In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Greenville County near the North Carolina / South Carolina state line, the North and South Saluda Rivers meet to form the Saluda River. Its major tributaries are the Reedy, Little, Bush, and Little Saluda Rivers and Rabon Creek. One of the principal rivers of the Santee River Basin, the Saluda River flows southeasterly 170 miles through the Piedmont, joining the Broad River just below the fall line in Columbia to form the Congaree River.
The native settlers were primarily Cherokees who farmed along the river and named it “river of corn.” Along the west side of the Saluda River was one of the tribe’s major trading paths. In the 1700s European settlers, primarily Germans, began to settle along the Saluda River. Because transportation on the river was difficult due to the rock outcrops and rapids at the fall line, the state legislature appropriated funds in the early 1800s for improving roads and building canals.
Of the eight canals planned, two were constructed on the Saluda River, enabling cotton from the backcountry to be transported to Charleston. The largest cotton mill in the state, the Saluda Factory, was built on the river in the 1830s. In order to meet the demand for hydroelectricity in the 1930s and 1940s, dams and hydroelectric facilities were built creating Lake Greenwood and Lake Murray.
The Saluda River offers industrial, commercial, residential, and recreational activities. Two sections of the Saluda River have become part of South Carolina’s Scenic Rivers Programs: Middle Saluda was designated a Natural River on August 14, 1978; and Lower Saluda was designated a State Scenic River on August 31, 1991.
Lower Saluda River Task Force. The Lower Saluda River Corridor Plan. Columbia: South Carolina Water Resources Commission, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, 1990.