The mighty May River in Bluffton is one of my favorite bodies of water to kayak on.
There are a lot of different things to see including untouched marshy wilderness and beautiful old churches. The river’s rich history comprises a time as a Native American travel network, Civil War battle site, steamship port, favorite hunting ground and much more.
As always, before heading out by kayak, check the tides and weather. The May River can get very windy, very quickly, so check the wind speed. For tides visit saltwatertides.com and for weather, wunderground.com gives great wind information. There are several great spots to put in on the May River and great paddles from each of them. Here are some of my favorites:
Alljoy Landing to Downtown Bluffton and back, under the bridge.
Leave at high tide from Alljoy Boat Landing, and hang a right. As you head down the river, you’ll come upon Potato Island to the left and Palmetto Bluff straight ahead. On the right is a peninsula, with a small creek dividing it, creating Myrtle Island. Go around Myrtle and past the scenic Palmetto Bluff docks to the left. As you turn the next corner, you will see Downtown Bluffton dead ahead. This part of the river has high bluffs, carved away by the water. Head for the big reddish church high on a bluff; this is the Church of the Cross, one of the oldest remaining structures in Bluffton. Once you arrive at the dock, you can lock your boat up and explore the town, or head up to the church lawn for a picnic. Return in the same direction, this time going on the creek through the Myrtle Island peninsula. There is a lot of great wildlife back there!
If you leave Alljoy Boat Landing, right at low tide and go right, you can paddle to “The May River Sandbar.” This popular boating destination turns into one big beach picnic every weekend! Locals bring their kids, dogs, grills and beach toys out for long days of fun in the sun. For kayakers, it’s a good spot to have a picnic and swim off of the sandbar while watching the tide come in.
For more of a nature paddle, the more inland portion of the May River offers fantastic paddling.
Put in at the Calhoun Street Dock or Oyster Factory Park one hour before high tide and hang a slight right. Once you have passed most of the docks, head straight across to the far side of the river. As you cross, you will pass magnificent hammock islands in the river. These small marshy islands cling to eroding sediment with marsh grass, oaks, and palm trees. Once you reach the other side, keep the land on your left as you continue right up river. The property on the left is part of Palmetto Bluff, a scenic and historic community deep in Bluffton. You will see a few houses. About a half hour to an hour later, the river makes a sharp left turn, almost 90 degrees. As you approach this bend, the land on the right will end, giving way to sandy bottoms spotted with small islands. If you go on a good high tide, you can get back between these islands to a secluded sandy beach. Perfect for a picnic and stretch. Head back by paddling through to the far side of this sandy-mashy area and ride the tide back to the dock!
For the full experience of the May River, hire a local kayak guide! They can outfit you with the best equipment for the paddle and take you to all the highlights, while explaining the history and significance of the area. This April, get outside on the May River!
By Jessie Renew
Outside Hilton Head provides personalized adventures for all ages, from kayak, fishing, nature and dolphin tours to kids’ camps, history excursions, family outings and stand-up paddle boarding. Don’t miss the guided full moon kayak tour, which explores the saltmarsh. For more information, call 843-686-6996 or click here.