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.
The Old Santee Canal Park's centerpiece is its Interpretive Center, which 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 11,000 sq. ft. facility houses the recreation of an oak bluff complete with the many types of animals you can expect to encounter in a cypress swamp. Two theatres offer informative films that highlight the area's historical and natural significance with titles like "History of the Santee Canal: America's First Superhighway," "Snakes' Tale," "Pushing Back the Darkness: The Story of Santee Cooper," and "Red Cockaded Woodpecker."
The Interpretive Center also hosts exhibits and educational programs that teach visitors about the area's rich history and natural diversity. Park visitors can also stop by the Interpretive Center for audio tours, canoe rentals and a gift shop.
2013 OLD SANTEE CANAL PARK