The Saluda Hydroelectric Project is located on the Saluda River in Richland, Lexington, Saluda, and Newberry Counties of South Carolina, approximately 10 miles west of the city of Columbia , and near the towns of Irmo, Lexington, and Chapin. The 2,420 square mile watershed area, drained by the Saluda River and its tributaries above Saluda Dam, provides water for Lake Murray and the Saluda Hydroelectric Plant.
The lower Saluda River valley was settled in the early 1750s by German, Dutch, and Swiss emigrants. By 1928, about 5,000 people were living in the Saluda River valley. The community included 3 churches, 6 schools, and 193 graveyards. As the demand for electricity in the developing Southern United States increased during the early 1900s, it became apparent that harnessing the flow of large rivers such as the Saluda would be needed.
Around 1916, T.C. Williams was proposing the development of hydroelectric power on the Saluda River. The proposal for a hyrdoelectric project was taken to a New York engineer named William S. Murray around 1923. William S. Murray was an engineer with much experience in electric power systems and generation. Murray and his partner, Henry Flood, Jr., poured over topographic maps of the region and worked on estimates. Murray realized that a dam across the Dreher Shoals area would be one of the greatest for any power development in the world and visited South Carolina to investigate.
The work of clearing the site for the project was started in April 1927. The Saluda Hydroelectric Project was constructed between 1927 and 1930 by the Lexington Water Power Company, which merged in 1943 with South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G). Lake Murray came into existence in July 1930, when the reservoir reached an elevation of 298.5 feet. In 1931 Lake Murray reached an elevation of 348.5 feet, and in 1933 it reached 358.5 feet. At 7:00 a.m. on December 1, 1930, the first electric power - 10,000 kilowatts - was delivered to Duke Power Company. Today, SCANA Corporation (parent company for SCE&G) owns Lake Murray and is responsible for the lake. Lake Murray was named for William S. Murray and The Dreher Shoals Dam is named for the Dreher family that owned land in the immediate area where this dam is built.
When construction was finished on Lake Murray and the Dreher Shoals Dam, Lake Murray was the largest man-made lake in the world for power production purposes and Dreher Shoals Dam was the largest earthern dam in the world. The Dreher Shoals Dam is approximately 1.5 miles long and 213 feet high. Lake Murray is 41 miles long, 14 miles wide at its widest point and has approximately 640 miles of shoreline. The lake covers a surface area of approximately 48,000 acres.
In 2005, a seismic remediation of the Saluda Dam was completed consisting of a new backup dam (also 213 feet high) immediately downstream of and adjacent to the original dam. The backup dam consists of a combination roller compacted concrete (RCC) gravity section and rock fill embankment sections along the downstream toe of the existing dam. This work was first proposed in 1989 and began in 2002. Once the back-up dam was completed, S.C. Highway 6 across the dam was widened to 4 lanes - 2 lanes atop the original dam from Irmo towards Lexington; and 2 new lanes between the original dam and new dam from Lexington towards Irmo. Additionally, a bicycle lane and walking pathway were added to the roadway area atop the original dam. Walk Across the Dam
Today the Dreher Shoals Dam and Lake Murray are important to the Greater Columbia area for continued hydroelectric power generation, water supply for several municipalities and recreation. Lake Murray is also a GREAT PLACE to call home.
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Lake Murray History (SCE&G)
Fox Movietone News - from the Movietone News report as seen in movie theaters across the country in 1930
SCANA Article on 2005 Dam Remediation | Slideshow for Backup Dam Construction | South Carolina's Saluda Dam Named 2006 Outstanding Civil Enginnering Achievement | Virtual Globestrotting View
CLICK on the pictures below for larger image sizes.
View from Irmo Side of Dam
View from Lexington Side of Dam
From Irmo Side of Dam
Dam Creation: Wonderful Recreation Lake!
Bridge Over Spillway Area
View of 5 Towers
Dreher Shoals Dam 1940
From Mel Coker's Postcard Collection
Lake Murray & Dreher Shoals Dam
Photograph Credits: (1)from SCANA Corp.; (2) Popular Mechanics Article Scan (May 1931); (3,4,6,7,8) Mel Coker; (5) Wikimedia Commons public domain
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