Nature and history walk hand-in-hand at Landsford Canal State Park, along the Catawba River southeast of Rock Hill.
Along with beautiful views of the river, you’ll see remnants of an early 1800s aid to transportation while walking the Canal Trail, 3 miles roundtrip. The 448-acre park contains the best-preserved canal in the state. The waterway, a vital link in South Carolina’s internal improvements program of the 1820s, allowed shallow-bottom boats laden with goods to circumvent the rocky shoals that made navigation along this portion of the Catawba all but impossible.
Near the start of trail you’ll see the diversion dam, made of piles of loose stone, which redirected both water and boats from the river into the canal. Nearby is the guard lock, used to limit the amount of water entering the canal when the water level of the river was high, thus protecting the canal from damage. Here, a horse or mule was tied to the boat to pull it through the canal.
At several places along the trail, remnants of other stone structures can be seen. Last to be encountered are the lifting locks, the most important feature of the canal. Along the 2-mile length of the canal, the Catawba River drops 36 feet. The canal’s locks compensated for this rapid change in elevation by providing the means to safely raise and lower the boats.
This easy, mostly-level trail is especially rewarding in May and June, when you will definitely want to walk the nature trail spur that hugs the Catawba River. The spider lily overlook is a can’t-miss opportunity to enjoy the splendid floral display created by the delicate white blooms of the Rocky Shoal spider lilies.
These plants require clean, free-flowing water with an uneven, rocky bottom, and this small stretch of the Catawba includes the largest known stand along the entire waterway. The flowers are at their peak in late spring.
Other park activities include canoeing or kayaking the paddle trail and fishing along the banks of the river. A S.C. fishing license is required; expect to hook catfish, carp and bass. A spacious and shady picnic area and playground are near the parking lot. The park has a small museum and an interpretive center; both are open by appointment only.
Park hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Admission: $2; 15 and younger, free.
Along the way...
Andrew Jackson State Park, off U.S. 521 in South Carolina, is a recreation area honoring the nation’s seventh president. The site includes a picnic area with shelters, campground, boat dock, fishing pier and two nature trails. Attractions honoring the two-term president include a small museum with displays about Jackson’s military and political career. Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. through October. The museum is open 1-5 p.m. weekends. Admission: $2; 15 and younger, free. Details: www.southcarolinaparks.com.
If you’re hungry/thirsty...
Take a seat at Rock Hill’s Five & Dine. It occupies a former department store where, in 1960, black students from Friendship Junior College staged a lunch counter sit-in. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Five & Dine (www.eatatfiveanddine.com) adds imaginative touches to traditional favorites.