St. Stephen Fish Lift
SC's Only Fish Lift Offers Underwater View
Unique to the state and the Southeast, the fish lift at St. Stephen dam affords safe passage for fish migrating upstream to spawn and permits visitors a close-up, underwater view through a glass window. The fish lift, actually a lock designed specifically for fish passage at the site, was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1985 as part of the St. Stephen Powerhouse on the Rediversion Canal in Berkeley County. The lift is operated by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It allows migratory fish like American shad and blueback herring to move from the Santee River to Lakes Moultrie and Marion and into the Congaree and Wateree rivers during their annual migration. This opens large areas of spawning and nursery grounds allowing fish populations to expand in numbers. These fish provide recreational and commercial fishing opportunities as well as a primary food source for game fish such as Santee-Cooper striped bass.
The fish lift is capable of transporting thousands of fish over the dam daily, and a viewing window gives visitors a unique underwater view of fish migration while allowing biologists to monitor fish passage into the lakes. Fish migration is a natural phenomenon though, and so is subject to changing environmental conditions including water discharge. Passage of fish at a specific time cannot be guaranteed.