The 30-mile section from the base of Lake Wylie dam downstream to the South Carolina Highway #9 Bridge in York, Lancaster and Chester counties was designated as a State Scenic River in June 2008. The Catawba is a large dam-regulated brown to red-water Piedmont river which provides outstanding scenery with clear to red clay-colored waters, beautiful rocky shoals, the occasional gravel or sand bars, and lined by Piedmont river trees such as sycamore and river birch. Approximately 93 percent of the river is visually free of human development. The natural resources of the Catawba River provide outstanding recreational fishing and boating opportunities and many other nature-based recreations.
The Catawba River riparian areas and adjacent uplands contain large acreages of wild and undeveloped forestland, which contain additional wildlife habitat in a landscape of agricultural fields, pasture and upland forests. The natural ecological communities with high resource value include the wet shoals areas and the floodplain and riparian forest habitats. This natural river channel (of a dam-regulated river system) is an outstanding resource for inland fisheries with its rocky shoals and pool areas providing diverse habitat for the indigenous fish communities of both resident and migratory species. This river is best known for the rocky shoals spider lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) which has a spectacular bloom in mid May to mid June each year and is best viewed by boat or along the shores of Landsford Canal State Historic Park.
Leadership for the Catawba Scenic River Project will come from the Catawba Scenic River Advisory Council, which will represent local landowners, river users, community interests, and SCDNR. The first major task of the advisory council will be the creation of a management plan. This plan will be created using an open community-based process where local citizens identify their vision and goals for the river, discuss and define issues of concern, and then seek resolutions to achieve their vision. Once the management plan is completed it will become the guide for ongoing activities for the advisory council.
For more information read the Catawba River Eligibility Study published in 2008. (Adobe PDF file)
Catawba Scenic River Advisory Council is currently being formed.
All advisory council meetings will be open to the public.
The time and place of the meetings may vary, and the meetings will be posted on this and other DNR web pages or you can contact Jackie Heuermann or Bill Marshall.
River access is available along the entire 30-mile section at three public landings. Virtually all sections of the river accessed from these sites are navigable by small powerboats in higher water flows while canoes or kayaks are the most common way to experience this river. The access sites are:
- Fort Mill Access area off of S.C. Highway #49, on the northeast side of the river. This is a standard boat launch site with parking area and boat ramp.
- Rock Hill recreation complex called River Park off of Red River Road. This is a paddle craft launch and not a ramp for motorized craft. Parking and hiking trails are available at this site. Park hours are 9AM to 6PM.
- Landsford Canal State Park has two drop-in or egress river access points. They also have an entrance fee, hiking trails and public parking. Park hours are 9AM to 6PM.
- S.C. Highway #9 Landing is a public boat ramp with parking.
The Catawba is a popular river for canoeists and kayakers with single-day float trips being the most common use. Opportunities for a multi day canoe-camping trip are also available; however, there are no designated camping sites along the river. Camping on river-bordering lands will require permission from the landowners. Activities such as boating, wade fishing, and swimming can become dangerous at certain water levels and in certain areas. The closer one is to the dam, the more significant and dangerous the water rises can be. River levels are affected by dam releases for hydropower production, which may fluctuate. Higher water levels can cause some of the shoals/rapids to become a class II/III rapid (particularly Sugar Creek and Landsford shoals), which requires more skill to navigate. There is a warning system in place to alert boaters and wading anglers of dam releases and rising water conditions, however, the release sirens can only be heard near the dam.
For more information about the Catawba Scenic River Project contact:
Catawba Scenic River Project Manager
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
1000 Assembly Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201
Telephone: (803) 734-9096
The publication above is in the Adobe® Acrobat® (PDF) format. Adobe® Reader® is required to open the files and is available as a free download from the Adobe® Web site.