The Saluda River near Columbia has challenging Class III and IV rapids. Saluda access is out of town in Gardendale and Saluda Shoals Park, as well as at the Riverbanks Zoo. The Broad and the Saluda rivers meet in the center of town to become the calmer Congaree River. There's public access for the Congaree behind EdVenture on Senate Street at the Senate Street Landing.

Adventure Carolina. Guided Saluda, Broad, and Congaree river (Saluda and Broad have rapids, Congaree is calm) trips and swamp canoeing excursions can be arranged, as can canoe rentals, at Adventure Carolina. 1107 State St., 1 mi southwest of Columbia, Cayce, SC, 29033. 803/796–4505.

Congaree National Park. Self-guided canoe trails traverse Congaree National Park, 20 mi southeast of Columbia. Free guided trips are offered throughout the year and there is a 2.5-mile boardwalk through the swamp. 100 National Park Rd., Hopkins, SC, 29061. 803/776–4396.

River Runner Outdoor Center. You can rent canoes and kayaks or sign up for guided river or swamp expeditions at the River Runner Outdoor Center. 905 Gervais St., Vista, Columbia, SC, 29201. 803/771–0353.

Saluda Shoals Park. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at Saluda Shoals Park. 5605 Bush River Rd., 12 mi northwest of downtown Columbia, Columbia, SC, 29212. 803/731-5208 or 803/213-2050.

Congaree National Park. Congaree National Park has 22 mi of trails and a 2.5-mi boardwalk for people with disabilities. The alluvial floodplain, bordered by high bluffs, in the 22,200-acre park contains many old-growth bottomland hardwoods (the oldest and largest trees east of the Mississippi River). The water and trees are beautifully eerie. Hiking and canoe trails line the park, which is full of wildlife, including otters, deer, and woodpeckers, as well as the occasional wild boar. When darkness falls, join park naturalists for a hike deep into the forest to search for owls and other nighttime wildlife Friday at 8:30 pm. Call for nighttime walk reservations. 100 National Park Rd., 20 mi southeast of Columbia, Hopkins, SC, 29061. 803/776–4396. Free. Visitor center: weekdays 8:30–5, weekends 9am–1pm.

Sesquicentennial State Park. The 1,419 acre Sesquicentennial State Park is not far from downtown but feels like you're in the country. A 30-acre lake sits at the heart of the park, allowing for fishing and nonmotorized boating. Enjoy picnicking areas, playgrounds, and miles of nature, hiking, and mountain-biking trails. 9564 Two Notch Rd., Northeast, Columbia, SC, 29061. 803/788–2706. $2. Daily 8–6.