Beaufort Blueways
Self-guided Paddling Trails
Beaufort/Port Royal Trail
This paddling trail follows the Beaufort River, connecting the two historic cities of Beaufort and Port Royal, SC. The one way distance is 6.2 miles. For a map of the trail, including GPS waypoints and other information, click here.
How To Use This Trail

 · This trip is best run one way on a falling or rising tide, or up and back on the rising and falling tides. If you are paddling from Port Royal to Beaufort, you want to find a rising tide; from Beaufort to Port Royal, a falling tide. Click here for Beaufort tides.

 · This trip is rated “intermediate”, and is best for paddlers with some experience. Hazards that may be encountered include open water, wind-generated waves, strong tidal currents, large vessels using the Intracoastal Waterway, and summertime heat and thunderstorms.

 · Be aware of weather conditions. Up to the minute forecasts should be consulted before beginning this trip. Strong winds should be avoided. Click here for a weather forecast.

Approaching Ladys Island landing at dusk

Approaching the Lady's Island
public landing at dusk.

Interpretive information for the Beaufort/Port Royal Trail

Town of Port Royal (The Sands public boat landing: Lat - 32 22.217 N Long - 0 80 41.216 W) 

Port Royal was the first settlement in the new world, predating Jamestown by 45 years, and St. Augustine by 3 years. It lies on Port Royal Island, adjacent to the deepest natural harbor on the Atlantic Coast, Port Royal Sound. Jean Ribaut recognized the value of this anchorage when he established a French colony on nearby Paris Island in 1562 and bestowed on the entire region a name well suited to this lovely harbor – Port Royal. Since that time, Port Royal has been ruled under seven flags: French, Spanish, English, Scottish, Confederate, USA and South Carolina. For a more detailed account, please pick up the Historical Port Royal Walking Tour Guide at local Port Royal merchants.

Fort Frederick (Lat - 32 23.081 N Long - 080 40.677 W)

The Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve is a 3 acre property located in Port Royal, in Beaufort County. Situated along the Beaufort River, the Preserve contains the remains of a tabby fort built by the British between 1730 and 1734 to defend against a possible attack from the Spanish at St. Augustine. The Preserve acquisition was made possible by a donation of the site from the National Park Service's Federal-Lands-to-Parks Program and funds from the DNR's Heritage Land Trust Fund. The fort, also known as Fort Prince Frederick, is thought to be the oldest tabby structure in the state. Provincial scout boats were stationed here periodically. A relatively small fort, it measures 125 feet by 75 feet with an obvious bastion on the southwest side. The eastern wall was lined with a battery and cannon. The interior of the fort held a barracks and a magazine and was garrisoned by an independent Company of Foot British Regulars until their transfer to Georgia in 1736. *Artifact collection, digging and metal detecting are not allowed on the Preserve. Climbing or walking on the fort leads to deterioration of this fragile cultural resource, so please stay off the structure.

Salt Marsh Ecology

Along both sides of the Beaufort River you’ll see fringes of green grass, the salt marsh. Also, across from downtown Beaufort is a large expanse of salt marsh and salt marsh creeks to explore. (Beware entering the salt marsh on a falling tide! The water can quickly fall out of small creeks leaving you high and dry!) Salt marshes are transitional areas between land and water. One plant, smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), dominates the salt marsh, and is responsible for much of the marsh's productivity. Spartina's successful adaptations enable it to live where few other plants could survive. It has narrow, tough blades and special glands that secrete excess salt, making it ideal to withstand the high heat and daily exposure to salt water. Salt marshes rank among the most productive ecosystems on earth. Live Spartina is not a source of food, but when dead is a source of nourishment for many species. Decaying Spartina breaks into small pieces called detritus that fuels the marsh and its animals. Some examples of animals that are dependant on detritus are the highly prized oyster, many fish species, blue crabs, and our delicious local shrimp. The salt marshes of South Carolina also provide excellent habitat for birds, terrapins, river otter, mink, bottle-nosed dolphin, and many other species. Keep your eyes and ears open for wildlife during your trip!

City of Beaufort (Lat - 32 25.851 N Long - 080 40.496 W) 

For the first 200 years of its existence, the Spanish, French, Native American Indians and ultimately the British struggled to control this area. The British won, and Beaufort, the second oldest town in South Carolina, was incorporated in 1711. By the time of the American Revolution, Beaufort was home to some of the wealthiest families in America. Their fortunes came from indigo and rice and the labor of enslaved Africans. After the Revolution, Sea Island cotton was the crop that made Beaufort “the wealthiest, most aristocratic and cultivated town of its size in America.” Planters came to Beaufort and built magnificent summer homes along the water downtown and on the Old Point. Those homes are a major attraction in Beaufort today and can be seen from the water during your trip. But after the Union Navy decisively won the civil War Battle of Port Royal Sound on November 7, 1861, the white population fled. When General Sherman marched through the south burning towns and plantations, Beaufort was spared. With the Civil War, life in Beaufort changed forever. Homes and wealth were confiscated through tax sales and resold mostly to carpetbaggers. The political base shifted from European American to African American. Beaufort hero Robert Smalls, a slave whose courage and knowledge of lowcountry waters aided the Union forces, eventually served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. For more information on Beaufort History, there are walking, horse-drawn carriage and kayak tours available.

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