It’s 6:00 pm on a cool October Friday afternoon in the Lowcountry. The setting sun is about to surrender the day with its final pink and orange painting of the western skyline. A fall moon rising in the east and pushing a nine-foot tide has the marsh hens cackling as I back my boat down the ramp. Deep draughts of cool salty air quicken my anticipation of the weekend to come. The outboard motor fires on the first pull and all my problems are left suspended on “the hill” (the boat ramp) behind me. The world will just have to wait until I get back. I’m goin’ down the river to a fish camp to meet lifelong friends for a weekend of fishing, cooking, and storytelling around the campfire. It’s a place where we all have nicknames. The stories fly fast, getting better and better with the retelling. …
Scattered around the South Carolina Sea Islands are camps that have become very special places to generations of families and friends in the Lowcountry. These camps are referred to as fish camps. Full of character and fairly remote, the camps are accessible only by water and, therefore, exclusive (as well as reclusive, if need be). These camps have been witness to so many life experiences and lessons that you can almost hear the memories whispering to you as you step from the boat to the dock.
“Goin’ down the river” is what one does to get to the camp, but the phrase means so much more than “I’m putting the boat in the water and going to the camp.” The phrase is sort of a code to those who know the fish camp experience. On the simplest level, it means “We’re going to have some fun.” On a more complex level, “goin’ down the river” means a retreat for the mind, body and soul. It’s about getting away.
Getting away to the Sea Islands has been going on for more than 250 years. Camping on the outer islands can be traced back to Native Americans who moved to the islands in the summer months to hunt and fish. For modern man, the use of the islands for recreation began in the 1730’s, according to Dr. Lawrence Rowland, historian and professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and an author of “The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume I 1514-1861.” During the plantation era, white men navigated row boats to the uninhabited islands, taking with them camping tents, slaves, and dogs, to fish the waters and to hunt for deer, wild boar, and water fowl. By the 1750’s, the activity was fairly sophisticated. Hunting parties would make camp and stay for a week, returning to their plantations with boat loads of venison or whatever game had been hunted on that week’s expedition. …
All photographs on this Web site are copyrighted by Janet Garrity Photography and are subject to Federal Copyright Law. It is strictly forbidden to copy, reproduce or otherwise use any of the photographs on this site without the written permission of the photographer.