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Difficulty II-IV
Length 11 Miles
Flow Range 700 - 20000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 24 minutes ago 2080 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 09/21/2005 4:42 pm

River Description

Great play run located in downtown Columbia. Lots of cool routes and playspots at a wide variety of levels. Radio Tower, Stacys Ledge, Maytag, Lap of Luxury, Mill Race, Cookie Monster, Blast'o Matic, Pop Up Hole/Mosh Pit are some of the named spots near the zoo. On the right side of the island near the zoo is a popular creek line with a small slide and some cool moves.

Mill race rapid is just to the left of the Island under the power lines. Beware of the right side of the Mill Race at higher flows. A dangerous hole forms, and there is some very sharp rock and re-bar in the streambed.

There is a nice trail below pop up hole on river right that can be used to walk back up to the top of the mill race. There is good river access on river left at pop up hole.

Pop up hole is munchy 2500-3500cfs
Pop up is optimal at 4000-4500 cfs

It can range from a pourover to a meaty ledge hole. It is best around 3500 to 4500 cfs (easy to link moves). Most of the time you can only cartwheel to the left but at higher flows you can wheel either way. It has a good access eddy.

At low flows it is perfect to practice your enders, pirouettes, cartwheels, and mystery moves.

The water is cold all the time (around 50�F) and is always running (dam controlled), so you can count on a playspot there in one form or another.

How to get there:
Heading towards Columbia on I-26 get onto I-126 towards Columbia. Take the River Bank Zoo exit. Turn left at the stop sign. Turn left towards the zoo. Turn right into the parking lot. Take another right after you cross over the railroad tracks. Then head to the end of the parking lot. There is a short trail here that leads to the river. Now paddle around the little Island and head upstream to river right for the hole.

AW article on 1993 Saluda River Festival

Rapid Descriptions

Hope Ferry Landing / Saluda Shoals Regional Park

Class - Mile - 0
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Upper run put-in. Saluda Shoals is on river left, Hope Ferry is on the South side of the river, river right.

Gardendale (SCE&G) Put-In

Class - Mile - 3.5
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Oh Brother Rapids

Class - II Mile - 5.5
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Ocean Boulevard Rapids

Class - II Mile - 5.6
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Stacy's Ledge

Class - III Mile - 7
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Moderate sized riverwide ledge. Good holes at some levels, good waves at higher levels.

Blast o'matic

Class - III+ Mile - 7.4
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Awesome surf ledge just above Mill Race.

Mill Race Rapids

Class - IV Mile - 7.5
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When the water is above about 800 cfs it's a class III (technical). The water can be as high as 20,000 cfs. At that point, it's a monster and I'd seriously think twice about running it. It's easily a class V. The problem with mills race is that it's an old dam that was dynamited years back and is rumored to have rebar (steel rods that reinforced the concrete) all through the area.

Pop Up Hole/Mosh Pit

Class - III Mile - 8
Good down to 300 cfs. Munchy from 2500-3500 cfs. Optimal at 4000-4500 cfs, above that it turns into a wave and then quickly washes out.

Shandon Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 9
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Take the right fork. Run the rapid on river right. A straight shot, with a decent hole and a side surfing wave at some levels.

White House Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 9.5
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A riverwide shoal type rapid with lots of playable waves and holes. Run just left of the rocks in the middle of the river.

Hampton Street Rapids

Class - II Mile - 10
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Senate Street Landing

Class - Mile - 10.5
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Below Gervais Street Bridge


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Garrick Taylor
7 years ago

delete spam links

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10 years ago

Ran it again, this time at 12,500 on the 5th of DEC. Cookie Monster was in and beautiful! Staceys was in on river right and huge, holes were shallow though. Gervais st wave was in pretty great. It was washed out at 17,000. Blastomatic had some super sticky spots. I got worked for a solid minute and thought about swimming right on down through the monster of Mills Race. Cookie and the massive 9+ ft haystack after it were awesome, not sticky, and totally runnable (they were scary at 17,000). Shipwreck Rock just downstream of Mills on far river left was fun, fast,and retentive just enough to throw a move or two, but not "loop-able" like 17,000. Shandon also had some decent play.. All in all, 12,500 is a good level, especially for Staceys Ledge wave, Cookie Monster, and Gervais. But as apposed to 17,000, it has ALOT more sticky pourover and ledge holes. Especially Blastomatic and Shandon Rapids. I'd say that Mills Race was a class IV+ with some avoidable Class V on river right, but the main tongue of it is just a bumpy roller coater and a solid Class III boater would not have a problem with it. Shandon had a few spots I'd call 3+. And Blastomatic told me personally that it was a Class IV. Pray for more rain and subsequent releases!

