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Kayaking - Canoeing - Rafting - Fishing - Surfing

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Al V

Ashley River, Old Dorchester SC USA
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Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Al Vazquez
  • Date Submitted: 6/1999
  • Location: Herbert H Jessen public boat ramp, Dorchester (Town of Summerville) SC northwest of Charleston SC
  • Class: 1 - Typically flat water but with tidal current
  • Distance Paddled: About 6 miles round trip
  • Water: fresh to brackish, depending on the tide
  • Wildlife: fish, alligators, wild flowers
  • Special Regulations: None known

Entry and Exit - Herbert H Jessen Public Boat Ramp

  • Directions:
    • From Charleston
      • Go north on South Carolina Route 642 north to Dorchester.
      • Just after the intersection with Route 259, follow signs to Ashley River access at Ladson Road to the Herbert Jessen public boat launch on the west side of Route 642.
  • GPS: N 32 deg 56.825' W 080 deg 09.890' (actual)
  • Fee: None
  • Description: floating dock, cement ramp, or adjacent dirt beach
  • Parking: adjacent paved
  • Facilities: Two lane boat ramp, courtesy dock, fishing pier and paved parking for approximately 40 vehicle/trailers. No restrooms but the Old Dorchester State Historic Park just up river has rest rooms, picnic areas and the ruins of a settlement begun in 1697 including an old fort.
  • Security: Relatively secure location to leave unattended vehicles.
  • Special Handicap Access: none

Where We Paddled and What We Saw

We paddled up the river (to the right) past Old Dorchester on the right bank, historic homes, natural areas, and finally, newer waterfront developments.
There are also feeder creeks like the one pictured at left to explore
Numerous wildflowers bloomed along the banks and even on logs in the middle of the river, like the one pictured above.

On the way back down the river, we pulled up to the Old Dorchester Historic site and walked around. Though there isn't a canoe landing, it was easy to spot the fort and tie the boats to the bank. The site is on the eastern bank of the river about a quarter of a mile northwest of the launch point.
The grounds of the settlement are very well maintained. A standing shell of the town church still stands (see the photo at right). In front of the old church is the town cemetery with very legible grave markers hundreds of years old.
We walked inside the walls of the old fort made from "tabby" a limestone mixture of sea shells.

It's easy to forget to bring walking shoes on kayaking trips but there are often great opportunities such as this that you could miss out on!