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Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail

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More and more coastal residents and vacationers have concluded the natural resources that really define coastal life are best experienced from an up close and personally propelled watercraft perspective.  A new website designed with those paddlers in mind offers maps and information about a sheltered and connected coastal water trail especially for them.

In April of 2013, The Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail (SECT) introduced itself in South Carolina at the East Coast Paddlesports Festival at James Island County Park. A coalition of federal, state and private agencies had set up a website called SECT as a center for and primary source of all available information necessary for navigating the coastal water trails of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Their literature announced the newly launched website offering maps and information about access sites, lodging and supply centers located along each state’s water trails through tidal marshes and rivers from Virginia Beach down to St. Mary’s Island, just above the Florida line.

That’s a span of 800 miles of coastline that varies from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Grand Strand of South Carolina. It continues along the Beaufort Blueway of

The SE Trail unites older and smaller trail like the Beaufort Blueways. Photo by Jeff Dennis
The SE Trail unites older and smaller trail like the Beaufort Blueways. Photo by Jeff Dennis

the Lowcountry and into the Spartina marshes of Georgia. This Southeast Trail connection was inspired by the formation of the Florida Circumnavigational Paddling Trail which begins at the state line between Georgia and Florida.

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The fact that the greatest concentrations of people live in coastal areas of the country may stress the status of the natural world, but the wide rivers, vast harbors and sounds of the southeast coast do provide paddlers some elbow room. It’s along these paddling trails that some of the real history of the South can be found and where the adventure of being in the outdoors can still come to life.

Paddling does no harm to natural resources, leaves no tracks or spills. Paddling requires no fossil fuel, which may account for an increase in paddling popularity since the recent recession. It’s up to individuals to be ready to go for a paddle and all they need is knowledge of where to find places like access points and camping sites.

The website for SECT has downloadable maps paddlers can access, plus a calendar of local events within the four states. The interactive map on the site allows one to zoom in to clearly see the paddling trail along its winding path. Those who enjoy social media can join paddling clubs to learn more about spots paddlers frequent, and related links can be found on the Plan Your Trip page of the SECT website at www.secoastpaddlingtrail.com.


September Paddling Events:

The first annual Sea Kayak Georgia Paddlesport Week is planned for Tybee Island September 10–14. The American Canoe Association will be on hand to provide specialized skills training for paddlers of all experience levels. Daily classes will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., giving some serious paddle time to those able to participate.


Tybee Island is just South of Savannah, where the month of September is usually still quite warm. The beach and lighthouse on Tybee Island can be crowded with tourists during summer, but the Paddlesport week should offer good access to restaurants and accommodations for visitors seeking some ‘Tybee Time’ after being on the water. For more info visit the web at www.SeaKayakGeorgia.com or call 912-786-8732.


The North Carolina Paddle Festival is the weekend of September 19–21 at Hammocks Beach State Park in Swansboro. The event is sponsored in part by the Friends of the Hammocks and Bear Island or FHBI, a citizen group that promotes awareness through programs like this paddling event. This Paddle Festival is well established and will have space for vendors, exhibitors and educator workshops.


Friday night September 19, in downtown Swansboro, the Reel Paddling Film Festival, is sure to inspire others to take cameras with them onto the water. There will be dragon boat racing too, and kids can take part in a pirate paddle scavenger hunt. To download Paddle Festival maps, or to register online for the Mullet Cup Race, visit the Internet at www.ncpaddle.org/festival.

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Jeff Dennis is an outdoor writer and photographer who grew up on a creek in Charleston loving the saltwater, and he contributes regularly to All At Sea Southeast. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

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