Way Back Wednesday: The History of the Santee Canal

Way Back Wednesday

Santee Canal Marker: Submitted October 26, 2009 by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.

Moncks Corner, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s Wednesday and that means it is time to explore the history that surrounds the Lowcountry. This week, we head to Berkeley County and take a trip down the Santee Canal.

Completed in 1800, the 22 mile canal was created as a way to connect the Santee and Cooper Rivers and provide a shorter water route from inland South Carolina to Charleston.

Ten years after Americans declared their independence from Britain, the charter was granted for the construction of the Santee Canal and in 1954, a historical marker was erected to honor the achievement. The marker explains that the canal was chartered in 1786, construction began in 1793, and the project went on to be described as one of the earliest “important” canals in the United States.

The canal began two miles below Greenwood Swamp on the Santee River and entered the Cooper River at Biggin Creek near the Stoney Landing House.

According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, investors hoped to create a trade route that would bring prosperity to Charleston and the state as a whole. The construction of the canal cost a little more than $650,000.

“Although hailed as one of the great internal improvements of its day, the Santee Canal was not a success. Financial problems, lawsuits, poor design and construction, lack of traffic, and droughts all contributed to the canal’s disappointing results.”

The South Carolina Encyclopedia

Because of railroad competition in the mid-1850’s, investors pulled out of the project, and the General Assembly canceled the canal company’s charter in 1853. The South Carolina Encyclopedia explains that portions of the canal were used sporadically until about 1865 and then were abandoned entirely.

 “Proposals to reopen the Santee Canal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries went nowhere. In the 1940s most of the canal was inundated by the waters of Lake Moultrie. In 1989 the state of South Carolina converted the surviving portion of the canal into Old Santee Canal Park.”

The South Carolina Encyclopedia

Opened in 1989, the Old Santee Canal Park serves to commemorate the area’s past. Although most of the Santee Canal lies beneath Lake Moultrie…at the Moncks Corner park, you can explore the backwaters of Biggin Creek, rent canoes, and immerse yourself in history.

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