From early settlement of South Carolina, the short Ashley and Cooper Rivers provided access to low country plantations, homes to many of South Carolina’s leading families. In 1786, the South Carolina General Assembly charted a company to construct and maintain the inland canal linking the Cooper River near Charleston with the Santee River which connects to the Congaree River and the City of Columbia.
Construction started in 1793 under the direction of Engineer Col. John Christian Senf and William Moultrie, hero of the American Revolution. It was intended to provide a navigable water route from Charleston to the new state capital, Columbia. It was 22 miles long, had two double locks and eight single locks. Its width was 35 feet at the water’s surface and 20 feet at the bottom. Its depth was four feet. It opened in 1800.
Due to low traffic, poor construction, and droughts, the canal was not a financial success. The construction of railroads sealed its fate. The canal lost its state charter in 1853 and was not used after 1865. Much of it was flooded by the construction of Lake Moultrie and railroads eventually replaced the canal. But, the dream of a waterway connecting the ocean and the mountains persisted along with the creation of hydroelectric power.
Continued Next Week