The Santee-Cooper Locks in Pinopolis, SC are an engineering marvel. They were constructed during the building of the Santee-Cooper Project which began in 1939 and were completed in November of 1941, one month before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Locks were built to handle elevation changes on a river for transportation of vessels. Lake Moultrie water level at full stage is 75.5′ above sea level, but is only about 30 miles upstream from the ocean. Originally they had planned to build a number of locks encompassing 7 1/2 separate locks each with a 10′ drop to arrive at sea level. Instead, they decided to do it all at one time with this incredible engineering masterpiece, which was at that time, the world’s tallest single-lift lock.
Our 30 passenger boat The Osprey departs up the Cooper River along historical venues where we frequently see bald eagles, alligators and a variety of egrets, herons and other wetland wading birds. A historic Rice Plantation bordered the area, and as we journey “up the canal” our Captains narrate an interesting history of the region.
Upon arrival, our boat cruises into the locks chamber that is 180′ long by 60′ wide. We then tie off on the side of the inside of the lock to a float called a camel, and the operator then closes the gates behind us. We experience an elevation of 75’ to get up to the lake, take a brief shoreline cruise and then upon return, drop 8 stories or 75′ as they drain 6 million gallons of water out of Lake Moultrie into the Tail Race Canal. It takes less than 20 minutes and is an incredible sensation.
The Historical Tail Race Canal is the last part of the entire Santee-Cooper Project system before reaching Cooper River. It eventually continues down to Charleston and the Atlantic Ocean. The Canal itself is a 4-mile-long connector to the Cooper River and was dug during the original construction project.
We conduct trips through The Locks during the month of October each year, beginning at Gilligan’s Restaurant in Moncks Corner. The trip takes 2 to 2.5 hours on average and occasionally 3 hours, depending on the locks operator. Occasionally the winds are too strong to open the gates into the lake, however you will still get the experience of going up and down the lock system and the wildlife and history of the Tail Race Canal along the way. This is truly something you don’t want to miss and is a one-of-a-kind experience!
Driving Directions: We use the dock right beside Gilligan’s Restaurant in Moncks Corner:
582 Dock Rd
Moncks Corner, SC 29461
From Charleston: Take I-26W toward Columbia. Take exit 203 for College Park Rd. Turn right onto College Park (signs for Goose Creek). Take a right onto US 17 Alt. N. Stay on Alt. 17 N for approx. 14.5 miles. Turn right onto Dock Rd. (just past the Food Lion). Gilligan’s restaurant will be down Dock Rd and there is parking near the dock.
Join us for our popular Locks Tour. Our trips in October run Wednesday – Sundays 10 am and 2 pm (Mondays and Tuesdays available with a group of 20 or more).
Tours will last 2 – 2 1/2 hours.
Tours need a minimum of 20 people to operate, so call us to see if anyone else is signed up if you have less than this! Reservations are required.
$37 – ages 13 yrs and up
$35 – ages 65 and up
$30 – ages 12 yrs and under
FREE – Children 2 yrs and under
Call (803) 974-1262 or Book Online.
Group tours and rates are available for parties of 20 or more.