* Columbia Riverfront Park * Columbia * South Carolina * National Register of Historic Places, No. 79002392 *
Interlaced within the heart of Columbia, South Carolina is a series of canals built in the early 1800’s by indentured Irishmen formed to provide direct water routes between the uplands and the lowlands along the fall line. Utilizing the Congaree River and Broad Rivers, it centers in the Columbia Riverfront Park where the canal is used to generate hydro-electrical power for South Carolina Electric and Gas company. Officially built in 1820 as a means for navigation and transportation along the rapids of the Broad River and Saluda river where they merge together to create the Congaree River. The canal was built in a natural ravine that existed between the city and the rivers, beginning between Lumber street (Calhoun street) and Richland street. It followed the Congaree for approximately 3 miles ending across from Granby Landing just north of the railroad bridges. Completed in 1824 it was 12 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep north of Senate street, and 18 feet wide and 4 feet deep south of there with a 8 foot wide towpath on either side. It had 4 lifting locks and a guard lock for the 34 ft descent of the river with a diversion dam across the Broad River to allow access from the Saluda Canal. Three waste tiers were built to prevent the canal from flooding, and this all linked into a separate canal called the Bull Sluice just north on the Broad River which had its own lock. By 1840 the state decided to drop its subsidy of the canal, and with the introduction of the 1842 railroads, its use declined. During the Civil war its hydro-electrical power was used to make gunpowder as well as for a grist mill run by the state penitentiary as well as a saw mill. By 1888 it was re-designed into a industrial power supply – revisions starting at Gervais street and extending 3 1/2 miles north along the Congaree and Broad Rivers, 150 feet wide and 10 feet deep with a new diversion dam, entry lock, and waste weir. In full use by 1891. Columbia Mill depended on it for textile production and was then utilized by the Columbia Hydro Plant built at its southern end producing power for the city, street railway system, and local industry.