Near Rock Hill where the SC/NC state line makes a 90° turn, the Catawba River runs through a series of shoals. The Landsford Canal was built in order to make this portion of the river commercially navigable, and although it was only operational from 1820 to 1835, the well-preserved remains can be explored today as part of the Landsford Canal State Park.
The park is an especially popular destination during May and June; this is when the largest known stand of the rocky shoals spider lily blooms. The aquatic, perennial flowering plant is found only in the Southeast and is under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Every year on the third Sunday in May the Park hosts the Lily Fest, in honor of the flowers that cover the river in a blanket of white each spring.
|Top photo source here, bottom here|
Our most recent visit did not coincide with the lily bloom, but the rapids here on the Catawba River are a sight to see in and of themselves. Exposed bedrock and an elevation change create the shoals which are classified as class I or II, but can become class III with the right amount of water flow. The flow is controlled by the dam at Lake Wylie, so before setting out to canoe or kayak it is wise to do some research as the dam can produce up to 6 times what is recommended for most paddlers.
Highlights during a visit to the park include the well-preserved remains of the canal systems consisting of locks, a mill site and the lock-keeper's home. The 1 ½-mile Canal Trail follows the historic tow path of the canal and includes the foundations of an early 1800 mill site. From the Canal Trail visitors can also connect to a shorter, half-mile nature trail.
Landsford Canal is located on a neo-tropical migration corridor and is popular for bird-watching. While hiking the Canal Trail, keep a lookout for the pair of nesting bald eagles and their nest, both of which are often visible from the trail. The eagles have been living here on the Catawba since 1995, and usually lay eggs around the end of February. These eggs will hatch sometime around the beginning of April, and fledge near June 1st, and for the next several months the birds are frequently sighted in the area with their parents before leaving to find their own territory.
|eagles' nest, as visible from trail|
The park is also popular for fishing: bass, crappie, bream, catfish, carp and gar can be caught in the Catawba. The park’s 448 acres are stretched out along the river, and easy access to its banks provides plenty of choices from where to cast your lure. Among other amenities, dozens of picnic tables and a shelter are on hand for a family picnic, and history buffs will find it interesting to learn that this spot on the river also played a part in the Revolutionary War; both British and American troops using it as a crossing point before and after several pivotal battles.
The park is open daily from 9am to 6pm, and maps, information on admission and answers to commonly asked questions can be found on the park website. The park is about 2 hours from Greenville, making it a great day trip destination and a mandatory item on your spring bucket list.
PS. If you have additional time in the area, Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve is less than one hour away!