First settled in the mid 1700’s and previously known as Kingston, the town of Conway, South Carolina is located on a 138-mile river called the Waccamaw. Paddler, Eddyline loyalist, and 70-years-young Marshall Drecchio frequents the waters of the Waccamaw. He calls it a blend of civilization and wild land. The town is just a dozen miles inland from Myrtle Beach and 43 miles upriver from where the Waccamaw meets Winyah Bay. Because the Waccamaw is tidal, it provides ever-changing conditions. The area is mostly cypress swamp with a few small sections of high-ground and totally free of rapids. A wide variety of wildlife including birds, reptiles of all kinds, and even a species of alligator lives on the Waccamaw.
Drecchio likes to take his 2021 Eddyline Sitka XT down this stretch of water because he says, “Every trip on the water here can be made different. There is never just one way to go out and one way to come back. There are side channels and ponds to explore. Plus, the chances of getting hopelessly lost are slim as long as you are aware of the direction of flow when the tide is rising or falling. My meetup group, Shoreline Paddlers, enjoys this area because it presents opportunities and distances for people of all skill levels, not to mention convenient public parking and a good choice of restaurants post paddle.”
Other aspects of the paddle you’ll enjoy are views of the historic town from the river, the old railroad and highway bridges, countless cypress trees, turtles and other critters, and the blackness of the water. “Waccamaw is a black river with its waters rich in tannic acid from decaying vegetation giving it a steeped tea-like look and oftentimes this color and the light conspire to give a reflective, mirror appearance,” notes Drecchio.
With temperatures in the mid-60s and everything starting to turn green, Drecchio is adamant that the spring is the best time to search out this section of water. “The short winter here keeps this river open year-round and with the correct preparation it can be paddled in comfort all year long. Even on windy days, this is my go-to section of the river because the trees provide protection in all directions.”
As of April 2022, Drecchio has an inspiring 1000 miles recorded in his Sitka XT since purchased in July 2021. Each month, he aims to clock 100 miles.
Next time you're in South Carolina, look up the Shoreline Paddlers on Facebook and go check out the Waccamaw with Drecchio and paddle friends. See a picture below of Drecchio’s map for a sample paddle route and itinerary. The first day on the water was July 2. You can connect with him on Instagram at @marshalldrecchio