History of the Santee Cooper Lakes

The Santee Cooper lake system consists of two lakes, Marion 110,600 acres and Moultrie 60,400 acres. These two lakes are joined by the 6.5 mile diversion canal. These world-class fishing lakes were created from 1939 to 1942 for a hydroelectric project by the South Carolina Public Service Authority, commonly known as “Santee Cooper” because of the two river systems the project connected.
The lakes vary from shallow swamps and blackwater ponds to vast open water with a multitude of underwater structures. Lake Marion was not completely cleared, as a result fishermen will find there are thousands of stumps, standing dead tree trunk and live cypress trees. Lake Moultrie is more open and is 14 miles across at its widest point.
We are not land locked in Santee Cooper Country. Visitors can travel from Lake Marion through the Diversion Canal to Lake Moultrie. At the end of Lake Moultrie lies the 75-foot high Pinopolis Lock which will lower boaters down to the Tailrace Canal which takes you to the Cooper River and on to Charleston. The trip from the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers to Charleston Harbor is 162 miles.
Our lake system is a nature lovers paradise. The outdoor enthusiast can camp at one of our 29 campgrounds or on a pristine island, take a tour boat or guided fishing trip, canoe and kayak the backwater swamps, Edisto and Cooper rivers or hike trails through our state parks and National Wildlife Refuge. Listen...nature is calling you!

great blue heron
Palmetto Trail
Telephone: 1-800-227-8510 outside SC or
in SC (803) 854-2131
Web site : www.palmettoconservation.org
email: tchinn@palmettoconservation.org
For those that really love to hike or bike try the Palmetto Trail. Six passages of the trail run right through Santee Cooper Country from the coast just north of Awendaw to Manchester Forest in Sumter County. The passages are; Swamp Fox, Lake Moultrie, Eutaw Springs, Santee, Lake Marion, and High Hills of Santee. The Palmetto Trail will eventually go all the way to North Carolina. Along the trail, at designated spots, primitive camping is allowed.
Berkeley County
Audubon Center & Sanctuary at Francis Beidler Forest
336 Sanctuary Rd., Harleyville, SC 29448
Off I-26 Exit 177 through Harleyville and follow the signs
Telephone: 843) 462-2150 Fax: (843) 462-2713
email: beidler@infoave.net
Web site: www.beidlerforest.com
Days & Hours of Operation: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Thanksgiving, December 24, 25, 31 and New Year’s Day.
Accessible to Handicapped: Yes
Admission Charge: Yes Members free. Canoe trips, night walks and other activities available in season and by reservation.
Beidler Forest is the largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest in the world. This 15,000 acres riverine sanctuary in the heart of Four Holes Swamp, embraces 1,800 acres of ancient trees that tower over blackwater streams, clear pools and 300 species of wildlife. A 1 3/4 mile long boardwalk, with nine rest stops and two rain shelters, takes visitors into the heart of the old-growth cypress-tupelo swamp.
The forest is left totally alone - no attempt is made to lure wildlife to the boardwalk, no animal feeding takes place, no plantings are made, no fallen trees are removed. Here is a swamp as nature intended it to be. The swamp forest is home to 44 species of mammals, 140 species of birds, 39 species of fish, 50 species of reptiles, 40 species of amphibian and various creatures.

Bayless Fish Hatchery and St. Stephen Fish Lift
305 Black Oak Rd., Bonneau, SC 29431
Telephone: (843) 825-3387 Fax: (843) 825-3382
Web site: www.dnr.sc.gov
Days & Hours of Operation: March 15 through April 15 - 9:30am to 3:30pm. The fish lift is open to visitors from March 15 – April 15 each spring. Visitors must call in advance to make a reservation for a free tour. Reservations will be accepted beginning January for the upcoming season.
Accessible to Handicapped: Yes
Admission Charge: Adult n/a, Child n/a
In the spring, adult striped bass are captured in the canal just below the St. Stephen Dam using electrofishing devices that momentarily stun the fish, but do not kill them. Crews quickly move the fish to the hatchery for spawning. Over 25 million viable eggs are produced each year. Visitors can watch the capture of adult fish and view this spawning process during scheduled tours.
Guided tours of the fish lift facility includes an underwater window to view fish as they pass into the Santee Cooper lakes on their annual migration. Species include American shad, blueback herring, striped bass and others.

