A Paddle in the East End

March 18, 2014.  Since the swamp has been flooded for most of month, I decide to take Terri Hogan, the park’s resource manager, for a kayak paddle up Singleton Creek and Running Slough that feeds into Bates Old River at the park’s “East End”. I wanted to check out a great blue heron rookery in Running Slough I found several years ago, then continue upstream to beautiful Big Lake and Little Lake. Both lakes are part of a joint boundary with the Kingville Hunt Club and part of the park’s recent acquisition of the Riverstone property in 2009.

We put in at the dirt landing on the north side of Bates Old River next to 601. It is chilly today, made more so by the high humidity and overcast skies. Hopefully paddling will warm us up.

Singleton Creek, like so many others, has undergone several name changes since the 1740s, when the “Fork” as Lower Richland County was known back then, first started filling up with settlers. It started out as First Creek because it was the first creek west of Joyner’s (later McCord’s) Ferry. By 1785 it was referred to as Little Creek, and by the twentieth century, topographic maps called it Singleton Creek, probably because one of John Singleton’s (1754-1820) plantations was located on its headwaters near Eastover.

The lower part of Singleton Creek, before it spills into the upper reaches of Bates Old River, could just as well be called “Haw Creek” because of the large hawthorns, Crataegus viridis (green hawthorn), that grow on it banks. This beautiful native understory tree, a member of the apple family, produces attractive, white blooms in early spring which later turn into small, showy red-orange fruits that cling to the tree for most of the winter. The tree itself has a pleasing growth form with interesting, scaly bark and despite its name, produces few thorns. It has “four-season appeal” as the landscapers like to say, but unfortunately, like many of our wonderful native plants, is almost impossible to find in nurseries.

Like most of the sloughs in Congaree, Running Slough is full of tupelo and cypress trees and stays flooded most of the year.  And speaking of sloughs, inquiring minds may wish to know what exactly is a slough? No doubt there are lots of definitions out there but for me a slough  (pronounced “slew’) is a swampy backwater with little or no current and filled with trees, mostly  bald cypress and water tupelo. Most Congaree sloughs represent ancient lakes, ponds, and former river channels that have partially filled in over the millennia. Simply put, they are flooded forests (although many will dry out during droughts and dry spells). Sloughs are quite scenic and for much of the year provide outstanding kayaking opportunities.

kayak photo: K. Lynn Berry

orange-red fruit of green hawthorn