Columbia SC rivers

Beautiful RIVERS in Columbia, SC

Columbia, SC blog

Saluda River at Riverbanks Zoo It's no accident that Columbia has three beautiful rivers running through it. The state legislature decided to move the state capital from Charleston to near the geographic center of the state. In the late 1700's river travel was a primary transportation mode, so the new capital city was laid out just up from where the Broad and Saluda Rivers confluence form the Congaree River. These rivers are popular for recreation and much development is happening along the rivers for the benefit of all citizens and visitors. Metropolitan Columbia has also been ranked among the Top 10 canoe towns in America by Paddler magazine!

Photo at right: The Saluda River. This picture was taken from the footbridge at Riverbanks Zoo and just 1.5 miles from downtown Columbia!

The Three Rivers Greenway is a 12-mile linear park system along Columbia's three rivers. Sections of this popular greenway now open total approximately nine miles.
Three Rivers Greenway Map

Saluda River

The lower Saluda River from the Saluda Dam at Lake Murray down to Columbia is a beautiful and mostly undeveloped river. Most of this section of river (10 of the 11 miles) was designated a State Scenic River by the State Legislature on May 31, 1991. The waters, drawn from the bottom of Lake Murray, are clean and cold enough to support trout. So, the fishing is great and whitewater (Class II to V) and flatwater paddling are very popular.

The Rapids The "rapids" just off I-126 near the Riverbanks Zoo are a popular place on warm sunny days. But, water conditions here and at other places on the Saluda River can be VERY DANGEROUS to river users. Before using this river be aware that it has rapidly changing water levels, strong currents, cold water, and large rapids. Many people have drowned, lost boats and equipment, and/or have required rescue because of their negligence regarding the hazards of this river. Water flow conditions can change drastically within a couple of hours because of releases from the hydroelectric power facility at Lake Murray. The river water comes from deep within Lake Murray and the temperatures are cold, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Swimmers can experience hypothermia even in the summer. Significant rapids begin downstream of the I-26 bridge. Mill Race Rapids should be portaged. A portage trail begins in the power line right-of-way just upstream of Mill Race Rapids on river right. Enjoy the river, BUT, be careful!

There are two public boat landings on the upper end of the lower Saluda River -- one is the south bank of the river off Corley Mill Road (Lexington side) and the other across the river off Bush River Road. Also, the Saluda Shoals Park, a 240-acre Regional park, will be developed just below the Bush River Road landing. Riverbanks Zoo and Botonical Garden, one of Amrerica's top zoos, is located along the Saluda River just 1.5 miles from downtown Columbia. A footbridge crosses the river between the zoo and the gardens on the West Columbia side of the river.

The Saluda is also a very historical river. The dam at Mill Race rapids (just above the zoo) was originally built to diver water into a canal on the north side, which provided a passage whereby boats could avoid the rapids. The Old Saluda Factory, on the opposite side, was built in 1834. Sherman burned the cotton mill in 1865. A half mile below the rapids are the remains of a bridge that was burned by Confederate forces to slow Sherman's advance into Columbia.

Saluda River - South Carolina State Scenic River

Congaree River

Congaree River From downtown Columbia, and its start at the confluence at the Saluda and Broad Rivers, the Congaree River settles into a more peaceful flow for about 47 miles to its confluence with the Wateree River. The Congaree offers excellent paddling, some of the best fishing waters in the state and plenty of history along the river. Congaree Swamp National Monument is also on the Congaree River.

The are two access points near downtown Columbia for the Congaree River. One is on the Cayce side of the river on Old State Road. This ramp is near the former town of Granby. It was established in the 1750's as a base for Indian trade. Old State Road, running west along the west side of the river was once known as the Cherokee Path and before the automobile was the main road between Charleston and Columbia. The Jordan Memorial Boat Ramp is located at the West end of Rosewood Drive in Columbia.

Congaree National Park is also on the Congaree River. Congaree National Park offers FREE ranger guided canoe tours every Saturday and Sunday. Visit the website for more details.

The Congaree River was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2008! Congaree River Blue Trail Blog | Congaree River Blue Trail Map/Guide | Featured National Recreation Trails -

Broad River

Broad River The Broad River is the least accessible river flowing through Columbia. Local residents find access points for the best fishing spots along the river. Two hiking/bike trails at Harbison State Forest provide access to the river. The trail at Riverfront Park and Historic Columbia Canal runs on the east side of the Broad River for about 2 miles.

Harbison State Forest is located along the Broad River in Columbia. Over sixteen miles of roads and trails weave through the pine and hardwood forest to the Broad River.

The Columbia Rowing Club is located on the Broad River near the intersections of Broad River Road and I-20. It is on an ideal section of the Broad River for rowing.

My appreciation to the staff of the Water Resources Division of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resourcesfor their assistance in providing information. The Water Resources Division is involved with a number of projects to manage and protect our state's rivers.

The River Alliance, formed in 1995, is now involved with redevelopment and development plans along Columbia's rivers. Their mission is to revitalize the urban waterfront areas with shops, restaurants and quiet residential areas and to protect the unspoiled, natural rural riverscape for the enjoyment of generations to come.
Three Rivers Greenway

External Links:

Palmetto Paddlers | American Trails

Lake Murray Information | Columbia Blog

Flood on the Congaree River
Flood on the Congaree River in 1908

Rowing on the Broad River
Rowing on the Broad River

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