Berkeley County Blueways
The Berkeley County Blueways paddling trail system identifies over 175 miles of total water course from 23 trails and is a result of the vision and efforts of many individuals and organizations working in partnership. The Berkeley Soil and Water Conservation District has served as the coordinating agency with supporting grants from Berkeley County Government and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made available through the SCDHEC Office of Coastal Resource Management. Many thanks are given to Berkeley County, Santee Cooper and the US Forest Service for their enthusiastic cooperation as the waters and landings listed in this guide are under their care and stewardship. Along with other partners, The SC Department of Natural Resources has provided valuable insight and technical services toward development of this project. Special thanks are given to the staff of the GIS Department of Berkeley County who have developed the remarkable graphic maps and aerial photography in this document. Also, special thanks are given to individuals of the Carolina Gypsy Paddlers who assisted in the survey of each waterway listed and brought to light the value that a paddling trail program would contribute to the recreational opportunities in Berkeley County. www.berkeleyblueways.com
It is the desire of this partnership that the Berkeley County Blueways should be viewed as an open invitation for recreational paddlers to experience and enjoy the abundant and beautiful lakes, rivers, streams, forests and wildlife we have to offer. For more information or a bound copy of the Berkeley County Blueways contact: Berkeley Conservation District, (843) 719-4146

Blueway Adventures, LLC
100 Paul Revere Square
Bonneau Beach, SC 29431
Mobile:     843-697-2812
Office:      843-825-4622
Email:        deb@bluewayadventures.com
Website:  bluewayadventures.com
Hours of Operation:  Open Year Round with convenient summer and winter hours
Admission Charge:  Yes
Handicapped Accessible:  Yes on some tours
Blueway Adventures – Kayak Tours, Kayak Fishing, Kayak Rentals, Kayak Classes –
Scenic/Historic/Authentic Lowcountry Paddling on Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion and Charleston area rivers. Enjoy lake kayaking at its finest for family outings, vacation side trips, wildlife viewing, and fun in the sun. See Bald Eagles, Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Loons and variety of wading birds. Other wildlife you may see include White Tailed Deer,  beaver, turtles and alligators. Beautiful water lilies, Lotus flowers and variety of plants and trees including Bald Cypress, Tupelos and others. Lake Moultrie tours include Dennis Pasture, Coon Island and custom tours. Lake Marion tours include Sparkleberry Swamp, Church Island, and Eutaw Springs.  Visit Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion for that vacation adventure you’ll talk about for years to come.

Cooper River Underwater Heritage Trail
Diving sites are located in the Cooper River from the Strawberry trestle to Mepkin Abbey.
The underwater history trail includes: the Strawberry Revolutionary War shipwreck, dating to 1781; the Strawberry Ferry landing, established in 1705; the Pimlico sailing vessel, a large ship that was apparently intended for offshore operation rather than on inland waterways; the Pimlico barge, from the 19th century; the Mepkin Plantation boat; and the Mepkin dock structure, a former plantation wharf.

Old Santee Canal Park
900 Stony Landing Rd., Moncks Corner, SC
From Moncks Corner take Hwy. 52 east
Telephone: (843) 899-5200 Fax: (843) 899-5377 email:parkinfo@santeecooper.com
Days & Hours of Operation: Daily 9A.M. to 5 P.M.
Accessible to Handicapped: Most areas
Admission Charge: Yes
Group Rates available for groups or 15 or more
Hike for miles on boardwalks and trails, rent our canoes or bring your own and meander through Biggin Creek & Swamp where America’s first canal was built. The canal, which began operating in 1800, was considered one of the crowning engineering achievement and economic development projects of its day. While wandering through the the swamp, look for osprey building their nest or tending their young and see gators sunning on the banks.
The Interpretive Center includes an unusual limestone cave, a three-eights scale model of the Little David, displays of wildlife and a 30-foot live oak tree that towers to the ceiling of the center.

