River Memories on the Waccamaw

After Kelly and I seated ourselves in one of the nine seats on River Memories, a 21-foot electric open-air cruising yacht, Captain Jim passed out paper plates stapled to a stick and told us to enjoy his air conditioning.  It was a classic hot and muggy summer day in the Myrtle Beach area.

Captain Jim grew up in Conway, SC and has lived on the Waccamaw River in Conway most of his life.  He eased his boat around the river and a scuba diver (who was searching for relics from the old steamboat days) while telling us the history of the area and some possible tall tales.

The summer of 2013 has been extremely wet and rainy which has caused the river to rise so high Captain Jim’s boat won’t make it under all of the local bridges.  Because of this, we were not able to see the part of his tour that highlighted historical waterfront homes that belonged to some of the areas most prominent figures in history. Instead he focused on the 19th century warehouse where steamboats used to dock, detailed the beginnings of Conway – originally Kingston and then Conwayborough – in Horry (pronounce or-EE) county, and the wildlife surrounding us. Captain Jim passed around old black and white photographs of Peter Horry and other influential men, steamboats on the river in Conway back in the day, and fish and snakes native to the area.

As the boat made its way down the river I was struck by the beauty of the “southern swamp” surrounding the black river, with live oaks and cypress trees growing out of the banks.  We passed one spot where there were two cypress trees growing out of the middle of the river – just far enough apart to hang a hammock, I thought.

Captain Jim showed us a massive house boat that someone has been remodeling for years, tucked away in one of the fingers of the river.  It was three stories high and brightly painted.  An odd sight that highly contrasted the green and black of the river.  He also took us down a finger that dead-ended because an invasive species of green plant had taken over the area.  Captain Jim said it dies off in the winter but grows back with more force each year.  We also got to view the “Redneck Riviera” with waterfront homes boasting a Clemson fraternity house painted orange and a mobile home built up on stilts.

During the tour we saw the head of an alligator before it slid into the cool water, and two turtles.  Captain Jim said it was too hot for the animals to be moving around that afternoon.  But if we came back in the Fall, there would be more wildlife…and more snakes.  Which brings us to his multiple stories of water moccasins, and how one had almost slid into his boat on a tour!  And how when he was a teenager he and his friend had foolishly caught one to sell to a local reptile zoo for what ended up being $2.

There was another couple on the boat who said this was their third tour and they learn something new each time.  Kelly and I look forward to taking this tour again, possibly in the Fall.

Cost: 90 minute tour for $15 a person.  Children 3-12, $10.

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