Landsford by 5pm or Death
"Thirty three miles is what our paddle be, you sons of dogs" shouted our captain.
Memorial Day morning found 5 innocent kayakers and an old crusty sea captain preparing to kayak 33 miles of the Catawba River.
We "shoved off" at the public boat landing below Lake Wylie Dam. When we arrived, the water was very low and rocks were everywhere. The captain read the concern on our faces. "Curse your unbelief" he bellowed. Taking a bearing from the sun, he explained the wind would turn and the tide would be rising soon. Like clock work a siren sounded and the water began to rise and cover most of the rocks. "Hurry to your kayaks you land rats, the tide will leave us if you don't shake a leg."
As it turns out, Duke Power has scheduled releases from the Lake Wylie Dam.
We marveled how undeveloped and pristine the river banks were. Our captain explained it was the work of groups like the Katawba Valley Land Trust, South Carolina Land Trust Network, and The Nature Conservancy that kept the pirates at bay. Everywhere we looked were herons, ospreys, waterfowl and even a beaver.
A brave lass in our group asked the captain when we would be stopping. "We'll spy land six miles from the dam at River Park. There we'll dock, go ashore, and conduct our business."
We interpreted this to mean there would be bathrooms. River Park was a welcome stop after paddling for 2 hours. Water frozen the night before was passed around as well as sunscreen.
Our journey after River Park was easier since the rocks were fewer. Six miles later a rocky shoal appeared. Among the rocks were a small colony of spider lilies and a small island with a sandy beach. "Make for the island" ordered the captain. Reluctantly we left the lilies to land for lunch at the island.
After lunch the captain announced we would not be completing our journey. He said the next landing point was Landsford Canal State Park, another 12 miles from our "Lunch Island".
The brave lass spoke up again: "I heard tale of a take out at Bowater near highway 5. That would only be another 6 miles or so."
"Curse you and the old map you read," growled the Captain. "That take out is closed due to pirates illegally dumping garbage. It's Landsford Canal by 5pm or death."
"Death?!" we cried in unison.
"I will not explain now, but the Highway 9 take out is past Landsford. It is a way paved with cruel rocks, beautiful lilies, and then a section flat as the Dead Sea. Landsford is our destination, but we must be there by 5pm."
The next 12 miles were as scenic as the first with the addition of bald eagles flying overhead occasionally. The river widened and the water seemed to stop moving. It was as if we were paddling the last 12 miles across a long narrow lake with the wind in our faces. Any and all complaints were met with apathy by our captain. "I warned you to get out at River Park if you felt tired. Now paddle or I splash you with my good arm."
As we neared our destination, boaters paddling upstream appeared. They had put in at Landsford and were going to turn around when tired and float back to their cars. Oh how we wished we were them. Before 5pm, we wearily arrived at Landsford Canal State Park.
The lass asked "why the 'Landsford by 5pm or death" thing?" Pulling the kayaks ashore, the captain replied "so I can call my first mate to pick us up. He'll be here in 30 minutes and it will take another thirty minutes to load up. We will leave the park just before it closes at 6pm."
"But what about the death part?" we all questioned him.
"Tomorrow morning ask yourself this; if we had been too late to Landsford, could you have paddled the next 9 miles to the Highway 9 take out?"
I am writing this article the day after our trip. The captain was correct; another nine miles would have killed me. Duke Power is funding more take out points as part of its license agreement, but for now its "Landsford by 5pm or death."
Submitted by: David Shook - Rock Hill, SC
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