Dragonfly in Milanese lace

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Beautiful Ruins

One of the best things about living in South Carolina is the diversity of natural places around us.  I love walking in the woods and there are many great parks, lakes, waterfalls and trails near here.  By far the best is also one of the closest - Landsford Canal State Park is about 10 miles upriver from my house.  Hundreds of people visit this small park on the 3rd Sunday in May to see the endangered Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies and to kayak, fish, picnic, and walk the trails.  I prefer to visit during the fall and winter - on a Sunday afternoon in January I walked the entire trail and saw nobody - just me, the river, the herons and ducks.  You can see the structure of the trees better when the leaves are gone and the river sounds louder. In the summer you can take your shoes off and wade and walk on the rocks, but watch out for snakes and frogs.
The nature trail meanders along the Catawba for 1.25 miles.  There is a viewing platform for looking at the lilies half way down.  Before the platform the trail is gravel and smooth and would be suitable for a stroller or wheelchair.  From the platform to the end it is dirt, leaves, roots and some steps.  You can return the same way or take the canal trail that follows the old canal bed through the woods. I can easily stroll down and back in around an hour and a half.
Landsford is named for a ford over the Catawba and is probably called after settler Thomas Land, who received a land grant in 1755.  During Colonial times, this area was used by Native Americans as a warrior and trading path.  Later, the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road passed through here.  Both Patriot and British soldiers used the ford in the American Revolution.  Landsford Canal was built in 1820 to provide a direct water route between upstate settlements and towns downstream.  The canal was abandoned in 1846 because of better transportation on highways and railroads.
This is the diversion dam that channeled water into the canal and prevented boats from being washed downstream during floods.
You can see the marks on the stonework in the canal bed where the rocks were chiseled or blasted.  This is the guard lock where the boats entered the canal and a mule or horse was tied up to pull the boat through the canal.  Because the canal bed was lined with waterproof clay, the patron, or river boat pilot, was not allowed to push the boat with a long pole along the river bottom.

The viewing platform is a good place to rest.  In May and June there is a spectacular display of thousands of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in the river - also lots of kayaks and tons of tourists.  If you can stand the crowds, the festival is a lot of fun.
The mill, owned by the family of William Richardson Davie, was completed around 1810.  It ground grain and sawed lumber using water power.

The trail is a little rough in spots, especially when the ground is wet.  The rangers keep the trail cleared, as the ruins of this beautiful tree attests.

At the end of the trail, you can see the ruins of the lifting locks, the most important feature of the canal. These locks allowed boats to drop 36 feet without having to go through the shoals in the river.  The design of these locks dates to the 16th century.  
Last September I tripped and fell while looking at the locks and broke my left hand- I am also slowly going to ruins.  The hand is better now and the experience hasn't changed my love for this place.
The park has picnic tables, shelters and grills, bathrooms and a meeting room.  There is a small museum open by appointment only.  You can launch your kayak at the north end and take it out at the south end, where there is another parking lot. Landsford Canal State Park is also part of the Carolina Thread Trails network.  
Landsford Canal Park, 2051 Park Drive, Catawba, SC, 29704

1 comment:

  1. This is what's good in South Carolina: there are many good historical ruins that still stand today so younger generations can appreciate the place's history when they visit. I had a chance to visit Landsfort Canal State Park, and I should say that every part of the place made me remember our history lessons back in middle school about the historical events that happened there.

    Joanne Marie Punzalan