Lower Broad River

The Congaree Riverkeeper’s geographical scope includes a 22-mile stretch of the Broad River, from the Parr Shoals Reservoir located in Newberry County down to its confluence with the Lower Saluda River, located within the City of Columbia.

View a panorama of the Broad River.

Geographical Description

The Broad River, from the Parr Shoals Reservoir to its confluence with the Saluda River, traverses through Newberry, Fairfield, and Richland Counties. The Broad River watershed contains the northern area of the Greater Columbia Metropolitan Area, including the Town of Peak and portions of the Towns of Irmo, Chapin, Little Mountain, and Blythewood. It includes the I-26, I-20, and I-77 corridors, along with the U.S. Hwy. 321, U.S. Hwy. 21, and U.S. Hwy. 176. Major tributaries of the Broad include Crims Creek, Wateree Creek, Nipper Creek, Little River, Nicholas Creek, Hollingshed Creek, Cedar Creek, Crane Creek, and Smith Branch. Near its confluence with the Saluda River, some of the waters of the Broad is diverted into the Broad River Canal owned by the City of Columbia and eventually discharged into the Congaree River. The Canal serves as a source of drinking water supply for the City of Columbia.

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Land Use

The Broad River watershed is contained within portions of the Northwest, North Central, Beltway, and Northeast planning areas of Richland County. The Broad River is the dividing line between the County’s Northwest planning area and the North Central planning area. The Northwest planning area includes the west side of the Broad River.  Existing land use within the Northwest is primarily suburban. By the year 2035, suburban growth is expected to increase on the west side of the River outward from the City of Columbia to Hollingshed Creek. Beyond Hollingshed Creek, the land use on the west side of the Broad River is expected to remain rural.  The east side of the Broad River is included within the North Central planning area. On the east side of the Broad, existing land use is entirely rural.  By 2035, suburban growth on the east side of the Broad is expected to extend outward beyond Interstate 20 to roughly Heyward Brockington Road. Beyond Heyward Brockington Road, the east bank of the Broad is expected to remain rural through 2035. As the Broad River approaches the City of Columbia, it enters the County’s Beltway planning area, where existing and future land use is and will be suburban and urban.

Also within the North Central planning area is Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Broad River. The Cedar Creek area is currently rural in nature, with agricultural and residential use predominating. The Cedar Creek watershed is expected to remain rural through 2035.

Crane Creek is located largely within the County’s North Central and Northeast planning areas with a small portion located within the County’s Beltway planning area. The upper portions of Crane Creek watershed are currently rural in nature. As Crane Creek crosses I-20, entering the Beltway planning area, land use is currently suburban. By 2035, most of the Crane Creek watershed is expected to experience increasing suburban growth.  At its discharge into the Broad River, land use is expected to become urbanized.  As the Crane Creek area continues to develop, Richland County projects rapid and substantial increase in the amount of developed land and developed open space (i.e. lawns, turf cover), and a 160% increase in watershed impervious cover.

A Crane Creek Master Plan prepared by Richland County envisions planned green space near the Lincolnshire neighborhood with trail access to Crane Creek and active recreational areas such as tennis courts and ball parks. 

Smith Branch is the most urbanized tributary of the Broad River. Approximately 81% of this watershed is urban, 15% is forest, and 2% is farmland. It rises near Colonial Drive within the City of Columbia, and is piped underground on the Bull Street property owned by the S.C. Department of Mental Health, soon to be acquired by a developer. It crosses Highway 277, and re-emerges on the surface as it runs through Earlewood Park, running roughly parallel to River Drive until it crosses River Drive and empties into the Broad River above the Columbia Canal. 

Industrial Uses

Several mining operations are located within the Lower Broad River Basin. The North Columbia Quarry is located off Monticello Road adjacent to the Broad River, the Dreyfus Quarry off Monticello Road near Nipper Creek adjacent to the Broad River, the Harbison Quarry off Broad River Road,   the Broad River Mine off Brickyard Road near I-20 and the Broad River, the Laborde Mine near the Broad River off Highway 215, and Richardson’s Monticello quarry off Monticello Road near Columbia International University.

