Old Man River

The Saluda River, from one of the many stopping points along the trails at Saluda Shoals Park. (Photo/Robert Clark)

Experience the outdoors. Enjoy nature. Fish. Kayak and canoe, and walk the nature trail. You can do this and more at a stretch of river that reveals how many Southern rivers used to be.

In older days a lot of hardworking inland farm families vacationed by the banks of shoals. It was their Myrtle Beach. Less than an hour’s drive, about 35 miles, will take you to a river that none other than Robert E. Lee first suggested could be dammed: the Saluda. Just 1.5 miles from the Dreher Shoals Dam, the Saluda Runs free here and you can spend a relaxing day with Old Man River, unleashed as if no dam ever existed.

Located along the banks of the Saluda River, the 350-acre Saluda Shoals Park features an 11,000-square-foot Environmental Education Center, Exhibit Hall, Auditorium, Classrooms and 3,776 square-foot outdoor deck. Miles of paved and unpaved trails provide wonderful places to walk and bike. You can rent bikes, canoes and kayaks here.

A river observation deck provides a good place to watch the Saluda River run by. And know too that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has established the Saluda Shoals Park Fishing Pier off Old Bush River Road, between St. Andrews Road and Lake Murray, south of Irmo. This wooden fishing pier parallels the Saluda River bank. A paved sidewalk to the pier from the paved parking area provides easy access. A boat ramp and canoe and kayak launch points make it convenient for water enthusiasts. Guided horse trails exist for equestrian-minded people too.

Families and organizations make good use of the picnic shelters and kids make good use of the playground. The River Center provides a good setting for receptions, meetings and other events.

Got some nature lover in you? You’ll find the Saluda Shoals Wetland Preserve to be a tranquil sanctuary. The quiet waters and woodlands provide habitat for many species of birds, animals, and wetland plants. Down near the river you can feel the temperature — and stress levels — drop. It’s hard to imagine that you’re only minutes from Harbison Boulevard and all its accommodations.

Saluda Splash is a good place to cool off on a hot summer day, and it’s a good place, too, to let the kids expend energy. Children love the interactive, zero-depth water playground, making it quite safe with no need to wear life preservers. Splash opened for the season on April 26, and closes Sept. 28. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at one of six shelters, all equipped with ceiling fans, charcoal grills and conveniently located restrooms. Plan a mini-vacation this summer at Saluda Shoals Park.

If You Go …

5605 Bush River Rd.,

Columbia, S.C.

803-731-5208 / 803-213-2050

Car or mini-van: $5

12+ passenger van: $7

Bus: $11

Saluda Splash Wristbands: $3 each; Seasonal, Open 9 a.m.– 8 p.m.

From Columbia, take I-26 west toward Spartanburg. Exit Piney Grove Road and turn left. Proceed approximately 1.5 miles to St. Andrews Road. Turn right, then left at the first traffic light. Saluda Shoals Park is 1.5 miles on your left.

www.scgreatoutdoors.com/park-saludashoals.html

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]