Paddle SC

Skill & Flow Ratings

We rate Paddle SC trips for skill and flow levels to help you find that perfect canoe, kayak, or SUP outing. Also check out the Water Safety section of Paddle SC for pointers on how to paddle smart and paddle safe. 

Skill ratings give you an idea of experience level suggested to complete the trip. Skill ratings take into account obstacles like rapids, downed trees, navigation, portages, remote locations, tides, distance, and more.

Skill Level

River flow ratings pull real-time flow levels from the USGS gauge for rivers, and let you know if the current water level is suitable for paddling.

Flow Level
Above Runnable
Below Runnable
No Information

The icons in the legends above are shown on paddling trip pages, indicating the skill level or current water level of that trip at a glance. These legends can be found on trip pages by clicking the "Information" icon info icon - circle with a lowercase 'i' in the middle. .

Skill Level Scale

All categories assume recommended flow conditions for paddling. Some risk is always present when paddling, and difficulty can vary widely depending on conditions such as changing flow or weather, downed trees, or tides. Skill level for Paddle SC trips is based on our current knowledge of the waterway and the guidelines below. Please contact us if you think a trip rating should be changed.

EASY – Little or no prior paddling experience is necessary to complete this paddling trip. These trips are great for first-time paddlers and are beginner and family-friendly. Hazards are minimal and water is mostly flat with no or very minor obstacles, no skilled maneuvering is required and only short portages (carrying the boat) once on the water. Paddlers may encounter Class I rapids (small ripples and waves).

MODERATE – Some prior paddling experience is suggested for a comfortable trip. There may be hazards or obstacles that require more skillful maneuvering, including Class I and II rapids (straightforward rapids with clear, wide channels), downed trees, winding watercourses (stretches of river with quick turns), and some eddies. If a rapid higher than Class II is present, there is an option to portage (or carry your boat) around it.

DIFFICULT – Prior experience is required to complete this trip. Hazards or obstacles (downed trees along winding watercourses, very swift water, long portages, and strong currents) will require more skillful maneuvering. There may be Class II or III rapids (moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to maneuver). Coastal paddling in this category may include long open water stretches or surf, and require knowledge of tides.

ADVANCED – Advanced paddling experience/skills and a high degree of adventure required to complete this trip. Hazards or obstacles will require very skilled maneuvering and are dangerous to non-expert paddlers, including stretches with Class III+ or higher rapids (Intense, powerful, or extremely long rapids) or remote trips requiring navigation skills or backcountry emergency knowledge. Coastal paddling in this category may include long open water stretches and surf requiring knowledge of tides to prevent being stranded.

For more information on River Rapid Classifications and Safety, visit American Whitewater’s Safety Code website page. 

River Flow & Runnability

If water levels are too low or too high, paddling can be impossible or dangerous.  Low water levels can expose debris riverbeds, or may be too low to float a boat. High water levels can be extremely dangerous. Rapids can jump from moderate to advanced, and even flat waters can become turbulent and difficult to maneuver. Paddle SC displays current water levels for rivers with USGS gauges across South Carolina to help you decide about paddling trips.

Recommended levels for paddling are generally based on the lowest level a waterway needs for a boat to float and the highest water level that is safe for paddling. This creates a range of water level needed to paddle safely. When a waterway is runnable, it is suitable for paddling. If water levels are above or below the recommended flow range, the trip is not recommended for paddling at the time. Please contact us if you think we need to adjust the flow range for a trip.

Paddle SC is presented by
Upstate Forever
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
South Carolina National Heritage Corridor
Rainey Foundation