Angela suggested an afternoon visit to nearby Landsford Canal State Park (Catawba, SC) where we could spend some time outdoors enjoying the natural beauty and historic ruins there. The 448-acre park is home to the well-preserved ruins of a canal system that made the Catawba River commercially navigable from 1823 to 1835. The channel runs for two miles parallel to the river and bypasses the rapids. It is the best preserved of the 19th century river canals in South Carolina and is the uppermost of the four constructed on the Catawba-Wateree River.
The park was quite busy when we visited (Mother's Day) with families picnicking and enjoying the beautiful weather. Fishing, boating, playground equipment, and hiking are the primary activities here.
We made a quick stop at the Gift Shop/Museum and then proceeded to hike 1.5 mile (each way) Canal Trail.
The trail follows the historic tow path for the canal along the Catawba River. Below are photos of Angela and her husband, John, with my John and Sadie. (Sadie was very excited that she got to go with us as leashed dogs are permitted here.)
The canal was dug by hand, labor-intensive work! The commercial riverboats were long and narrow, so the canal was just wide enough to accommodate them.
Water diverted to the canal flowed back into the Catawba River
The other unique aspect of Landsford Canal State Park are the rocky shoals spider lilies. The park is home to the largest known stand in the world! A flower species found predominantly in the SE of the US, the peak blooming season is May to June. The Spider Lily Overlook (along the Canal Trail) provides a great spot to see them.
A resident pair of nesting bald eagles make the park their home. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one perched in a tree on the opposite shore of the river.
Several streams flow toward the Catawba River, and during the construction of the canal they were channeled under culverts like this one. This avoided damage to the canal bed.
A grist mill, built in 1810, was owned by William Richardson Davis. It was used to grind grain and saw lumber using water power.
The Upper Lifting Locks were built using 16th-century design techniques. The locks enabled boats to overcome a 36-foot elevation in the river. Built with rough-cut stones and fieldstones, they were faced with finished granite (from a nearby quarry).
Passing through here was the most heavily traveled road in Colonial America that linked towns near the Great Lakes to Augusta, GA. The road followed ancient animal paths and trails used by Native American traders and warriors for centuries.
When we reached the end of the trail, we retraced our steps back to the gift shop. We stopped for a few moments to check out the diversion dam (some remnants remain today). It was built of loose stones on the river bed. It did not cross the entire river, but was designed to keep a sufficient water flow through the canal when the river was low.
I was so glad we visited this park. It's the kind of place we love, natural beauty and historical significance. I never knew anything about river locks in SC during the 19th century. And the rocky shoals spider lilies are something to see! Check it out if you are in the area during May-June. It was a fun time with good friends.
For additional information about Landsford Canal State Park, visit their website at www.stateparks.com/landsford_canal_state_park_in_south_carolina.html.