Lower Saluda Scenic River
A ten-mile section of the Saluda River in Lexington and Richland Counties, from below Lake Murray Dam to the confluence with the Broad River, was designated a State Scenic River in 1991.
The Saluda Scenic River (commonly known as the "Lower Saluda") is recognized as an outstanding recreational resource. The tailrace waters from Lake Murray reservoir provide a cold-water fishery and varying river flows for recreational boating. Popular activities on the lower Saluda includes fishing for trout and striped bass, whitewater and flatwater paddling, and tube floating.
Partners for the Lower Saluda Scenic River Project serve on a local advisory council, which represents local landowners, river users, community interests, and SCDNR. Participation has included Trout Unlimited, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, SCPRT (Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism), River Runner Outdoor Center, SCE&G (now Dominion Energy SC), City of Columbia Parks, Irmo-Chapin Recreation Commission, Palmetto Paddlers, Congaree Riverkeeper, Shaw Industries, American Whitewater, Congaree Land Trust, American Rivers, and The River Alliance.
Management plans for the river include the 1990 Lower Saluda River Corridor Plan and the 2000 Lower Saluda Scenic River Corridor Plan Update.
Go to the Lower Saluda Corridor Planning Project Page to see plan documents.
There are several public access locations along the Lower Saluda River, which are described below. A map of the river with similar access information is provided at the website - PaddleSC, Lower Saluda River.
Hope Ferry landing (on south bank) and Saluda Shoals Park (north bank) – These provide the only public ramps for trailered boat launches on the river. Hope Ferry landing is accessed from Corley Mill Road. Saluda Shoals Park has two boat ramps, at upstream and downstream ends of the park, which is accessed from two locations, either Bush River Road or St Andrews Road.
Saluda Shoals Park - Open daily, admission fees are charged. River access facilities include two boat ramps, canoe launch, decked overlook to the river, and miles of nature trails along the river. Enter the park from either Bush River Road or St Andrews Road.
Gardendale Access - This access is 3.5 miles downstream from Hope Ferry and the upstream ramp at Saluda Shoals Park. The Gardendale site provides access for boats that can be carried in. The location is on the north bank near the Gardendale community and Rivers Edge Retreat off Garden Valley Road which is accessed from Bush River Road near I-20.
Saluda Riverwalk - This three-mile section of the Three Rivers Greenway was opened in 2020 and provides a public walking/biking path along the north bank of the river from the I-26 bridge crossing, past Riverbanks Zoo, to the Broad River confluence at Boyd Island. Saluda Riverwalk is accessed from Candi Lane, which extends west from Greystone Blvd near Riverbanks Zoo.
Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens - Open daily, admission fees are charged. With entrance to Riverbanks, you can enjoy zoological and botanical exhibits, nature trails and a pedestrian bridge with views of Mill Race Rapids, historic structures, and more within the property. Riverbanks is located off Greystone Blvd which connects with I-126. NOTE: public access for river use (paddling, fishing, swimming) is no longer provided from the Zoo parking lots.
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. Two carry-in boat access sites are located immediately downstream of Gervais Street Bridge (US Hwy 1), one on the east bank at Senate Street and one on the west bank at the amphitheater. Gervais Street Bridge is 10 miles downstream from Hope Ferry and Saluda Shoals Park. Public landings with ramps are located 2 and 3 miles downstream of Gervais Street Bridge on the east and west banks of the Congaree.
Water conditions on the Lower Saluda River can be Dangerous to all river users. Before using this river be aware of:
- Rapidly changing water levels
- Strong currents
- Cold water
- Large rapids
Consider the following Lower Saluda River conditions and precautions:
- Water flow conditions can change rapidly 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 it comes from deep within Lake Murray. Swimmers can experience hypothermia, even in the summer.
- Major rapids, up to Class IV, 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 flow in the Lower Saluda changes frequently. For the latest information check the following sources:
- Dominion Energy, Lower Saluda River
- U.S. Geological Survey - South Carolina stream-gaging stations:
Look for two stations:
For additional information about the Lower Saluda Scenic River Project contact:
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202
Telephone: (803) 734-9096