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Landsford Canal
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Landsford Canal State Park - South Carolina

Joe Kegley | E-Mail | Updated 06-14-08


Bridge over Upper Locks, Landsford Canal

Bridge over Upper Locks, Landsford Canal
- Joe Kegley

Landsford Canal State Park is best known for its historic canal that was used to bypass the shoals of the Catawba River in the early 1800's and for the spectacular annual blooming of the rocky shoals spider lilies in late May.

Numerous stonework structures can be found along the canal trail. Some of the best examples of stonework is the lock and stone bridge at the end of the trail. A Lockkeeper's home is located at the main entrance to the park and is used as a museum.

Specific canal remains include: a diversion dam, the guard lock, culvert systems and footbridge abutments, the mill complex, the upper locks, and the lower locks. The various locks and the mill complex contain most of the stonework that remains.

Note that there is no maintained trail to the lower locks, though there is an "unofficial" path that folks have beaten down which leads in the general direction. You will be bushwhacking some to get to the lower locks.

The maintained canal trail is 1.25 miles long and ends at the upper locks. Hiking all the way to the lower lock from the main entrance is 2.25 miles.

Fishing, picnicking, kayaking, and walking the canal trail, are popular activities within the park. The park is very scenic and parallels the Catawba River for a good distance.

Nature Perspective

Rocky Shoals Spider Lily, Landsford Canal

Rocky Shoals Spider Lily, Landsford Canal
- Lisel Shoffner Powell

Landsford Canal State Park has one of the most impressive rocky shoals spider lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) displays left in the Southeast. Supposedly this section of the Catawba river also contains the world's largest population. The spider lilies bloom between mid-May and mid-June, with June 1st probably being the peak.

There is a platform overlooking the Catawba river off of the canal trail specifically constructed and positioned for viewing the lilies. Another popular way to enjoy the lilies is by kayaking down the river, this will put you right among the shoals where this rare plant grows.

Birding Landsford Canal State Park and the surrounding area is a good way to enjoy songbirds, along with the occasional long legged waders, or possibly an Osprey or Bald Eagle sighting. There is a Bald Eagle nest situated in a pine that can be viewed from the nature trail.

I suggest going with a seasoned birder who can identify birds by their song. While I am I decent at identifying birds by their song, I also took a birding friend who is even better at birding by ear. Four ears is better than two. Landsford canal is fairly popular for birding and local organizations do yearly outings to the park.

Common Yellowthroats and Prairie Warblers could be heard and observed from across the road from the main entrance. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were also prevalent in this same area.

Walking the canal trail proved fruitful for locating Wood Thrushes, Red-eyed Vireo's, and Prothonotary Warblers. In addition a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was also heard and observed.

A pair of Summer Tanagers were active around the lawn area near the cabin next to the picnic area. The male was easier observed than the female.

Here's a listing of bird species that were heard or seen on this excursion with birder "Brooksie" ... Brooksie's Landsford Canal Birding List.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager, Landsford Canal
- Joe Kegley

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler, Landsford Canal
- Joe Kegley

Wilderness Experience Perspective

Wooded Graveyard

Wooded Graveyard, on the way to Landsford Canal
- Joe Kegley

There is no wilderness experience to speak of at Landsford Canal State Park. The park is very popular and you will end up sharing it with others. On this particular outing visitors were at the gate waiting for it to be opened. Generally folks waiting early at the gate are there for either fishing or birding.

Photography Perspective

Many species of birds inhabit the Landsford Canal State Park area, though most are extremely hard to photograph. The songbirds keep their distance and rarely perch long enough to position a tripod for a shot. You will need a very long lenses (500mm plus) if your intent is to photograph the songbirds.

If you are not familiar with the bird species in the area, specifically knowing their individual calls and songs, then I strongly suggest going with a person who does. I dare say I would not have gotten any photographs without our knowledge of bird songs and bird calls.

There is an overgrown graveyard about 3/4 of a mile before the main park entrance when traveling south on Landsford Rd. Some of the buried include Civil War and Revolutionary War veterans. One of the earlier graves includes Colonel Robert Patton (1737-1807), a Revolutionary War soldier who fought under General Thomas Sumter. Look for the graveyard across from an open field/horse pasture. While I didn't get any outstanding shots from the graveyard, I think it might have potential in the right light.

Gear/equipment Suggestions

  • Long Telephoto Lens - You can not have enough reach when trying to photograph songbirds so bring a long lens.

  • Medium Telephoto and Macro Lenses - These will be good for the spider lilies.

  • Wide-angle Lens - Wide-angle lenses can be used for photographing spider lily scenics and the canal stonework.

  • Canoe/Kayak - Should you decide to explore the rock shoals of the Catawba River bring a kayak. Also a canoe/kayak would probably be your best means of positioning yourself for photographing the rocky shoals spider lilies during late May.

Location and Points of Interest

Landsford Canal State Park is located approximately 13 miles southeast of Rock Hill SC off of US 21.

Landsford Canal State Park Map (Google interactive map)

left double click to zoom in
right double click to zoom out
click and drag to move
hover over markers to see descriptions

I suggest you 'left double click' to zoom in for more a more detailed view. Note, clicking on the balloon markers does nothing.

Additional Information

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