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I was piloting my 14'7" canoe by myself with the front loaded down with camping gear. A friend of mine was driving her 16' Ocean boat. I was planning to do around 25 miles the first day and planning to paddle at around a 3.5 mph pace. We had MUCH more current than expected and found it rather easy to move at a 5mph pace. Once we hit the 25 mile mark, we began to look for sandbars to camp on. We finally settled on one at around the 30 mile mark on a bend on the river left directly across from about a 40-50 foot clay cliff. This sandbar is also where the old riverboat from 1900's lies.
If you're coming down the river and are planning on camping on a sandbar, I would not recommend going past this point if it's getting later in the day. We did not pass another suitable sandbar for at least another 6 miles past this point.
The next morning we got started around 930am. Knowing we had flown down the river the day before we took it easy this time. We still traveled at a good pace. This part of the trip took us between Congaree National Park on river left and Congaree bluffs on the river right. We also passed the point that Cedar creek comes into the Congaree. Cedar creek appeared to be very low at this point and unpassable.
We finally reached the RR bridge which is the 2 mile warning. We could tell it was getting late in the year, since there was no one hanging out on the Ft. Motte Sandbar, which is a very popular sandbar during summer and a good camping spot if you're planning on going all the way down to Low falls on the Santee, or Lake Marion. We finally made it to 601. My final GPS readings were 17.9 miles at a pace of 4.4 mph.
As the water level rises, it appears many of the sandbars will flood rather easily. I would have a Backcountry camping permit for Congaree National Forest when the Columbia gauge is over 7 feet and be prepared to camp in the woods in case the sandbars are flooded. Any more questions feel free to contact me by clicking on my UserID link above.
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