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Barry Hale
10 years ago

The Saluda can be run from the dam all the way to town varies flat and II-III white water - DO NOT run the cascade above the zoo play area unless you: a: have a death wish b: really know what you're doing, have a recovery team and paid up life insurance or a really good medical plan, sharp rock, rebar and misc mess from a destroyed dam fill the entire width of the river. From the dam to town is 4-8 hours depending on motivation and water level. Good play water and fishing along the entire length. Put in at Saluda Shoals Park and take out at Zoo or portage Zoo Rapids and float through a Cls II rock garden down to the confluence with the Broad and onto the Congaree to the Rosewood (Barney Jordan) boat ramp (another hour or so). My now 15 year old made the trip his first time at age 4 in a two seat Kayak. I've floated it with a troop of Scouts in 18' Grummans, two seat open kayaks, A 16' Explorer and in my own play boat. Every boat type has a slightly different experience but I enjoy it every time.

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11 years ago

Pop up hole is the last rapid that is closest to the Zoo bridge. After you come through mill race there is a short section of flat water (at low water) and then the river narrows down and makes a hole/wave. That is pop up hole.

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tucker deloach
11 years ago

is pop up hole the hole right beside the zoo?

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Jeff Wilson
15 years ago

For more information on the Saluda, please visit

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17 years ago

Saluda stuff
Some corrections to the names:

Radio Towers is at put-in. At high flows (15,000+) Maytag and Lap of luxury come into play (not rock of luxury :) )

Moshpit=Pop-up, just different names.
The creek currently has some ugly strainers, use caution.

Please note the importance of having a local show you down Millrace the first time, there are places you just DON'T want to be depending on water levels. plus, some more play stuff happens in the top of Millrace on the dreaded right side at up to maybe 3,000 that you
would not want to attempt if you didn't know just where you could and could not be.

There is no mention of the rest of the section. To run the river from the zoo to Gervais:
(class II-II+ (III) if you start below Millrace)

First rapid is Shandon Rapid (III-), .25 mi below Pop-up: as the river splits, take the right fork. Run the rapid on river right. A straight shot, with a
decent hole and a side surfing wave at some levels.
There has been a foot entrapment death here.

River then widens and the Broad joins the Saluda. There is a riverwide shoal type rapid with lots of playable waves and holes. Run just left of the rocks
in the middle of the river.

From here down, read and run easy class II+. There are some more holes etc as you approach the first bridge, nothing scary unless the water is really high. Takeout just past the second bridge (not
counting the zoo bridge) on river left, there is a small beach. Access here may be iffy right now, tread lightly.

This is a good short beginner run. At higher flows most things begin to wash out and some holes form near the bridges. 3 mi. Can be run in an hour or less.

Directions to Gervais takeout from the zoo: get back on I-126 towards Columbia (east). Take the first exit (Huger St.) A mile or so down Huger, turn right on
Gervais St. Just before crossing the bridge, there is a parking lot on the left hand side with a bus stop in
front of it. Park here. Walk to the back corner of the lot, down that street just a bit, and you will see the short take-out trail down to the river.

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17 years ago

Accident report of a 1998 drowning at millrace

Gage Descriptions

Runnable from extremely low flows to high flood stage. Flow changes can be very dynamic due to hydropower operations.

For current conditions and planned operations go to SCE&G's Lower Saluda River - Current Operations website. The hydro plant can run from 1 turbine to 5 turbines. One turbine is about 800 cfs. Five turbines can go up to 20.000 cfs. The hole washes out around 5000 cfs. When it does there are other holes and waves opening up in Millrade Rapid (just upstream).

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2019-04-27 n/a Fatality Other Read More
2014-03-30 Low Near Miss/Rescue Cold Water Read More
1998-09-12 Medium Fatality One Boat Trip Read More



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Saluda Dam Relicensing Settled!

Kevin Colburn

On Friday, July 24, 2009, American Whitewater signed a settlement agreement with South Carolina Electric & Gas Company and a suite of other organizations and agencies that resolves issues regarding the management of Lake Murray Dam for the next 50 years.  Lake Murray Dam regulates flows in the popular Saluda River, as it flows through Columbia, South Carolina.  AW was represented by Charlene Coleman throughout this process and the exciting agreement signed last week is a testament to her hard work and creativity. 

article main photo

SC Rivers To Get New Advocate

Kevin Colburn

Last Tuesday the Waterkeeper Alliance board of directors approved an application for a new riverkeeper for the Columbia, South Carolina area.  The riverkeeper will act as an advocate for the Saluda, Congaree, and Broad rivers.  Knowing that rivers need all the help they can get, AW wrote a letter of support for the riverkeeper position earlier this month.

article main photo

Coleman Awarded AW Steward of the Year Award

Ben Van Camp

American Whitewater and Wave Sport presented the AW Steward of the Year Award to Charlene Coleman of Columbia, South Carolina, at the annual American Whitewater Gauley Festival in Summersville, WV this past weekend.  Coleman is the first recipient of the annual river stewardship achievement award which recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to river access, conservation, and/or safety on behalf of American Whitewater.  Along with the recognition Coleman was awarded the Wave Sport boat of her choice.

Matt Muir


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1191494 09/21/05 n/a n/a