Discovering a ‘hidden resource’ in the great wide open

Great Pee Dee River just waiting to be explored

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – more than 250 images

CHERAW, S.C. — Pick a spot. Put in. Enjoy a trip along the Great Pee Dee River.

Yes, it’s really that simple — even if so few choose to do so. During 1.8-mile paddle on Saturday from Laney Landing in Cheraw to a nearby sandbar at the mouth of Thompson Creek, Jessica Cohen wondered if it’s a lack of awareness.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Twenty-nine people took part in the inaugural Great Pee Dee Blue Way Paddle Day on Saturday in Cheraw, including Door Depew (front) and Dr. Ron Bartley, president of Northeastern Technical College.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Twenty-nine people took part in the inaugural Great Pee Dee Blue Way Paddle Day on Saturday in Cheraw, including Dorr Depew (front) and Dr. Ron Bartley, president of Northeastern Technical College.

Cohen is director of tourism in Darlington County. Her agency joined with Pioneering Healthier Communities, Northeastern Technical College, the town of Cheraw and Cheraw State Park to stage the Great Pee Dee Blue Way Paddle Day. The goal was to raise awareness of all there is to do along the waterway that meanders in a southeasterly route from Blowing Rock, N.C., through Cheraw and on to Winyah Bay in Georgetown.

It’s difficult to imagine there being a cap on the possibilities of outdoor entertainment. Through Richmond and Chesterfield counties is an all-in-one adventure of paddling, fishing, rock throwing, family picnics, bird watching, wildflower identify and photo-taking just waiting to happen.

David Evans, 61, likes to scuba dive here, too. Evans is a science teacher at Cheraw High School and administrator for a website devoted to promoting the Great Pee Dee River as a natural resource to be exploited — in an eco-friendly manner, of course. After all, Evans wants the waterway to be around for generations to come.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com David Evans, a Cheraw High School science teacher, is an avoid canoeist and hopes others will learn to take advantage of "hidden resource."

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
David Evans, a Cheraw High School science teacher, is an avoid canoeist and hopes others will learn to take advantage of “hidden resource.”

“I’m an avid canoeist,” said Evans, who was asked to lead Saturday’s expedition. “I go down this river all the time.”

One of Evans’ frequent excursions is a 20.5-mile adventure from the R.W. Goodman Bridge in Rockingham south to Laney Landing. Evans likes to take his time; while faster paddlers might complete the trek in four to five hours, he routinely takes 12 or more, enjoying the sights and sounds nature willingly offers.

Shorter trips are abound; it’s 3.6 miles from Roberdel to Steele Street in Rockingham; 5.7 miles from Steele Street to Von Drehle in Cordova; and 5.4 miles from Cordova to Diggs Tract, or the dairy barn, along the river. There are also overnight trips to be explored, and primitive camp sites can be used at Diggs Tract.

Saturday’s was a trip compromised of paddling veterans like Evans to lesser-experienced canoeists, including four first-timers. Evans was a good choice to lead the way, as he considers the river a “hidden resource” that’s available to the public.

“Let’s go down the river,” Evans said after being appointed lead paddler.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The Great Pee Dee River is waiting.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The Great Pee Dee River is waiting.

Cohen wants people to visit Hartsville and the rest of Darlington County to enjoy what men and women have built — Byerly Park sports complex, Darlington Raceway and more — but Cohen, whose been in her position for nearly 18 months, said there’s plenty more for visitors and residents alike to do. Kayaking or canoeing along the Great Pee River is just one activity, and paddlers can conveniently exit at Society Hill about 17 miles south of Laney Landing.

Jim Spruill’s wife, Sarah, was director of tourism for the town of Cheraw for what he calculates “about 139 years,” give or take.

She’s retired, but Spruill noted that “she still does it. If you need a tour of the town, she’s your gal.”

Matthew Foster, 16, and Stephen Johnson, 18, were among the youngest to take part in Saturday’s trip.  The two friends are active with Boy Scouts Troop 589 in McFarlan, in Anson County.

Foster said he learned of the paddle trip from his father, who works at Northeastern Technical College. At first, he thought it was a much longer trip down the river.

“We were really looking forward to that,” Foster said.

Event organizers limited the advertising of the Great Pee Dee Blue Way Paddle Day was advertised through the town of Cheraw’s Facebook page, emails and worth of mouth, said David Sides, the city’s tourism director. Twenty-eight people took a seat in one of the canoes provided by Cheraw State Park and a local outfitter.

The event was assisted by members of the Cheraw Rescue Squad and the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office.

Filed in: Cheraw, Featured News, Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Region

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  • Bobby G.

    Wonderful photos and very nice story! Just stumbled onto The Pee Dee Post and was very impressed with what I saw. Wish we had an online paper like this in Cheraw. Maybe you guys would consider starting one here? We have 2 once-a-week papers and I don’t think either one is very good. Their webpages are a joke. There is such a thirst for news and information about the community here, it’s a need that is not being met. I think you would be very successful as a daily paper in Cheraw and Bennettsville. Please come back to town anytime!!

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