A broad river, rich history and rare, hardy wildflowers come together at Landsford Canal State Park. Stretched along the Catawba River along the South Carolina fall line, the park is home to the well-preserved remains of the canal system that made the river commercially navigable from 1820 to 1835. Locks, a mill site and the lockkeepers home are among the numerous intact structures from that era. Out in the river is one of the largest known stands of rocky shoals spider lilies, tough plants that hang tight in the swift water and bloom spectacularly in a huge blanket of white in late May and early June. An easy-to-walk trail along the river leads to a viewing deck. This crossable spot on the river (thats what a ford is, of course) also played a role in the Revolutionary War, as both British and American troops under Cornwallis and Sumter crossed here before and after pivotal battles. Fishing, picnicking, nature watching (including the resident pair of bald eagles) and studying the canal structures and the interpretive signage all are favorite activities at this park in the Piedmont.
Great short trail! Learned about some history with signs along the way. The canal trail connects to the Nature trail near where there is supposed to be a good view of the spider lilies, although they weren't in bloom (July). Just up from there, along the nature trail, you can hop off the path (it's obvious where as others have) and see the water. I hopped across a few rocks and sat there to read. Very peaceful. Not a lot of hiking traffic today, which was nice. Glad I found this little gem. I'll be back! :)
It's great to start at the Fort Mill access dam or the Riverwalk Park in Rock Hill and travel down the river. It's about a day trip if the water was recently released off the Wylie dam (check Duke Power release times), but the views are worth it. It's like looking from a different point of view traveling down the river and seeing it from a kayak for 7 hours. The best time to take the trip is late May/early June when the Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies are in full bloom. It's definitely a treat!
It's an easy walk but the view of the river and the ruins make it worth while. There are a lot of fun little side paths too, these will just give you a different view of whatever ruin you have come across. If you are going to kayak and be out with the spider lilies, you're in for a breath taking scene.
It is a great park, but it is NOT located in Catawba, that is only a mailing address. All the ruins are located (and all the trails) in Chester County. The Lock Keepers House was moved from Great Falls, also in CHESTER County. Lancaster County is on the other side of the River, you can see Landsford Canal from there. That said, the Chester part of Landsford Canal has some really nice, easy walking trails and about every time I go I get to see the bald eagles. Come visit Chester County's Landsford Canal.