Mining Operations in the Lower Broad River Basin

Facility Company DHEC Mining Permit # Mineral
North Columbia Quarry Martin Marietta Materials 009-79 Granite
Harbison Quarry Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. 0101-79 Shale
Richardson's Monticello Fill Richardson Construction Co. 0738-79 Clay
Laborde Mine Boral Brick, Inc. I-000448 Clay
Broad River Mine Hanson Brick Columbia 0538-79 Shale
Dreyfus Quarry Vulcan Construction Materials 0129-79 Granite

Livestock Operations

One turkey farm is located within the Broad River Basin in Richland County.

Water and Sewer Service

Within the Broad River watershed, the City of the Columbia provides water within its corporate limits, as well as unincorporated Richland County. Service to unincorporated areas is generally conditioned upon future annexation, and is provided at the discretion of the City. The remaining areas of the Broad River watershed are served by individual groundwater wells. 


Source:  The Columbia Plan 2018, Community Facilities, available here.

Sewer service is provided by both the City of Columbia and Richland County.

Source: Richland County Comprehensive Plan, p. 101 (2009)

Parks, Protected Areas, and Recreational Access

Harbison State Forest

The Harbison Environmental Education Forest encompasses 2,177 acres on the south side of the Broad River near Columbia. It has 18 miles of trails designed for walking, jogging, hiking and mountain biking that range from moderately easy to difficult.

Broad River Rowing Center

Richland County owns a rowing facility located on the Broad River which is used by the Columbia Rowing Club. Use of the property is restricted to rowing activities of the Columbia Rowing Club, with limited exceptions.

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

The 167-acre Riverfront Park was the site of the original waterworks for the City of Columbia. This was also the site of the world's first electrically operated textile mill and the hydroelectric plant, the oldest one in the state, is still operating. A popular jogging/walking trail runs two and a half miles along the linear park and offers wonderful views of the river.

Palmetto Trail

A trailhead of the Palmetto Trail begins on the banks of the Broad River at Alston in Fairfield County and continues west into Newberry County, through piedmont forest, into the towns of Peak and Pomaria, and over 14 wooden trestles that cross Crims Creek.

Nipper Creek Heritage Trust Preserve

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources owns and manages the Nipper Creek Heritage Trust Preserve, a 90-acre archaeological preserve on Nipper Creek, a tributary of the Broad River.  The site was occupied most heavily during the Archaic period, 8000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site’s value lies in its stratified deposits, which produce information on past human culture including diet, technology, mobility and social organization. It is interpreted by archaeologists as an “aggregation site,” where mobile hunter/gatherer groups met on a yearly basis to reinforce social bonds and share information about travel and hunting. These aggregations normally took place in winter when plant and animal resources were low. The preserve is only open for pre-arranged guided tours.

Public Boat Landings

The Broad River has limited public access for boating. A public boat landing below the Parr Reservoir under Highway 213 provides a launching point for small boats. A canoe landing is located within the Harbison State Forest. The Broad River Rowing Facility allows access for canoes and kayaks to take out from a downstream trip starting at Harbison State Forest.


Fish and Mussels

According to an aquatic inventory by SCDNR, Longnose Gar, Gizzard Shad, Threadfin Shad, Grass Carp, Greenfin Shiner, Whitefin Shiner, Common Carp, Eastern Silvery Minnow, Thicklip Chub, Bluehead Chub, Spottail Shiner, Yellowfin Shiner, Sandbar Shiner, Silver Redhorse, Shorthead Redhorse, Striped Jumprock, Brassy Jumprock, Snail Bullhead, Flat Bullhead, Channel Catfish, Margined Madtom, White Perch, White Bass, Flier, Redbreast Sunfish, Pumpkinseed, Warmouth, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Black Crappie, Tallessellated Darter, Seagreen Darter, Yellow Perch, and Piedmont Darter have been collected from the Broad River above Riverfront Park.

