Story + Photography by Michele Roldán-Shaw
I took a notion one day — a lazy Sunday spent mostly on the couch — to do a little Google Maps reconnaissance in search of new adventure spots. Scanning satellite images of the ACE Basin, zooming in here and there on interesting-looking roads and creeks, I detected what I surmised to be an extremely out-of-the-way boat landing. A dirt road could just be discerned under tree cover and it appeared to go all the way to the water at a place called Fields Point. Clearly, a ground mission was in order.
One sweaty day in September I turned off Highway 17 at the “Chehaw River Access” sign and rode the entire length of a rural highway to nowhere. It was so hot, the clouds of lovebugs got baked onto my windshield; I had to scour them off later at great pains with dish soap and a green scrubby. My plan had been to launch a kayak from the landing — if indeed it existed — but the trip ended up being more of a time-travel mission than anything, a scenic drive into bygone days of the Lowcountry.
The first leg ran through plantations, relics of old rice country. Next came a lot of little cottages and fish camps. They all looked more or less abandoned, but at least some must have been cherished retreats. My favorite was the banana-yellow cabin with the screened porch and red naked lady flowers blooming in the yard. At the turnoff to a public boat ramp on the Chehaw, a couple in a beat-up truck was trailering a skiff back out to the paved road with river water still dripping off crab traps. He stopped to check the tow connection, hopping out shirtless and barefooted with a cigarette dangling from his lip.
The road went on and on. Soon it was just a dirt track through pine plantings and fields of late summer wildflowers, part of the historic Cheeha-Combahee Plantation. Then it came to a junction at Wiggins, which on paper is a town, but in real life appeared to contain only a little old-timey white outbuilding with “WIGGINS, S.C.” painted on it. Unsure whether I was still on the public road, I followed my gut, bearing right as the dirt track continued under a beautiful forest canopy, getting more primitive as it went, until at last …
A charming high bluff over the Combahee River, open and grassy, with big live oaks and Spanish moss swinging in the wind, it had once been the site of a plantation and had seen both Revolutionary and Civil War action. Now it was as silent as the ghosts of the fallen. Yet sure enough, there was a surprisingly well-built concrete boat ramp, despite being many a country-mile from anywhere; I wondered who even used it. Situated on a wide horseshoe bend of the Combahee before it dumps into St. Helena Sound, it did not invite me to kayak; the currents looked gnarly with the tide kicking up a cross-chop, plus it was the middle of the day and hot.
“Forget that,” I thought, sitting in my truck, sucking the rest of a cold smoothie through a straw. “I’ll just write about the scenic drive.”
How to get there
Location: Colleton County
Mode of transportation: Car
Directions: From Highway 17 North towards Charleston, turn right onto State Rd S-15-162/Wiggins Rd. Follow your nose till you reach the end.
If you go: Bring a camera for old-time Lowcountry photo-ops.