18th Century Canal Remnants and Nearly Two Miles of River Frontage Permanently Protected
One of the last remaining sections of the 18th century Old Santee Canal and 645 acres of surrounding forestland including nearly two miles of Santee River frontage are now protected permanently. The Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust secured a conservation easement to protect the property.
Constructed between 1793 and 1800, the 22-mile Old Santee Canal connected the Santee and Cooper Rivers, providing direct access to Charleston from points inland. George Washington was an investor in the project.
The canal was used for less than 20 years, when droughts revealed faults in its design. Years later, much of the Canal was destroyed in the development of Lakes Marion and Moultrie. Today, only two segments remain, one at Old Santee Canal Park (a great day trip from Daniel Island) in Moncks Corner and a second, northwest of Pineville. The property now under permanent protection by conservation easement contains remnants of the canal and an original lock structure that remains mostly intact.
“Protection of the 645-acre Old Santee Canal tract represents a significant milestone in our efforts to conserve the Santee Basin. Conserving these extraordinary historic, scenic and natural resources would simply not have been possible without the dedication and generosity of the landowners – Dr. Bert Pruitt, Ken and Cathy Wingate, James and Jenny Edwards, Jr.,” commented Chris Vaughn, executive director, Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust. “The Santee River continues to provide a near wilderness experience from below the Marion dam to the Atlantic Ocean. These lands will remain unspoiled forever, providing renewable resources, clean water, scenic beauty, and diverse habitats.”
Ken Wingate noted that this property was one that his father-in-law, the late South Carolina Governor James B. Edwards held dear. “One of our hopes is that in partnership with the Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust, we all together can maintain these historic sites and to allow the public to come and periodically see, learn, enjoy and be excited about the history this property represents.
The property has been extensively studied by scholar, educator and conservationist, Dr. Richard Porcher, who is also co-authoring a book on the Canal. “Preserving a place like the Old Santee Canal is critical. It is part of our history. It is part of who we are,” he continued. “This was the lifeline for the economy of South Carolina for more than 50 years and served a critical role in bringing all the wares from the upcountry to Charleston. Being able to preserve a structure like this, is really preserving who we are.”
Funding for the project was provided by the South Carolina Conservation Bank. “The Old Santee Canal is an important reminder of the critical role rivers have played in shaping the history and economy of our state,” commented Raleigh West, executive director, South Carolina Conservation Bank. “In addition to the history, this property’s location in a corridor of protected river front properties contributes to a growing conservation movement along the Santee.”
Founded in 1992, Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust works to protect the land in the Santee River and Cooper River watersheds, the Ashley River headwaters, Four Holes Swamp and surrounding areas. To date, Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust has protected more than 42,000 acres permanently through easements and acquisitions. The organization is accredited by the Land Trust Alliance.