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8 Fun Things to Do on the Saluda River

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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From its origins in the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Greenville to downtown Columbia, the Saluda River flows through South Carolina for 200 miles, creating a wide array of recreational opportunities along the way.

From trout fishing to tubing to kayaking, the river offers something for everyone. You can walk trails along its forested banks, go ziplining over the water or rock hopping across shoals. Kayakers and canoeists can paddle through quiet stretches of the river or brave rip-roaring rapids for a thrilling adventure ride.

Here are eight fun things to do on the Saluda River:


1 – Tubing
In the Upstate, Saluda Outdoor Center in Easley will provide you with a tube, life jacket and shuttle for a two-hour float trip. If you want to experience the Lower Saluda—the section below the Dreher Shoals Dam on Lake Murray—you can rent tubes from Saluda Shoals Park or Palmetto Outdoors in Columbia. Both provide shuttle service.

For do-it-yourselfers, Dolly Cooper Park in Powdersville features a tubing loop that allows you to float downstream for a quarter mile, then take out and walk back to the put-in on a paved trail and do it all over again. You’ll need to bring your own floatation device but admission to the park is free.


2 – Kayaking
Whether you prefer a peaceful paddle on a slow-moving stream or the excitement of whitewater, you can do both on the Saluda. Paddlers with their own boats can get information on trip routes and access points for both the Upper and Lower Saluda on 

Don’t have a boat? Rent one from a local outfitter or take a guided kayaking trip. In Piedmont, Saluda River Rambler offers kayak rentals and shuttles for a 6-mile trip. A 9.5-mile trip will be available in the future. Along with tubes, Saluda Shoals Park provides both canoe and kayak rentals and shuttle service for a one-hour paddle. The park also offers guided sunset paddles and private guided canoe and kayak trips. If you have your own transportation, you can rent a kayak or canoe at River Runner Outdoor Center in Columbia and map out your own trip.

One of the most exciting sections of the Saluda runs through Columbia, where the remains of a dynamited coffer dam has created rapids that can range from Class III to Class V, depending on the flow of the river. You can put in at the new Saluda Riverwalk and paddle to any one of the access points downstream. Along the way, you’ll encounter several Class II-plus rapids.


3 – Biking
Prefer to stay on dry land? You can still enjoy the river environment from trails that wind along its banks. In Columbia, the scenic 2.5-mile Saluda Riverwalk runs past a stretch of the tributary that includes the famed Millrace rapids, a favorite play area for whitewater boaters. You can watch them perform pirouettes, stern squirts, flips and other whitewater boating tricks from an observation deck on the trail.

Saluda Shoals Park also offers a 2.5-mile bike-friendly greenway along the riverfront with an observation deck for viewing wildlife.

4 – Hiking
The trails on the Saluda Riverwalk and Saluda Shoals Park also are popular with walkers. But for more of a hiking experience, head to Jones Gap State Park in the Upstate. Located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, the park features an array of trails through a stunning backcountry landscape. Among them is the Jones Gap Trail, which follows the Middle Saluda River as it tumbles through the rugged terrain. The 5.3-mile trail leads to the beautiful Jones Gap Falls.


5 – Fishing
The Middle Saluda in Jones Gap State Park is also a premier destination for wild trout fly fishing. But it’s not the only section of the Saluda where you can catch prized rainbow and brown trout. Because the water released from the Lake Murray dam comes from deep within the reservoir, the Lower Saluda is cold enough to serve as prime habitat for trout.

Warm water species also found in the Saluda include chain pickerel, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, carp, channel catfish and yellow perch.

For your best chance at bringing home dinner, book a fishing trip with a fishing guide service like Frank’s Fly Arts or Saluda Valley Guides.


6 – Rock Hopping
Relive your childhood in Wade Shoals, where the Saluda flows over a section of shoals (thus the town’s name), offering visitors fun times hopping across the river. This natural play area can be accessed from Irvin Pitts Memorial Park at 2283 Power House Rd.


7 – Zipline Over the River
Go romping in the treetops and swinging over the river on the zip line canopy tour at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. On ZOOm the River! you’ll climb through a cargo net, cross a rickety bridge and go flying through the trees on three zip lines. The grand finale is a breathtaking run over the Saluda on a 1,010-foot-long cable.


8 – Camping
Want to spend more than a day on the river? Book a campsite at Saluda River Resort, offering RV and tent campsites overlooking the river in the remote community of Silverstreet. Fish from the riverbanks, rent a canoe or launch your own boat from the resort’s boat ramp. If you don’t want to swim in the river, you can take a dip in the pool, open seasonally.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.