Black River Outdoors Center on Pawleys Island offers explore the nature’s soul

By Brian Bedard • October 08, 2012

Black River Outdoors Center, a kayaking company based in Pawleys Island, about 20 minutes south of MyrtleBeach, allows for such peaceful, planned existence lived, if only for a little while, via Naturalist Guided Eco-Tours.

There are five such tours: Cypress Swamp, Huntington Beach Salt Marsh, Georgetown Harbor History/Nature, Sandy Island and Huntington Beach Birding. Each is designed for nature-savvy folks wanting to relax to the max while moving across gentle waters, with each push of the paddle securing new adventures around the bend.

"We have at least one guide for every 10 guests," said Christina Haun, business manager at Black River Outdoors. "Before going out, we give a brief lesson on how to paddle. So if you have never paddled before, you will know what to do."

Paddling is a small price for a big adventure that gives you intimate close-ups of cypress trees standing stately in the Waccamaw River, knowing their unfettered presence captures eyes.

Kayaking is a spa experience in which people are calmed and soothed by the simplicity of simply being without being bothered by the cares they carried before getting into their kayaks.

I had a blogger who told me the tours are therapeutic," Haun said. "And kayaking is so relaxing and soothing. You are not fighting the currents. You have left all your worries at the landing. You are communing with nature and doing something different."

Haun said each tour enchants kayakers in different ways.

The Cypress Swamp excursion is primitive and breathtaking. The journey begins on the Black River, a tributary of the Pee Dee River. This is where one the tour guides will talk about the river being the ancient road of colonial commerce. As the paddles meet transparent black water, the kayaks travel through swamps hung in a decor of cypress and tupelos. 

The Black River eventually weaves its waters into that of the rivers of Sampit, Pee Dee and Waccamaw during the exploration that may give the sighting gifts of owls, deer, beavers, otters, wild turkeys, swamp canaries and other creatures.

"People are so fascinated by the scenery," Haun said.

If you take The Huntington Beach Salt Marsh tour, you may just be as taken over by nature's allure, as wood storks, egrets, sea turtle and other inhabitants making surprise appearances during a voyage that passes Drunken Jack Island.

"You have no idea you are in Murrells Inlet," Haun said.

During the Georgetown Harbor History/Nature journey, Paul Laurent, the lead guide, shares the rice economy's past as kayakers paddle around Goat Island.

The Sandy Island tour encompasses the discovery of the largest undeveloped fresh water island on the East Coast in ways perhaps unimagined. Wildlife, including the red-cockaded woodpecker and swallow-tailed kites, call this part of the world home.

The Huntington Beach Birding tour is a divine immersion in nature, especially for bird lovers. Sharp-shinned hawks, turkey vultures and snowy egrets are among the birds spotted on the tours.

"It's a great six-hour trip," said Laurent, whose dad, Richard Laurent owns Black River Outdoors. "Huntington State Beach Park is considered one of the best birding sites on the East Coast. We spend three hours kayaking in the salt marsh and then we walk on the jetty at the mouth of the inlet and in the park itself. It's amazing."

Paul Laurent said most of their customers,  including several 92-year-old women, have never been kayaking before but leave forever changed.

What: Black River Outdoors Center

Where: 62 Byers Trial, Pawleys Island, S.C. 29585<br />

Tours: Cypress Swamp (2-hours or 4-hours); Huntington Beach Salt Marsh (2-hours or 4-hours); Georgetown Harbor History/Nature (2-hour); Sandy Island (4-hours or 6-hours) and Huntington Beach Birding Tour-Kayaking/Walking (6-hours)

Cost for Kayak Tours with Guides: $35 for a 2-hour tour, $55 for a 4-hour tour and $75 for a 6-hour tour (kayak and all other essentials including paddles and personal floating devices are included in the costs)<br />
Kayak Rental Costs: $35 for kayak (solo for first day, then $25 for each additional day with the fifth day free) and $50 kayaks (tandem, then $35 for each additional day, with the fifth day free)<br />
Information: Call 843-546-4840, email [email protected] or visit