Old Santee Canal Park

Berkeley - Old Santee Canal Park - 11 Biggin Creek osprey nest

Last time I wrote about Lake Moultrie and mentioned Old Santee Canal Park. This was one of the highlights of my trip and I spent half a day here just walking one of the trails. This used to be a state park, but is now operated by Santee Cooper, a state owned electric and gas utility. I have to say they’ve done a bang up job. It is really nice. I can’t wait to go back.
Few might know this, but the Santee Canal is the first canal in the United States. It opened in 1800 and provided a direct water route from Charleston to Columbia. The canal linked the Cooper River in Charleston with the Santee River, which is formed at the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. Construction began on the project in 1793.
When finished it was 22 miles long and 30 feet wide and about five feet deep. It contained ten locks. However it didn’t too well financially especially when the railroads came long.
The park’s 195 contains four miles of trails, a 19th century plantation house, the Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center, an Interpretive center and more. Definitely a full day’s worth of activities. Besides walking, and learning about the local culture, nature, and history, one can rent a canoe to paddle down Biggin Creek and the southern terminus of the Santee Canal. Most of the canal is now underwater, having been flooded by Lake Moultrie. There are also picnic places. Before you go visit their web site to see what special programs and events may be happening.
I started my trip at the Interpretive Center with its unique entrance. There’s a beautiful fountain, then you walk through a lock to the door. Very nice. Inside they had displays of the canal and the Little David, the semi-submersible Confederate torpedo boat, which was built at Stony Landing as well as projects from school children.
I toyed with renting a canoe, but then opted to take the Canal trail which runs by Biggin Creek, along the Tailrace Canal and the Old Santee Canal. On the way back I took the Fitness trail and Alligator Loop. There was plenty of wildlife to see. No alligators, unfortunately for me, but I did spot a number of turtles sunning themselves. There’s a osprey nest, but not occupied on my trek past.
There is admission charged, but it’s well worth it and they have discounts for seniors, schools, and groups.

How To Get There:
The park is located on the eastern side of Moncks Corner at Stony Landing off bypass US52 (Rembert Dennis Blvd).

Old Santee Canal Park

What’s Near By:
Lake Moultrie
Francis Marion NF
Pinopolis Dam


Lake Moultrie

Berkeley - Bonneau Beach - Lake Moultrie 04

The roads circling Lake Moultrie make for a pleasant day trip. You may even have to return to finish.
The lake is the easternmost one in South Carolina, the closest major lake to the coasth. It’s one I’ve never visited before and on my journey I saw the lake only from Bonneau Beach, but there are other access points along the way.
Like all the lakes in South Carolina, Lake Moultrie is man-made. This was created in the early 1940’s when the Pinopolis Dam built on the Cooper River. It is part of the Santee Cooper projects along with Lake Marion.

The 60,000 acre lake offers fish, wildlife and some pretty massive alligators. One giant beast bit the arm of a man not long ago, so caution is needed when fishing, boating, or swimming although the swimming places look safe.

The roads encircling the lake are SC6, SC45, US52, and US17. You can join them anywhere. I took SC6 from I95 at Santee. This merges with SC45 in Eutawville and I stayed with the 45 as it veered west toward St. Stephens. Along the way watch for Francis Marion’s Burial site and Sandy Beach Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The latter is a nice place to observe wildlife especially water birds. The Palmetto trail passes through here and it’s a short walk from the parking place.

Berkeley - Canal WMA - 01 off SC45

In Pineville sits the picturesque Pineville Chapel (ca. 1810). Another beautiful church can be seen in St. Stephens, the St. Stephens Episcopal Church (1769). Before reaching St. Stephens, I stopped at Canal WMA. Stretch your legs along the path that follows the canal.

I opted not to drive on US52 south from St. Stephens, taking instead Mandler River Road (SC Rd351). It starts/ends right by the St. Stephens church and ends in Bonneau where I took Black Oak Rd to Bonneau Beach. Besides a swimming area, one can launch their boats here.

Other sites to see around Lake Moultrie include the Dennis Wildlife Center (which I did not find, but am assured exists), the Canal Recreation Area, Pinopolis Dam, and Pinopolis and its historic district. There also the town of Moncks Corner, which is home to the Old Santee Canal Park, something I will cover in the next post.

If you want more of the lake, keep watch for the signs advertising the access points like the boat ramps and the access to the Palmetto Trail that travels around the east and northern part of the lake.

How to Get There:
You can get to Lake Moultrie from I95 or I26. All the exits on I26 east of I95 will take you there although some in a more round about way. Exit 199 on I26, the one for Alt US17, will take you to Moncks Corner. As for I95, exit 98 is the best bet, SC6 toward Eutawville.

Lake Moultrie

What’s Near By:
Old Santee Canal Park
Lake Marion
Santee WMA
Francis Marion NF

‘Camping South Carolina’ by Melissa Watson


If you love to camp, you’ll want this book because, face it, if you live in the lowcountry and wish to explore the upstate, it’ll be nice to stay a few days and not drive back and forth. Even with living in Columbia it’s difficult to drive north (or south) and take in a hike at the far corners of the state.

The book covers public tent and RV campgrounds and is written by someone who truly enjoys the SC outdoors and camping. It’s published by Falcon Guides and should be available in backpacking stores and book shops as well as on-line.

The campsites are arranged by region so if you’ll looking for a spot in the upstate, you’ll find the listings and maps in one area. There’s a good packing list if you’re new to camping and don’t know what you’ll need.

A typical entry lists the location, how long the campsite is open during the year (some are seasonal), how many sites, how long one can stay, facilities and an idea of the fee. You can usually find the price on-line especially if it is a state park, national park, state or national forest or run by the Army Corp of Engineers.
It also gives detailed directions on how to find the campsite, the GPS coordinates, and page number and grid location in the South Carolina Atlas and Gazetteer, something I covered in an earlier post. I really liked her ‘about the campsite’ descriptions where she writes her experiences at the campsite.