My Paddle to the Sea
Eleven Days on the River of the Carolinas

John Lane

A journey through South Carolina’s Santee River watershed


"More than a mere travelogue, My Paddle to the Sea is a celebration of life, friendship, river travel, and the natural world. Like Lane's previous books of nonfiction, Deep in Black Water, Chattooga: Descending Into the Myth of Deliverance River, The Best of the Kudzu Telegraph and Circling Home, My Paddle to the Sea is written in crisp yet intimate prose that is both poetic and layered, while never losing sight of the author's urgent desire to communicate the depth of his love for the natural world."
—Jeremy L. C. Jones, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

"One needn't be a canoeist or even outdoorsy to appreciate the insights of modern-day river voyager John Lane as he chronicles his downriver journey from the Upstate to the Atlantic Ocean. . . . His overwhelming desire to 'rewild' South Carolina's disappearing natural places is presented less as environmental activism and more as a means to a somewhat idealistic end: ultimate preservation of our common heritage. Because for Lane, maintaining the integrity of our watershed is as much about holding on to the stories that have been born and died there, as it is about the river itself."
—Heidi Coryell Williams, Town Magazine

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Three months after a family vacation in Costa Rica ends in tragedy when two fellow rafters die on the flooded Rio Reventazón, John Lane sets out with friends from his own backyard in upcountry South Carolina to calm his nerves and to paddle to the sea.

Like Huck Finn, Lane sees a river journey as a portal to change, but unlike Twain’s character, Lane isn’t escaping. He’s getting intimate with the river that flows right past his home in the Spartanburg suburbs. Lane’s three­hundred-mile float trip takes him down the Broad River and into Lake Marion before continuing down the Santee River. Along the way Lane recounts local history and spars with streamside literary presences such as Mind of the South author W. J. Cash; Henry Savage, author of the Rivers of America Series volume on the Santee; novelist and Pulitzer Prize–winner Julia Peterkin; early explorer John Lawson; and poet and outdoor writer Archibald Rutledge. Lane ponders the sites of old cotton mills; abandoned locks, canals, and bridges; ghost towns fallen into decay a century before; Indian mounds; American Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites; nuclear power plants; and boat landings. Along the way he encounters a cast of characters Twain himself would envy—perplexed fishermen, catfish clean­ers, river rats, and a trio of drug-addled drifters on a lonely boat dock a day’s paddle from the sea.

By the time Lane and his companions finally approach the ocean about forty miles north of Charleston they have to fight the tide and set a furious pace. Through it all, paddle stroke by paddle stroke, Lane is reminded why life and rivers have always been wedded together.

A Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book

Page count: 224 pp.
1 map
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $20.95

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John Lane’s books include Waist Deep in Black Water, The Woods Stretched for Miles, Chattooga: Descending into the Myth of Deliverance River, and Circling Home (all Georgia); several volumes of poetry; and The Best of the Kudzu Telegraph, a selection of his columns. Lane is an associate professor of English and environmental studies at Wofford College.