Editor’s note: Today is the second installment of The Herald series focusing on the boom in recreational activities along the Catawba River in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. You also will be able to read these articles online at heraldonline.com.
As a blond, curly haired boy toddled into the Catawba River to get on an inner tube, the guide warned everyone to look out for waves.
“If you’re seeing waves, it means you’re at the ocean,” Brad Grishaber jokingly told three women and two children Thursday at Riverwalk. “It means you’ve gone too far.”
Grishaber owns Twisted Beaver River Adventures, which rents kayaks, canoes and inner tubes to customers who visit the Catawba River in York County.
Twisted Beaver isn’t the only business of its kind. Along the river, other businesses include Rockin’ River Adventures, Bailey’s Outdoor Adventures and Kayaking 4 H2O.
Recreation and tourism leaders in York County say activity on the Catawba has grown exponentially in less than 10 years, due in large part to development along the river. One key piece of the development is Riverwalk — the previous site of the 1,000-acre Celanese plant.
The city of Rock Hill also opened the public riverfront Piedmont Medical Trail in Riverwalk in 2010. The 3.35-mile trail is part of the city’s trails and greenways system, and the Carolina Thread Trail. Fronting the trail in the River District are newly-built apartments, restaurants and shops.
Among the swirl of growth and activity, river-goers march to the water with kayaks and inner tubes like hungry ants raiding a picnic.
“I think everyone was starved for this type of service,” Grishaber said.
“Weekends are just absolutely jam-packed, full of people wanting to use our service,” he said, adding he started marketing his business in 2014 by handing out flyers.
Grishaber said he sees about 100 to 300 customers on a Saturday and up to 200 customers on Sunday.
A couple can rent a double kayak for $50 for four hours, or $35 for a single kayak. Adults can take a tubing trip for $20 and children ages 12 and younger for $15. Tubers can rent a cooler for the day.
Grishaber said he started thinking about the business years ago after spending his childhood outdoors in West Virginia.
“I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head the last 20 years,” said Grishaber, who was “in-between” jobs when he launched the Twisted Beaver.
Kayaking was the big draw when his business took off, but tubing has taken over in popularity, he said.
“I think it’s just a lazy, easy way of just floating down the river and relaxing all day,” Grishaber said. “It’s like a swimming pool on the move.”
The businesses launch paddlers from several sites in York County:
▪ Lake Wylie dam between Fort Mill and Tega Cay;
▪ Riverwalk and River Park, both in Rock Hill;
▪ And a new launch at the Catawba Indian Reservation.
Jan and Jerry Brown of Rock Hill started Catawba River Expeditions a decade ago with three rental kayaks, Jan Brown said. She said within about three years, they quickly had to find dozens of boats. Although they offered tubing, the Browns stopped the service because of safety concerns, she said.
Some customers were taking off their life jackets, she said, and the launches were becoming too crowded. Others did not understand Duke Energy’s water release schedule, she said.
Duke, which manages the river and operates 13 hydroelectric stations and 11 reservoirs, releases 3,000 cubic feet per second on the weekends. Water is released 73 days from April to October, said John Crutchfield, director of public safety and recreation planning strategy services for Duke. The water is released to make the river more suitable for recreation.
Alcohol use also has become too much of a problem, Jan Brown said.
Open containers are prohibited on city land, such as Riverwalk, but there’s no law against drinking alcohol on the river, said C.C. Williams, an outdoor recreation coordinator for the city of Rock Hill, which offers paddling clinics.
The Browns are exploring other areas of the Catawba River, including the Landsford Canal. Popular kayaking trips include excursions to the see the Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies at Landsford.
“It’s much more picturesque and it’s, of course, a state park, so it’s more controlled for behavior,” Jan Brown said.
Tracy Kimball: 803-329-4072
Want to go?
Here are some Catawba River outfitters:
▪ Bailey’s Outdoor Adventures, baileysoutdooradventures.com, 704-905-6455.
▪ Camp Canaan, campcanaan.org, 803-327-6932.
▪ Catawba River Expeditions, catawba-river-expeditions.com.
▪ Kayaking 4 H2O, kayakingcatawbariver.com, 850-776-7771.
▪ Rockin’ River Adventures, rockinriveradventures.com, 704-837-8303.
▪ Twisted Beaver River Adventures, twistedbeaverriveradventures.com, 877-745-1562.