Clarendon County

Santee National Wildlife Refuge
Hwy 301/15 - Exit 102 off I-95 North Santee
Telephone: (803) 478-2217 Fax: (803) 478-2314
Web site ; www.fws.gov/santee
Days & Hours of Operation: Tuesday through Sunday 8A.M. to4P.M.
Accessible to Handicapped: Yes
Admission Charge: No
This is paradise for bird watchers. A myriad of wildlife species inhabit the varied landscape of Santee. During the winter months, the threatened bald eagle and occasionally the endangered peregrine falcon, can be seen. From November through February migrating waterfowl such as mallards, pintails, teal and wood ducks along with Canada geese are a major attraction. Throughout the year red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks can be viewed. Trails are open for wildlife observation, photography and hiking. Wading birds, song birds and wintering migratory waterfowl may be observed from he observation tower along the Wright’s Bluff Nature Trail. The Visitors Center contains a number of displays describing refuge wildlife and habitats. It provides an excellent opportunity for visitors to become acquainted with the refuge before venturing out. This is highly recommended, especially for the first time visitor.
For the history buff, Ft. Watson located atop the Santee Indian Mound, is the sight of a significant Revolutionary War battle.

Woods Bay State Park
11020 Woods Bay Road
Exit 146 off I-95 take 301 west 3 miles
Telephone: (843) 659-4445 Fax:
email: woods_bay_sp@prt.state.sc.us
Days & Hours of Operation: Thursday through Monday 9A.M. to 6 P.M.
Accessible to Handicapped:
Admission Charge: No
An elliptical depression, Woods Bay is one of a series of natural phenomena known as Carolina Bays. The main concentration of these depressions occurs in the coastal plains of the Carolinas. Woods Bay offers a variety of natural habitats in which many species of wildlife can be found. Visitors to the 1,541 acre state park can enjoy a boardwalk and a canoe trail extending into the bay.
Other facilities and activities include; picnic area and shelter, canoe rentals and nature programs.
Orangeburg County

Edisto River
Access off Hwy 301
Telephone: (803) 533-6020 Fax: (803) 533-6027
Days & Hours of Operation: Always Open
Handicapped Accessible: Some sections
Admission Charge: No
The Edisto river runs over 200 miles, which makes it the longest blackwater river in the world. The entire river runs through eight counties, with the North fork going through Orangeburg county and the Edisto Memorial Gardens. The north fork is only passable by canoe and small motor boat and winds through some of the most scenic country you will ever see.

Edisto Memorial Gardens
Riverside Drive, Orangeburg (off Hwy 301)
Telephone: (803) 533-6020 Fax: (803) 533-6027
Days & Hours of Operation: Always
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Admission Charge: No
The Edisto Memorial Gardens combines great natural beauty and fun activities to make the Gardens a must see for visitors.
In the mid 1920 ’s, the first azaleas were planted on a five acre plot. In 1947, greenhouses and nursery facilities were added to the Gardens Operation. The Rose Garden was added in January 1951 to extend the season of beauty, and today, the Edisto memorial Gardens is composed of 150 acres of azaleas, camellias, roses and other flowers spaced among giant oaks and century old cypress trees. Always on display in the garden is some 4,000 plants, representing at least 75 labeled varieties of roses. The Gardens also contain one of only 23 official test gardens in the United States sanctioned
by All-America Rose Selections, Inc.

