed ahead, and everyone eddied out to wade ankle deep into poison ivy and discuss the advantage of catching the river left eddy versus blasting straight through the center right line. Ever helpful, Steve eddied out on river left and clambered onto the ledge, providing feedback to approaching boaters with his signature “ you are here” school of river running hand signals. Clean runs were enjoyed by the entire party, and spirits soared as we floated on toward the last big challenge of the day.

As I described previously, Frank Bells rapid looms large at the end of the run. And, as I also noted before, I sometimes disregard that inner voice of mine….

One can hear the roar of Frank Bells well before one arrives. If one has any doubt, the river splits here as it does at Kayaks Ledge into another “heroes right, sneak left” arrangement. On Saturday, I was exclusively in the company of heroes. As we approached the island, I was thinking about the location of that river right spot from which to clamber onto the railroad tracks and scout the rapid. Steve offered an option that seemed logical: we could scout the crux of the run from that large river left eddy…..the one we had visited during our January trip. That visit, of course, had been accomplished by eddying out part way through the ‘sneak left’ channel and walking over land. No problem. The eddy was undisputedly large in our memories, and a decision was made to deploy from said eddy.

Steve sallied forth with half the group in tow while I hung back to share our strategy with the rest of the adventurers. We could see the helmets of a few paddlers who appeared to be hung up on the rocks approaching the target eddy, but after giving them a few moments to get situated, the rest of us headed on down. Surely they were ready for us.

As I stroked into the entry, a panoramic yard sale came into view. Deb was neatly eddied out in the bottom right eddy, looking upriver at the festivities. Ronnie’s upside down Crossfire floated downstream. I managed to scan the line and pull into the bottom edge of the by now very full staging eddy. That eddy sits atop two impressive holes, and it was flowing out backward toward those monsters. Charlie was on the edge nearby, holding on to a tree limb to prevent him from backsliding. I realized that my window was limited and promptly ferried off to run the rest of the rapid, an act of sheer self-preservation.

At the bottom, I found John, who was chasing Ron’s boat and asking about Karla. Karla’s RPM was eddied out to the left of the bottom hole, but she was not anywhere in sight. After some frantic shouting, we understood that she was OK. It turns out that Karla herself reached that strategic eddy, but sacrificed her boat to the voracious backflow after using all her energy to attain the eddy while joining in Steve and Wolfgang’s pin and broach approach. These details I discerned later over dinner with Karla and Sergio. Ask Karla about it sometime; she is a wonderful story teller.

At any rate, some of us were at the bottom of Mr. Bell’s rapid. Others remained in the notorious eddy, a few decorated adjoining rocks. One by one the parade of remaining boaters made their way through the beautiful chaos that is Frank Bells. Les lost momentum in the bottom hole but executed a beautiful roll in the funky boiling water of the river right eddy. Wolfgang had a spectacular run, partially flipping in the top hole and riding his side rail over the big hump before flipping fully upside down in the bottom hole. We waited, expecting to see his head pop up downstream as Frank claimed another victim. Instead, we saw Wolfgang’s blade emerge in a full fisted setup position, followed by a fluid roll. The crowd went wild; Wolfgang definitely gets the MVP award for his run. I believe that he credited Les for advising him to wait until the boat settles out before rolling!

David walked the bottom half of the rapid; but earns mad props for a dry-hair run of a very challenging river for someone new to whitewater boating! In my book, catching that eddy is the newbie equivalent of cleaning the run. Kudos!

This was a trip from which campfire legends are born. You know, the “no shit; there I was” variety, the kind that my friend Charlene Coleman owns in abundance. This was also a trip that inspired me yet again to resolve to strengthen my skills, take more clinics, hit the gym and the river a bit harder and to return for more.

Anybody up for a French Broad trip? We still have something to tell Frank!

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