South Carolina’s Congaree Creek, popular with paddlers, flows free again after dam removal
Congaree Creek in Cayce, SC is a small blackwater creek that flows into the Congaree River. The creek is popular with paddlers, who describe it as “tight and twisty, and challenging due to swift currents and
downed trees.” Until recently, there was another challenge blocking the creek’s waterflow—a 15-foot
high and 40-foot long relic dam that created a dangerous hydraulic current at the start of a canoe trail.
But that dam is no longer– thanks to the work of American Rivers, Congaree Riverkeeper, the South
Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the City of Cayce, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who worked together to remove the dam from Congaree Creek.
With the dam removed, ten miles of mainstem Congaree Creek are reconnected, says American Rivers.
The creek, which flows through Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve, now better supports paddlers and
animals such as alligators, many species of birds, and aquatic life that call the creek home, like herring, shiners, and darters—all species that need to access different parts of the stream to survive.
American Rivers says that many dams like the one that recently spanned Congaree Creek have outlived their useful life, and that the most economical way to deal with a damaged or ineffective dam is often to remove it. At least 82 dams were removed in 2018, restoring more than 1,230 miles of streams. Across the U.S., over 1,600 miles of dams have been removed.