Fisheagle Tours - Lake & Swamp Tour
Santee, SC 29142
Telephone:  (803) 974-1262
Days & Hours of Operation:
Accessible to Handicapped: Yes
Admission Charge: Yes
Departs from Santee State Park in Santee for approximately two hours. The Fisheagle travels up Lake Marion to one of the cypress swamps that has become a wildlife haven since it was flooded during the Santee Cooper Project.

Horne Wetlands Park
Riverside Drive, Orangeburg (off Hwy 301)
Telephone:(803) 533-6020 Fax: (803) 533-6027
Days & Hours of Operation: Always open
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Admission Charge: No
In July 1992, a major new theme was added to the Edisto Memorial Gardens with the establishment of the Horne Wetlands Park. This 2,600 ft. boardwalk takes the visitor into a Tupelo/Cypress wetland that lies between the the Display Gardens and the North fork of the Edisto River. The boardwalk, which is fully handicap accessible, permits visitors to get an up close look at the plant life and the wildlife of a wetlands area as well as the Edisto River. The Park features a boat dock with a gazebo.

Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery
427 Lakeview St., Orangeburg (south)
Telephone: (803) 534-4828 Fax: (803) 54-4917
Email: R4OBSC@fws.gov
Web site: www.fws.gov
Days & Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday 9A.M. to 3:30 P.M.
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Admission Charge: No
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates the hatchery which produces a number of species, including striped bass, red drum, blue catfish, channel catfish and redbreast sunfish. The Hatchery also produces Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon for stocking lakes and streams throughout the southeast. Visitors are welcomed and group tours may be arranged.
Santee State Park
251 State Park Rd., Santee 29142
Telephone: (803) 854-2408
Web site: www.southcarolinaparks.com
20 lakefront vacation cabins, 158 lakeside campsite located on the shores of lake Marion.  Hiking & biking trails, canoeing, kayaking and nature boat tour.
Sumter County

Millcreek Park
155 Haynsworth St., Sumter, SC 29150
Telephone: (803) 436-2248 Fax: (803) 436-2400
email: recreation@sumter.net
Web site : n/a
Days & Hours of Operation: By reservation only
Accessible to Handicapped: Yes
Admission Charge: Call for quotes
A great place for reunions, church outings, horse rides, etc. Rustic atmosphere with campsites, horse stables & trails, lake for fishing, bath house and a clubhouse with kitchen.

Poinsett State Park
6660 Poinsett Park Rd., Sumter, SC 29150
Telephone: (803) 494-8177 Fax: (803) 494-8177
email: poinsett_sp@prt.state.sc.us
Web site : www.southcarolinaparks.com
Days & Hours of Operation: April through September 9 A.M. - 9 P.M.,
October through March 9 A.M. - 6 P.M
Accessible to Handicapped: Yes
Admission Charge: Yes
Poinsett State Park is located along the edge of the Wateree Swamp. As you enter the park, a distinct Upcountry impression is created by the hilly terrain, rich hardwood forest and mountain laurel, a plant usually found in the state’s foothills. Spanish moss draped from trees gives the park a Lowcountry flavor.
This 1,000-acre park, with its abundant resources, nature center and full-time naturalist, is an excellent laboratory for outdoor education.
The park has 50 campsites, 4 cabins, nature & hiking trails, lake fishing, lake swimming, picnic area and shelters, fishing & pedal boat rentals.

Swan Lake Iris Gardens
West Liberty St., Sumter, SC 29150
Telephone: (803) 436-2640
Web site : tourism@ftc-i.net
Days & Hours of Operation: Mon. - Sun. 8A.m. to dusk
Accessible to Handicapped: Yes
Admission Charge: No
150 acres of gardens featuring on o the most extensive plantings of Japanese Irises in the United States, 25 varieties blossom in an incredible rainbow of color. The garden is also home to all eight species of swans. Gathered from all over the world, these royalty of the waterfowl kingdom represent England, North America, south America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
These gardens are also home to the annual Swan Lake Iris Festival which is held in May.