Locals and visitors alike know that the best way to cool off during the Columbia SC summers is out on the water. If you’re unfamiliar with the rivers that flow through downtown or the lakes that offer relief from a warm summer day, don’t worry. We've got everything you need to know before you dive in. 

Follow the Flow

There are 3 rivers that flow through Columbia SC. The Saluda and the Broad come from the Northwest and meet downtown to form the Congaree, which continues down into Conagree National Park


Experienced paddlers can start their journey up at Saluda Shoals Park, which offers kayak and canoe rentals for those who don't travel with their own boats. If you’re looking to enjoy the rivers in a bit more relaxing way, check out Palmetto Outdoors for an easy float with their innertubes and shuttles, which take you from the Saluda River all the way into downtown.


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To understand what we mean when we say city meets nature, grab your preferred mode of water transportation and start your trip down the Broad River at the Riverfront Park Diversion Dam. Navigate your way around low-class rapids, down to the Congaree River past historic spots like the Gervais Street Bridge before hopping out at Barney Jordan Landing, just beyond the famous Williams Brice Stadium


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Starting in downtown Columbia, the Congaree winds its way through Congaree National Park and on into Lake Marion. While South Carolina's only national park is currently closed to the public, you can go ahead and start dreaming of navigating the secluded Cedar Creek Canoe Trail that leads down to the river. For now, you can easily begin your journey just beneath the Gervais Street Bridge at the West Columbia Riverwalk and Amphitheater

Lake Life

Make your way towards Lexington and Irmo and you’ll see exactly why they call Lake Murray the Jewel of South Carolina. Miles of blue water welcome all manner of activities from boating to swimming, dining with a waterfront view and even a floating music festival in the summertime. For a paddle around the calm waters, Lake Murray Public Park in Irmo is open year-round with easy access to the lake. Motorized boats can find their way into these waters at Lake Murray Marina or other public ramps around the lake.


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After a day out on the lake, dock at Liberty on the Lake or Catfish Johnny's where you can enjoy a classic Columbia SC sunset with a cold local brew. Not ready to head home after a great day on the lake? We totally get it. Dreher Island State Park is perfect for those who want to turn their water adventures into an overnight camping trip.


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For more outdoor fun in the real Southern hot spot, check out these resources.