Paddling in Sparkleberry Swamp, South Carolina

paddling sparkleberry swamp

What’s Unique about Sparkleberry Swamp?

“Sparkleberry Swamp is just plain other-worldly. I've paddled swamps in many states, and it's by far the most dense, most beautiful navigable bottomland habitat in the Southeast.” (Scott of, a frequent Sparkleberry paddler)

Sparkleberry Swamp was flooded in 1941 when a dam was constructed on the Santee River, creating Lake Marion. The swamp is located on the north end of the lake, part of the 1,600-acre Upper Santee Swamp system.

It draws canoeists and kayakers to explore its black waters amid towering, moss-draped cypress trees. It’s known for its beauty, tranquility, and abundant wildlife.

paddling sparkleberry swamp

Local Wildlife to Look For

Sparkleberry Swamp hosts over 150 species of birds, which led to its designation as an Important Bird Area by the National Audobon Society. Osprey, owls, eagles, herons, egrets, ibis and songbirds are all common.

Alligators are one of the various reptiles that populate the swamp waters. This area is also habitat for other unsavory characters, like snakes. But they won’t come after you if you mind your own business!

How to Get to There

Sparkleberry Swamp is accessed near Rimini, South Carolina at Sparkleberry Landing (Be forewarned—there are no restrooms at the landing!).

Water levels can be a concern. If the water is too low, the canal that links the landing to the open lake is 1,000 feet of muddy portage. So check the waters levels before making your plans.

What’s the Best time of Year to Paddle?

We received some good advice from our friend, Scott, of

“[Sparkleberry Swamp] can be paddled anytime. However, it's miserably HOT, muggy and buggy here from about the end of May through September. My favorite time is in winter. It's never really that cold here. We may start out chilly in the mornings, but it always warms to the 50s-70s in the day, even in winter.”

sparkleberry swamp

When You Go…

It’s very easy to get lost in Sparkleberry. Water levels can vary dramatically year-by-year, making it hard to navigate with landmarks. The abundance of trees in many sections can easily cause confusion. And the numerous waterways leading here and there often lead to nowhere!

So either have a mapping GPS or go with a local guide or other experienced Sparkleberry-er. To find a premier outfitter or just learn more about the lay of the swamp contact Blueway Adventures or Coastal Expeditions.

We hope this spurs some plan-making! Happy paddling, folks.

paddling sparkleberry swamp

(All photos courtesy of

(Sources:; South Carolina Picture Project;;

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