A Kayak Expedition for the Everyman


I began planning a 35-mile single day circumnavigation of James Island in Charleston, South Carolina 9 months before the trip would occur. I had to find a day near the summer equinox with the most hours of daylight and the correct timing of the tides.


The plan was to launch from Wappoo Cut Landing at the northeast corner of James Island at daybreak, just before midway in an outgoing tide. We would leave the Cut and cross the 7 miles of relatively open water in Charleston Harbor and round Fort Sumter, where the War of Northern Aggression began.


With about an hour or two before low tide, we would have to find a route between the various small islands, mud flats, and sand bars behind Morris Island where bloody Union assaults on Confederate batteries took place. We would paddle behind Folly Island, “the Edge of America” where over 22,000 Union soldiers camped as they made ready to assault James Island and Charleston during the hours surrounding slack low water.



We would paddle up the Stono River with the incoming tide, past where the USS Isaac P. Smith, a large wooden union gunboat, became the only large well-armed US navy ship ever to surrender to field artillery when Confederates captured it in January 1863. Finally, we would have to paddle through Elliotts Cut to get back to our starting place. Elliotts Cut is about 500 yards long and connects the Stono River to Charleston Harbor, via a channel of water called Wappoo Cut. It was constructed in the mid 1830’s to aid in commerce around Charleston. Slaves carried out most of the major land work at that time and they began the project.


Apparently, the plantation owners who agreed that the project was necessary could not agree on allocating slaves for the project. Indentured Irishmen finally completed it. Depending on the tide, the direction of the fast moving current, and the amount of motor boat traffic, we would either use all our adrenalin and gut it through the 500 yards of Elliotts Cut to get into the Wappoo Cut section, or we would add an extra mile to our trip and continue up the Stono River and paddle down Wappoo Creek, thus avoiding Elliotts Cut.

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