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The Santee River is a river in South Carolinamarker in the United Statesmarker, long. The Santee and its tributaries provide the principal drainage and navigation for the central coastal plain of South Carolina, emptying into the Atlantic Oceanmarker approximately from its farthest headwater on the Catawba River in North Carolinamarker, Much of upper river is impounded as the expansive horn-shaped Lake Marionmarker reservoir, formed by the long Santee Dam, built during the 1930s as a WPA project to provide a major source of hydroelectric power for the state.


Map of the Santee River watershed.
The Santee is formed in central South Carolina southeast of Columbiamarker by the confluence of the Wateree and Congaree rivers. It flows southeast for before entering the northwest corner of Lake Marion, which stretches in a long wide arc to the southeast for approximately to Santee Dam. A navigable diversion canal first built in the 1790s at the southern tip of the lake connects to Lake Moultriemarker, a reservoir on the nearby Cooper Rivermarker. The modern canal is operated by Santee Cooper as part of the larger hydroelectric project on both rivers.

Downstream from the reservoir it flows east, then southeast, forming the northeast boundary of Francis Marion National Forestmarker. Approximately from its mouth it bifurcates into two channels, called the North Santee and South Santee, that flow parallel and separated by approximately , creating Cedar Island. The two channels reach the ocean at Santee Point, approximately south of Georgetownmarker, and not far from the mouth of the Pee Dee River.


Wee Tee Lake, An oxbow of the Santee River valley, SC
The river was named by early settlers after the Santee tribe, which inhabited areas on the middle part of the river. The first European contact was by the Spanishmarker, who sailed up the river in the 1660s. After suffering a defeat during the Yamasee War in 1715–1716, the Santee were relocated, many to the West Indiesmarker as slaves, opening up the river for British settlement as part of the Carolina Colony.

In the late 18th century the upper river was the site of the homestead of Francis Marion, a patriot of the American Revolutionary War. The original site of his homestead is now located under Lake Marion, which is named in his honor.

Construction of the long Santee Canal linking the river to the Cooper was begun in 1793 and finished in 1800. It allowed direct water transportation between the Upcountry of central South Carolina to Charleston, on the mouth of the Cooper. The canal operated for 50 years before becoming obsolete by the introduction of railroads.

During the Great Depression, the state of South Carolina created the Santee Cooper power utility. The main source of electric power for the utility came through the construction of a hydroelectric project inland from Charleston. Starting in 1939, the Santee River was dammed, forming lakes Marion and Moultrie, and diverting the river's flow into the Cooper Rivermarker through a hydroelectric plant at Pinopolis. The project was completed in 1941.

Though the project succeeded in its intent to bring cheap electricity to rural South Carolinamarker, one unintended consequence was the change in character of both the Cooper and Santee Rivers below the project. The Santee River, deprived of most its river flow, became much more saline - resulting in an a changed ecosystem below the project. The Cooper River now received much more freshwater and sediment loads that used to flow into the Santee, resulting in huge increases in dredging costs in Charleston Harbor. In the 1980s, the Army Corps of Engineers built a diversion canal to send some water back into the Santee, partially mitigating this problem.


This is a partial list of crossings of the Santee River

See also

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