Lower Saluda Scenic River

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Project Overview

Lower Saluda Scenic River

A 10-mile segment of the Saluda River beginning one mile below Lake Murray Dam to its confluence with the Broad River was designated a State Scenic River by the Legislature on May 31, 1991. The Lower Saluda Scenic River is recognized as an outstanding recreational resource. The tailrace waters from Lake Murray reservoir provide a cold water fishery and varying water levels for recreational boating. Trout and striped bass fishing as well as whitewater (class II to V rapids) and flatwater paddling are very popular on this piedmont river. These factors, combined with the surrounding topography and rock outcrops similar to mountain streams and the heavily wooded landscape, make the Lower Saluda River corridor an outstanding natural resource within the urban environment of metropolitan Columbia.

The Lower Saluda River Advisory Council is established to advise the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources concerning protection and management of the river. The council also promotes awareness and conservation of the Lower Saluda's special qualities among landowners, the public, and local governments. The Lower Saluda River Advisory Council was preceded by the Lower Saluda River Task Force, a 30-member group representing citizens and interest groups from throughout the area. The task force with assistance from the South Carolina Water Resources Commission (now the Land, Water and Conservation Division of the DNR) and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, produced The Lower Saluda River Corridor Plan in 1990. This plan presents over 70 recommendations for the long-term management of the river.

The 1990 corridor plan was revisited in April 2000 when the advisory council initiated a three-day public-input design process (a charrette) to explore new ideas about the lower Saluda, including the vision of a continuous greenway trail system along the north side of the river. Results from the charrette are captured in a report entitled: Lower Saluda Scenic River Corridor Plan Update.

Go to the Lower Saluda Corridor Planning Project Page to see plan documents.

Lower Saluda Scenic River Advisory Council


  • Tommy Boozer: S.C. Electric & Gas Company (landowner)
  • Ed Diebold: Riverbanks Zoo and Garden (landowner)
  • Guy Jones: River Runner Outdoor Center
  • Larry Jones: Honeywell Corporation (landowner)
  • Malcolm Leaphart: Trout Unlimited
  • Bill Marshall: Scenic Rivers Program, SCDNR
  • Tom Stonecypher: Residential landowner
  • Dan Wells: Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission (landowner)
  • Rick Wilson: Residential landowner

Ex-officio Members

  • Tony Bebber: S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism
  • Parkin Hunter : Columbia Audubon Society
  • Ann Jennings: Congaree Land Trust
  • Karen Kustafik: Palmetto Paddlers
  • Gerrit Jobsis: American Rivers
  • Charlene Coleman: American Whitewater

Management Objectives

Lower Saluda Scenic River management objectives include the following:

  • Conserve the natural and scenic qualities of the lower Saluda River corridor.
    • Promote landowner stewardship of the river corridor through personal contact and information sharing.
    • Seek conservation easements from riparian landowners.
    • Consider new regulations and enforce existing regulations to guide future development activity in ways that will conserve the natural and scenic qualities of the corridor.
    • Monitor and manage the impacts of existing and changing uses in the corridor (recreational uses, land use, and development).
    • Develop and disburse information that promotes awareness and conservation of the natural and scenic qualities of the river corridor.
  • Improve water quality in the river.
    • Support policies and actions to eliminate domestic wastewater discharges to the river.
    • Support policies and actions to improve oxygen conditions in discharges from Lake Murray dam.
    • Seek local actions to reduce pollution from storm water runoff.
  • Improve river user safety.
    • Provide a portage trail around the Mill Race Rapids on river right.
    • Provide signage, river level gages, and information brochures to warn river users of potential river hazards.
    • Provide improvements to existing landings to include: grading, paving, trash removal, and throw-in steps.
    • Provide additional public access / boater exit above the Mill Race Rapids on river left.
  • Improve the quality and control of public access to the river corridor.
    • Existing and proposed access facilities need to be maintained and controlled to be clean, safe, and secure for river users and adjacent property owners.
  • Support and advise in development of Saluda Shoals Park and the proposed Three Rivers Greenway.
  • Promote the concept of a Saluda River greenway trail system connecting Saluda Shoals Park to Lake Murray and Columbia.
    • The feasibility of creating a greenway trail system along the north bank of the river is explored in the Lower Saluda Scenic River Corridor Plan Update of 2000.

Service Project Opportunity — Storm Drain Tagging

You and your group can help protect streams and clean water, increase awareness of how polluted runoff impacts the Saluda River, and provide residents with suggestions on how to reduce the pollution. All this can be accomplished if you help do the following:

  1. Tag storm drains with a Dump No Waste! Drains to Saluda River sign (tag); and
  2. Distribute information (door hangers) to inform the community of ways they can protect streams and clean water. If interested, contact the SCDNR Scenic River staff listed below.

Recreational Access

There are currently four public access points on the Lower Saluda River. Take a look at the river map to get your bearings.


Hope Ferry landing (on south bank) and Saluda Shoals Park (north bank) provide the only public ramps for trailered boat launches on the river. Hope Ferry landing is accessed from Corley Mill Road which connects with SC Hwy 6 and US Hwy 378.

Saluda Shoals Regional Park Access facilities at this new park include canoe launch, boat ramp, decked overlook to the river, fish cleaning station, and picnic area. A fee is required to enter the park. Enter from Bush River Road which connects with SC Hwy 6 and I-20.

Gardendale / SCE&G Put-in this 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 Botanical Gardens 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.

Going the Distance Boaters can run the entire Lower Saluda through its confluence with the Broad River by taking out at landings 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.

Safety Considerations

Water conditions on the Lower Saluda River can be Very Dangerous to all river users. Before using this river be aware of:

  • Rapidly changing water levels
  • Strong currents
  • Cold water
  • 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. Consider the following conditions and precautions:

  • Water flow conditions can change drastically within a couple of hours because of releases from the hydroelectric power facility at Lake Murray. Daily river flows may range from 400 to 20,000 cubic feet per second. Daily river levels may range from 2 to 10 feet.
  • The river water is cold, about 60 degrees F, because is comes from deep within Lake Murray. Swimmers can experience hypothermia even in the summer.
  • Major rapids, up to Class V, begin downstream of the I-26 bridge. Many rapids have large hydraulics.
  • All river users who are boating, swimming, or wading should wear life jackets.
  • Mill Race Rapids Should Be Portaged. Walk Around It! A portage trail begins in a power line right-of-way just upstream of Mill Race Rapids on the right bank (south side) of the river.

Water Levels

Water flow in the lower Saluda changes all the time. For the latest information contact the following sources:

Water-level Marker System for River Safety

Notice the red, yellow, and blue paint on poles in the lower Saluda River at Saluda Shoals Park, Hope Ferry Landing, and Gardendale Landing and on the bridges at I-20, I-26, and Riverbanks Zoo. These markings present three general water levels (high, medium and low) and the respective conditions to be expected in the lower Saluda River.

An explanation of the marker system is as follows:

  • Red Zone: High water (greater than 8000 cfs), very dangerous river conditions that require advanced or expert skills in navigating swift rivers and whitewater, including swift water rescue skill and equipment.
  • Yellow Zone: Medium water (2500 to 8000 cfs), dangerous river conditions that require experience and skills in navigating swift rivers and whitewater.
  • Blue Zone: Low water (less than 2500 cfs), river conditions that require awareness of potential river hazards and common precautions of water-based recreation.


For additional information about the Little Pee Dee Scenic River Project contact:

Bill Marshall
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202
Telephone: (803) 734-9096
Fax: (803) 734-9200

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources - Phone Numbers | Accessibility | FOIA
Rembert C. Dennis Building, 1000 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29201
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