Kayak, canoe or tube down the cool waters of our rivers with the Columbia skyline as your backdrop. You’ll pass beneath shady trees and historic bridges as you go with the natural flow of the water. You may even spot a bald eagle along the way! The rivers attract all sorts of wildlife and wonderments that the whole world should want to see. Let's talk about the Saluda/Congaree River Wildlife awaiting you.
The Lower Saluda River supports an important sport fishery for both coldwater and warmwater species. The coldwater fishery is possible because of the cooler than normal water released from Lake Murray, and is maintained by annual trout stockings by DNR of approximately 30,000 trout, with about 75% brown trout and 25% rainbow trout. This makes for ridiculously great fishing and attracts many sports fishermen to our lovely city of Columbia.
Typical length at stocking is from 7 to 10 inches, but rainbow trout of 4 to 8 pounds have been caught, indicating some carryover of fish from year to year in spite of low levels of dissolved oxygen in the fall months. Warmwater species occurring in the lower Saluda River include chain pickerel, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, carp, channel catfish, spotted sucker, yellow perch, sandbar shiner, and gizzard shad.
Striped bass are present in the Lower Saluda during their spawning season. Striped bass from the Santee Cooper lakes migrate upstream to the Congaree, Wateree, Lower Broad, and Lower Saluda rivers to spawn in the spring, and also use the cooler Lower Saluda River as a thermal refuge during the summer months. American Eel also exist in the Lower Saluda.
In 2006, SCE&G sponsored a comprehensive mussel survey of Lake Murray and its tributaries, the Lower Saluda River, the Broad River, and the Congaree River. Sixteen freshwater mussel species were collected and identified within the areas surveyed, including: common elliptio, variable spike, Carolina lance, northern lance, Atlantic spike, Roanoke slabshell, Carolina slabshell, Florida pondhorn, paper pondshell, eastern floater, creeper, eastern creekshell, yellow lampmussel, rayed pink fatmucket, and lilliput species (Toxolasma parvus). Distribution of mussel species varies according to habitat, with species tolerant of lacustrine habitat occurring within Lake Murray, and lotic species more common in riverine habitat.
Within the Riverbanks Zoo area, bird habitat can be heavily fragmented and degraded, but the extensive trail system affords the opportunity to see interesting species. The rocky shoals, the steep hardwood bluffs of Riverbanks Zoo, and the area upstream of the diversion weir provide habitats that attract interesting and unique bird species. Spring and fall warbler migrations are inconsistent from year to year, but can be impressive.
Some of these migrants include: Canada Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Horned Grebe, Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Osprey, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Forster’s Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Brown Creeper, House Wren, Philadelphia Vireo, Magnolia Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Field Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Orchard Oriole.
Saluda Shoals Park’s extensive riverside and powerline easement trail system affords the opportunity to see many of the same bird species as seen in Columbia’s downtown parks, along with many field species. The park is often one of the best places near Columbia to see spring and fall migrants, so a near-comprehensive list of migrating warblers has been included here. Some piedmont species are highlighted as well.
Sightings include: Hooded Merganser, Green Heron, Mississippi Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, American Kestrel, Spotted Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Swainson’s Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Canada Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Scarlet Tanager, Swamp Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, and Painted Bunting.
Six species of federal concern are found within the Lake Murray area - Carolina Slabshell, Roanoke Slabshell, Carolina Lance, Savannah lilliput, Yellow Lampmussel, and Rayed-Pink Fatmucket.
The endangered shortnose sturgeon is believed to exist in the Lower Saluda River for short time periods during spawning season. The endangered Carolina Heelsplitter is believed to exist in the Lower Saluda River watershed.
As for other wildlife, the American Bald Eagle, endangered but recovering, is also known to exist within the Congaree River watershed, along with the endangered Arctic Peregrine Falcon, Brown Pelican, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Wood Stork, and Red Wolf.
So there you have it! Living in or visiting our wonderful city of Columbia will open a whole array of the Saluda/Congaree River Wildlife.