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Catawba River in South Carolina

Trip Overview

The Catawba River outside Landsford Canal State Park can offer paddling experiences to a wide range of watersports. Beginning around 200 miles north of the park, the Catawba River moves in and out of 11 dams and associated reservoirs. Here at Landsford, we are in the middle of one of the longest free flowing sections left in this great piedmont river. Between dams, there are about 30 miles of open river. Some of the more interesting areas are located along park property. There are several shoal/rapid areas in the 30 miles but the best are 2 miles next to the park. To call these rapids might be a bit misleading as the river drops 32 feet in two miles. Most of the rapids are just small drops with a lot of rocks, however there are several spots that can be entertaining for the moderately skilled paddler. A fun area is at a drop about 1 mile from the main park area. The river is about 1500 feet wide here so the key is asking park staff where to go to find the play spots. The biggest drop is "staircase". A left side entry into a slight "s" turn drops about 7-8 feet in about 25 feet. Nice "v" wave at the bottom allows for some interesting surfing at normal water. If you catch high water, this chute can really roll! A few hundred feet on river left is "facelift"; a small hydraulic with a decent backflow at good water levels. Enough room at good water level for some enders. This rapid tails out with 3-4 good "camel humps". The thing to remember is at low levels, getting to these places can be a lot of work. Exposed rocks and rock shelves make getting there difficult.

On the milder side, upstream paddling is very scenic and easy due to an historic dam (pile of stones about 3 feet high) that was built in the early 1800's. Wildlife abounds on this section, as the closest riverside building is 6 miles to the north and 4 miles to the south. Nesting Bald eagles, ospreys, deer, turkey, otter and beaver are just a few of the animals that have been seen along the river here. Probably one of the greatest sights is the rare Rocky Shoals Spider Lily that puts on a blooming show in May and June that has very few rivals! This large plant with 4 inch white blooms, practically covers 50 acres of the river environment. Many people from all over the world come here to view these spectacular plants in peak bloom.

Probably the most important information is the put-ins and take-out distances and paddling times.

Lake Wylie Dam to Landsford - 23miles/ 8-12 hours
River park (Rock Hill,SC) - 17 miles/ 6-8 hours
Landsford area1 to area 2 - 2 miles/ 1-2 hours
Landsford to Hwy 9 bridge - 6 miles/ 2-4 hours

Remember if you will be using Landsford as a destination, you need to call ahead for park hours and river info. Closed Tues. and Wed., Open 9:00 am to 8:00 pm during summer, after Labor Day 9:00 - 6:00 pm.


Park entry is $1.50 per adult. Children 15 and younger and SC resident seniors(65 and over) are free.


From Charlotte, NC Interstate 77 south to exit 77= Hwy. 21. 21 South 15 miles to Landsford sign. Turn left then left into main entrance.

From Columbia, SC Interstate 77 North to exit 65= Hwy. 9. Right for two miles to Hwy. 223, turn left on 223 and in 9 miles intersects Hwy. 21. Turn left on 21 for two miles, turn right at sign for Landsford, two miles and entrance on left.


S.C. Department of Parks, Rec. and Tourism website: www.discoversouthcarolina.com/

Landsford Canal State Park (803)789-5800

  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip