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Broad, Congaree, and Saluda Rivers
Saluda RiverThe 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 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. DNR officials have stocked the lower Saluda River with thousands of rainbow and brown trout, normally found only in mountain streams. The Saluda boasts whitewater rapids (Class II to V) while flatwater paddling is popular as well.
The whitewater area is just off I-126 near the Riverbanks Zoo and it is a popular place on warm sunny days. 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 due to the hydroelectric plant at the Lake Murray dam, 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 due to overconfidence regarding the hazards of this river. Water flow conditions can change drastically within a couple of hours. The river water comes from the bottom of Lake Murray where the temperature is a constant 52 degrees. Even in the heat of summer, hypothermia can result. Significant rapids begin downstream of the I-26 bridge. Mill Race Rapids should be portaged. It is a twice dynamited coffer dam containing sharp rocks and rebar. A portage trail begins in the power line right-of-way just upstream of Mill Race Rapids on river right.
The Saluda is a river with a history. The dam at Mill Race rapids (just above the zoo) was originally built to divert water into a canal on the north side, which provided a passage through which 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.
Recreational AccessThere are currently four public access points on the Lower Saluda River.
Radio Lane Landing-GardendaleThis access is 3.5 miles downstream from Hope Ferry and Saluda Shoals Park. The site provides access for boats that can be carried in. The location is on the north bank near the Gardendale community and WVOC radio station off Garden Valley Road which is accessed from Bush River Road near I-20.
Riverbanks Zoo and GardenIn addition to a zoo and botanical garden, Riverbanks offers nature trails and a pedestrian bridge with views of Mill Race Rapids, historic structures, and native wildlife. Carry-in boat access is available at the western (upstream) end of the parking lot by walking a short trail to the river. Riverbanks is located off Greystone Blvd which connects with I-126. Open daily from 9-5 pm, admission is charged.
Riding the RiverBoaters can run the entire Lower Saluda through its confluence with the Broad River by taking out at a landing on the Congaree River. Senate Street landing below Gervais Street (US Hwy 1) bridge near Sterling Garden Center provides access only for boats that can be carried in. Senate Street landing is 10 miles downstream from Hope Ferry and Saluda Shoals Park. Public landings with ramps are located 2 and 3 miles downstream on the east and west banks of the Congaree.
Congaree RiverFrom downtown Columbia, and its start at the joining of 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.
With older children, plan to spend a few hours canoeing or tubing from the Senate St. Landing to the Cayce Landing. The trip is about 4 miles and fairly easy, although a guide is recommended the first time you go.
Recreational AccessThere are currently three public access points on the Congaree River.
Senate St. Landing (located on the Columbia side, near the Gervais St. Bridge)
Jordan Memorial Boat Landing (Rosewood Drive will dead end into this boat landing)
Cayce Landing (follow Old State Rd, turn just before water treatment plant)
This is a great beginner river - rocky in the beginning but straight forward. After passing the railroad trusses move to river right and pass through the Cayce locks.
Broad RiverThe 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.
Columbia Rowing ClubRowing on the Broad River.
Required Boater Education CourseTo operate a boat in South Carolina, you need to take this course and pass it. It is a home study course.
Boating Safety Course
Kayak or Canoe RentalSee Outfitters
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources - RiversAll About South Carolina's Rivers
Whitewater DirectoryAmerican Whitewater
Detailed listing of rapids on South Carolina's rivers.
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