What is the best resource for paddling info on Sparkleberry Swamp, e.g. maps, put-ins, camping locations, water levels, etc…?
If Swedge doesn’t answer here,
do a search for a post by him, and send him a e-mail.
That is one of his favorite places.
Just about my favorite place to paddle
In more than 50 years of paddling. Been there many times.
I have most of it mapped out on my GPS. I was in there in May and took 90 minutes of narrated video with my tripod strapped in my SRT. I show the put-in, the key junctions, and the key entry points to the main “streams” and “lakes”. I’ll post it eventually on YouTube.
A local told me the only map of it he’s ever seen is hand made by some lawyer in Florida, but I don’t know who. The Garmin topo is worthless except to show a bread crumb trail. Doesn’t matter, you will be completely lost in 50 paddle strokes unless you have a guide or create a GPS bread crumb trail.
The put-in/take-out is at Sparkleberry Landing in Rimini, SC, at the end of Sparkleberry Landing Road.
You could camp at the landing itelf, which of course has no facilities and is used daily by fishermen. It is a large parking lot and field. There is also a SC state park about 15 miles away.
Within the swamp you can camp on the high ground on the northern end of Dead River Lake, which is the crescent shaped lake past Otter Flats … if you can find it.
You can also camp in any of the five or six fishing shacks that have been erected in the swamp waters. Some have beds, mattresses and other fairly dirty camping accouterments. Anyone can stay in these shanties … if you can find them. I’ve found 3, only by stumbling around lost and blind off the main trails.
I usually stay the first night at Days Inn at exit 108 on I-95. Eat the home cooked meal specials at the Summerton Diner. It’s closed Thursdays, in which event the Chinese-Tibetan place in Summerton is cheap and good takeout.
There is a gauge on a tree almost straight out from the boat ramp, but it’s not visible from shore. I don’t know how to find out the water level electronically, other than that it should generally be consistent with the extreme levels of Lake Marion. That is, if Marion is very low or very high, I would assume the swamp would be sort of the same. However, if Marion is at some intermediate level, the swamp could be at various levels depending upon whether the upstream dam is releasing.
I would strongly advise against going into Sparkleberry unless you have a mapping GPS, especially at higher water levels when the paddling routes are infinite. This is featureless wilderness, not a tourist thing like the Okefenokee. Two paddlers got lost and died in there this past year.
It’s gorgeous, especially when it’s in bloom, and seemingly endless for a paddler in every direction.
Google Pack’s Landing
Google Pack’s Landing. This is the where Sparkleberry becomes Lake Marion. If you look on Google Earth, you’ll see what I mean. You can head into the swamp from the there. A GPS or compass will give you bread crumbs or bearings to return to the “big water”. I find this easier than starting at Sparkleberry Landing. You can pretty much head south/southeast and hit the lake. It’s only 3 or so miles from Pack’s Landing to Sparkleberry Landing, so you can reach all the same areas from either one.
The swamp is loaded with wild life. You will see lots of aligators and water mockosins: just give 'em room and you’ll be fine. As stated before, Sparkleberry Landing can be a bit hard to find from within the swamp if you’re not familar with the swamp or have a GPS.
best map is still the old hand drawn "cooper" map. BTW i am leading a trip in sparkleberry this Saturday. doing the big loop out to risers lake "Mcgerts" .. hope it cools off by then…
as for camping you can camp at Poinsett park or Santee state park. Poinsett is about 20 miles closer. the ONLY real landing is the sparkleberry landing, however you can get to the swamp by coming in through Kholers old river off the Santee, or paddling upstream from Packs landing. also make sure you check the USGS water levels, i use the one at tresvants landing, if its below 76' parts of the swamp are unpaddelable. When its above 79' even the wateree swamp is paddelable.
I get the impression…
that the first time I go, I shouldn’t go solo.
Do you have room Saturday?
plenty of room
so far we have about 30 people showing up, some of them are complete novices so it will be like herding cats…