Native mussel populations of E. complanata E. lanceolata group (Eastern Elliptio) and V. delumbis (Eastern Creekshell) are present in the Lower Broad River. As filter-feeders, mussels clean the water of suspended particles and can improve water quality. They are also important food sources for fish, waterfowl, turtles, muskrats, raccoons and river otters. Freshwater mussels are affected by pollution, siltation, and man-made river impoundments and diversions.


The Broad River’s rocky shoals, bottomlands and sometimes-flooded agricultural fields provide a wide array of piedmont and floodplain habitats. Birding information on publicly-accessible portions of the Broad River watershed south of Parr Reservoir is scarce with the exception of Harbison State Forest, whose featured species include: Hooded Merganser, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, Bald Eagle, Broad-winged Hawk, Wilson’s Snipe, American Woodcock, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, Pine Siskin.

Other Wildlife

Alligators, river otter, beaver and muskrat have been seen in the Columbia Canal at the Riverfront Park in Columbia.

Threatened and Endangered Species

There is historical record of the state-threatened Carolina Darter (Etheostoma collis) in Nicholas Creek. There is possibly historic record of the state-threatened pine barrens tree frog (Hyla andersonii) near the upper reaches of Crane Creek between Killian and Pontiac. 

The United States Fish & Wildlife Services has identified the federally endangered Carolina Heelsplitter as potentially existing in small streams and creeks in Richland County. Additionally, the federally endangered Wood Stork is found further downstream along the Congaree River.

The Broad River supports one of the few populations of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies (Hymenocallis coronaria) in North America. While not endangered it is federally listed as a species of concern.

Surface Water Hydrology

Historic streamflow data in the lower Broad River Basin is based on six USGS gaging stations; five of these stations have been discontinued. The only active gage on the Lower Broad River is located just below Parr Reservoir. Average flow at this site is 5,316 cfs with flows ranging from a minimum of 48 cfs in 2002 to peak flow of 140,000 cfs in 1903. The highest recorded flow on the Broad River was 228,000 cfs measured at the discontinued Richtex gage in 1929. Major tributaries include Little River, Cedar Creek, and Crane Creek. Flows in the Lower Broad River and tributary streams are not well-sustained during periods of drought due to limited groundwater contributions.

Stream Flow Gaging Stations and Statistics


Period of Record

Mean Flow (cfs)

Min. Daily Flow (cfs)

Max. Daily Flow (cfs)

Max. Peak Flow

Broad River at Alston (02161000)

1896-1907 1980-2009


48 (2002)

106,000 (1990)

140,000 (1903)

Broad River at Richtex (02161500)



149 (1935, 1937)

211,000 (1920)

228,000 (1929)

Broad River at Blair*


West Fork Little River near Salems Crossroad (02161700)



0 (1982)

1,810 (1991)

5,470 (1991)

Cedar Creek near Blythewood (02162010)



.07 (1986)

2,910 (1994)

4,870 (1968)

Crane Creek at Columbia (02162080)



.1 (1970)

1,500 (1968)


Smith Branch at N. Main (02162093)



.74 (2001)

363 (2009)

2,180 (2004)

Source: U.S. Geological Survey, 2010 & S.C. Water Assessment (2nd ed. DNR 2009)

* Stage only.  Peak stage of 40.0 recorded on Aug. 17, 1928 and Oct. 3, 1930

Real-time streamflow and/or gage height (stage) can be accessed at some stations in the basin from the US. Geological Service web site. The stations are listed below.

Real-time gaging stations in the Lower Broad River Basin

Gage Name and Location Gage Number Stage/Flow
Broad River near Alston 02169500 S/F
Smith Branch at N. Main at Columbia 02162093 S/F
Broad River at Diversion Dam at Columbia 02162100 S
Broad River below Diversion Dam near Columbia 02162103 S
Broad River Diversion Canal at Columbia 02162110 S

Surface Water Quality

The Lower Broad River and its tributaries are classified as “freshwater” by DHEC. This classification means that these waters are suitable for primary (swimming) and secondary recreation (boating, fishing), as well as the survival and propagation of a balanced indigenous aquatic plant and animal community. The classification also means that the water is suitable for industrial and agricultural uses and for drinking water after treatment. Routine monitoring stations in the basin indicate impaired water quality conditions on all monitored streams. Recreational use was impaired at four sites due to high fecal coliform levels (Table 4 ). These include two locations in the lower section of the Broad River near Columbia. Aquatic life use was impaired at eight sites due to poor macroinvertebrate assemblages, high copper (Cu) levels, and low dissolved oxygen (DO). Four sites have had TMDL Plans in place since 2005. A Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL is required by the Clean Water Act when a water body fails to meet water quality standards. A TMDL establishes an allowable loading of a pollutant and allocates that loading by pollutant source, with the goal of restoring the quality of the water body to meet its water quality standards.

