Nature Beckons with Black River Outdoors
Take a guided kayak eco-tour with these folks, and your South Strand vacation will be made.
“That’s our goal,” said Black River Outdoors co-owner Richard Laurent. “We want to be their highlight.
It’s not so far-fetched, this goal, seeing as Laurent and his crew of experienced guides know all the best spots to visit, have easy-to-use gear, and give the top-of-the-tier tours. Laurent recommends that those staying at Litchfield Beach & Golf try a tour of either the Cypress Swamp on the Black and Waccamaw Rivers or the Salt Marsh at Huntington Beach State Park for a two- or four-hour expedition. Meet-up locations vary, but both of these are close to the resort.
The former, he said, with its Spanish moss-draped trees, will make you feel like you were “air-dropped into the wilderness.” And the Salt Marsh tour, not to be outdone, will introduce you to one of the most magnificently unique ecosystems on the East Coast. The waters of Murrells Inlet are pure salt water and have no polluted rivers or streams running into it, he said, resulting in clean and clear conditions.
“We want people to appreciate it,” he said, “and have a healthy relationship with wildlife.”
That wildlife could include any number of water birds, especially in the marsh, as well as dolphins, sea turtles, mink, sting rays, alligators, snakes and all manner of indigenous bivalves — think clams and the abundant oysters. Laurent and his guides aim to teach folks about the inhabitants of these waterways, and how they should be respected, admired and allowed to thrive — yes, even the snakes, most of which he said are nonvenomous and nothing to be feared.
“We change their outlook on the wildlife,” he said. “And that feels pretty good.”
While kayaks and canoes are available to rent for those wishing to explore on their own, Laurent recommends a guided tour, especially if heading out on the marsh. The tidal patterns are so fickle that if you wind up in the wrong spot at the wrong time, you might be standing in mud.
“It’s tricky to navigate on your own,” he said.
Nevertheless, either tour is ideal for kayak beginners, as most of their customers have never paddled before. Laurent recommends the Cypress Swamp for those who wish to relax and do very little paddling, and the Marsh for those up for more exploring. Kayaks are very safe and simple to use, and they give a little “Kayak 101” instruction to all participants before heading out.
Tour prices range from $35 to $75 per person, depending on length of tour, time of day and location. Special pricing for children is available. See here for more pricing information. Group discounts also available. Tour prices include the rental of PFDs and paddles. Be sure to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellent, a snack or sack lunch, plenty of water, a wide-brimmed hat, and shoes you don't mind getting wet. In warmer months you may want to swim, so dress accordingly. Advance purchase required and staff is helpful, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. See their Facebook page for additional photos and information.
Lastly, these tours are also a way to make amends, Laurent joked. Are you that parent that has disappeared to the golf course for the bulk of your vacation? Time to pay up.
“Take the family out with us and they’ll forgive you,” he chuckled.
Black River Outdoors offers additional kayak trips and walking tours, so check here for more information. For those interested in striking out on their own, kayak and canoe rental prices are very reasonable and they offer free delivery and pick-up in Litchfield.
Ever been on a Black River Outdoors kayak or canoe tour? What did you think?