Treetop Hideaway: Edisto River Tree Houses

High above the Edisto River corridor near Canadys, South Carolina

Photo: Gately Williams

The smallest of the Edisto River tree houses features a raised dining deck and a waterfront hammock.

WHEN TO GO: Home to the longest free-flowing blackwater river in the country, the Edisto River corridor stays noticeably cooler than the surrounding area even in the dog days of summer.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Situated on a secluded island in the middle of a 160-acre private wildlife refuge, each of Anne and Scott Kennedy’s three paddle-in tree houses is constructed from locally harvested hardwoods and offers its own brand of Swiss Family Robinson luxury. (But if you’re expecting Wi-Fi and HBO, think again.) The lodgings—which hold between two and eight people—are outfitted with a propane grill, cooking utensils, and a screened sleeping loft. The only supplies you’ll need to haul are a sleeping bag, towels, and enough food and water to make it through the weekend.


TYPICAL DAY: Free of rapids and shaded by live oaks, red cedars, and cypresses, the Edisto cuts a lazy path that’s easy for novice paddlers to navigate. To start the self-guided, thirteen-mile trek downriver to your treetop digs, you’ll meet the outfitter’s shuttle around ten o’clock on Saturday morning—paddles in the water by 11:30.  In the summer months, the river is shallow, with wide, sandy banks on either side. Stop off for a picnic lunch and a swim. The water is spring-fed, so its temperature hovers a good ten degrees below that of the ocean. Or cast a line for the local bass and redbreast sunfish that thrive below the dark tannin surface. Arrive at your tree house in time to enjoy dinner under the stars, roast marshmallows in the fire pit, and take in the sounds of the swamp’s barred-owl-and-bullfrog symphony. Checkout on Sunday isn’t until noon, so explore the island’s abundant walking trails before setting off.

GETTING THERE:  Write this down: 33˚ 03′ 55″ N, 80˚ 36′ 47″ W. Base camp for the Kennedys’ Carolina Heritage Outfitters, where you’ll pick up your canoe, is so remote it has no address, just GPS coordinates. Paradoxically, it’s only about an hour from Columbia, Charleston, and Savannah.

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