There are no fish consumption advisories for the Broad River and tributary streams in this basin.

Impaired Waters in the Lower Broad Basin





TMDL Approved


Broad River at So. RR Trestle, .05 mi Due South of SC 213

Aquatic Life



Broad River at US 176 (Broad River Rd) in Columbia

Aquatic Life



Broad River at US 176 (Broad River Rd) in Columbia


Fecal Coliform



Broad River at Columbia Diversion Canal


Fecal Coliform



Crane Creek at S-40-43 under I-20

Aquatic Life

Low Dissolved Oxygen


Crane Creek at S-40-43 under I-20


Fecal Coliform



Crane Creek at US 321

Aquatic Life

BIO (Poor macroinvertebrate assemblages)


Crims Creek at SC 213

Aquatic Life

BIO (Poor macroinvertebrate assemblages)


Jackson Creek at S-20-54, 5 mi W of Winnsboro

Aquatic Life

BIO (Poor macroinvertebrate assemblages)


Smith Branch at N. Main St. in Columbia

Aquatic Life

BIO (Poor macroinvertebrate assemblages)


Smith Branch at N. Main St. in Columbia


Fecal Coliform



Winnsboro Branch below Plant Outfall

Aquatic Life


Fecal Coliform Problems

The Broad River within the City of Columbia, and its tributaries, Smith Branch and Crane Creek, do not support recreational use due to excessive fecal coliform levels in the water.  In water samples tested by DHEC from 1998 through 2002, 89% of samples taken from Smith Branch, 11% from Crane Creek, and 14% from the Broad River near Highway 176 (River Drive) exceeded the 400 cfu/100 ml water quality standard for fecal coliform.  (SCDHEC, 2005). High fecal coliform concentrations in Smith Branch are likely caused by stormwater runoff, pet excrement, leaking sewer pipes, and failing septic tanks. High fecal coliform concentrations in the Broad River are thought to be caused by land application fields, stormwater runoff, sewer overflows and leakages, failing septic tanks, pets, cattle, and wildlife. High fecal coliform concentrations in Crane Creek are thought to be caused by stormwater runoff, failing sewer systems, leaking sewers and pets.

In 2005, DHEC developed a TMDL for fecal coliform in the Broad River, Crane Creek, and Smith Branch. The TMDL for the Broad River at Columbia  specifies a reduction in the load of fecal coliform bacteria into this section of the Broad River of 62% in order for the river to meet the recreational use standard. The TMDL for Smith Branch specifies a reduction in the load of fecal coliform bacteria into Smith Branch of 99% in order for the creek to meet the recreational use standard. The TMDLs for Crane Creek specify reductions in the load of fecal coliform bacteria into Crane Creek above Elizabeth Lake of 48% and downstream of Lake Elizabeth of 92% in order for the creek to meet the recreational use standard. As of 2010, only Crane Creek at Elizabeth Lake is now fully supportive of recreational use. The remaining sites still do not meet state water quality criteria to fully support recreational uses. 

Cedar Creek also suffers from excessive fecal coliform levels. Between 1991 and 1995, 25% of the samples collected at station B-320 exceeded the 400 colonies/100ml standard. High fecal coliform levels in Cedar Creek are likely caused by runoff from livestock pastures and operations. In 2000, DHEC established a TMDL for Crane Creek with a reduction in livestock bacterial loading of 52%.

