Ten years after Americans declared their independence from the British Empire, a charter was granted for the construction of the Santee Canal, the nation's first. Construction began in 1793 and was completed in 1800. The Santee Canal was 22 miles long with three locks to lift boats from the Santee River to the summit level and seven locks for the descent of the boats to the Cooper River. Droughts and increased competition from railroads prompted shareholders to revoke its charter in 1850.
In 1934, the Santee Canal was the inspiration behind the creation of the South Carolina Public Service Authority, more commonly known as Santee Cooper. Building upon the canal's initial purpose of improving inland navigation, the Santee Cooper project electrified rural South Carolina and created lakes Marion and Moultrie.
Today, most of the Santee Canal lies beneath Lake Moultrie, but visible portions remain where boats entered from the Santee River and at Biggin Creek, where it joined the headwaters of the Cooper River. It's also here, in Moncks Corner, where you will find the Old Santee Canal Park.
Opened in 1989, the 195-acre park commemorates the area's rich history and habitat. Among its attractions are the Stony Landing House, built in 1843, and four miles of boardwalks that meander through the quiet backwaters of Biggin Creek and its surrounding swamp. The park's centerpiece is its Interpretive Center that chronicles the area's history as far back as 4000 B.C., including the 1863 construction of the Little David, a semisubmersible Confederate torpedo boat used in the Civil War. The Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center is also located within the park's gates.
Beyond its historical offerings, the park has become a popular destination for bird watchers, hikers, paddlers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Located within the Old Santee Canal Park, the Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center tells the story of 12,000-year story of the region. Exhibits and artifacts focus on Brig. Gen. Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox), American Indians, Colonial life, the Civil War, early medicine, rural electrification, early education and the Francis Marion National Forest.
Gifts, books, prints, jewelry and other items are available for purchase at the museum's Heritage Shoppe. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays (except by special arrangement) and on major holidays.
2013 OLD SANTEE CANAL PARK