For freshwaters of the State, DHEC currently uses fecal coliform bacteria as the pathogen indicator of recreational water quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now encourages states to adopt other pathogen indicators, either E. coli or Enterococcus, which are believed to more accurately predict the occurrences of human gastroenteritis. DHEC is currently studying this issue for possible adoption of E. coli or Enterococcus as its water quality standard for recreational uses.

Copper Problems

Two water quality stations on the Broad River indicate impairment of aquatic life due to concentrations of copper. Copper is an abundant naturally occurring trace element found in the earth’s crust and in surface waters. At low concentrations, copper is a micronutrient essential to virtually all plants and animals. At higher concentrations copper can become toxic to aquatic life. Mining, leather and leather products, fabricated metal products, and electric equipment are a few of the industries with copper-bearing discharges that contribute to manmade discharges of copper into surface waters. Municipal effluents may also contribute additional copper loadings to surface waters. Metals are released to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, wastes, and organic materials. The metals are then deposited on land and in waterways from the atmosphere through rainfall. A common source of excessive copper levels in water is debris generated from automobile brake pads.

Wastewater Discharges

There are a total of nine individual permits for wastewater discharges in the basin. Most are for industrial and municipal discharges. Both the City of Columbia and Richland County own and operate municipal stormwater sewer systems which are regulated by a NPDES stormwater permit issued by DHEC. Under these permits, the City and the County are required to implement measures to prevent and/or reduce pollution from stormwater runoff from entering rivers and streams.

Individual NPDES Permits in the Lower Broad Basin
Permit No. Permittee Type County Receiving Waters Description
SC0039055 Raintree Acres/Midlands Utilities Domestic Richland     Non-Apt. Dwelling
SC001864 SCE&G Parr Hydropower Station Industrial Fairfield     Electric Services
SC0038407 SCE&G Summer Nuclear Training Industrial Fairfield Mayo Creek to Broad River Electric Services
SC0030856 SCE&G VC Summer Nuclear Station Industrial Fairfield     Electric Services
SC0031640 Hanson Brick Industrial Richland Cane Creek to Broad River Brick & Clay Tile
SC0020125 Town of Winnsboro Municipal Fairfield Jackson Creek Sewage
SC0040631 Town of Chapin Municipal Richland    Sewage
SC0046621 Richland County Municipal Richland    Broad River Sewage
Surface Water Withdrawals
Surface water withdrawals in the Lower Broad River Basin are limited mostly to headwater streams. However, significant water withdrawals for electric power production occur just upstream of the basin boundary in Parr Reservoir and Lake Monticello. These uses and planned expanded use will impact water availability in the Lower Broad River.
2009 Surface water withdrawals in the Lower Broad River Basin and Parr Reservoir
Facility Name Owner ID Use Type Stream Name County Total 2009 Use (Mg)
Richland County Rec Comm Linrick GC Pond #16 Golf Course Lower Crane Creek Richland 7.57
Oak Hills Golf Course Pond Golf Course Lower Crane Creek Richland 23.00
Cobblestone Park Golf Club #2 Black Golf Course Beasley Creek Richland 20.44
Cobblestone Park Golf Club #5 Garnet Golf Course Beasley Creek Richland 1.70
SCE&G Fairfield Pump Storage Fairfield Pump Storage Hydroelectric Monticello Reservoir Fairfield 576,029.74
SCE&G Parr Parr Hydro Hydroelectric Broad River Fairfield 710,633.85
SCE&G V C Summer Nuclear Station V.C. Summer Station Nuclear Power Monticello Reservoir Fairfield 252,692.61
Winnsboro, Town Of Sand Creek Water Supply Sand Creek Fairfield 643.43
Winnsboro, Town Of Mill Creek Reservoir Water Supply Mill Creek Fairfield 0.00
SCE&G V C Summer Nuclear Lake Monticello Water Supply Monticello Reservoir Fairfield 6.17

Source: DHEC 2009 Surface Water Withdrawal Data

Other Interested/Related Organizations

  • Crane Creek Watershed Association
  • Richland County Government
  • City of Columbia
  • Town of Blythewood
  • Richland Countywide Stormwater Consortium
  • Friends of Harbison State Forest
  • Columbia Rowing Club