Who We Are & What We Do
Congaree Riverkeeper is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation affiliated with the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect rivers and coasts all over the world. The Waterkeeper Alliance granted our application to become an affiliated Riverkeeper on December 13, 2008. We formed a non-profit corporation on January 22, 2009. The IRS granted our tax-exempt status on October 16, 2009. We are in good standing with the IRS and the South Carolina Secretary of State.
We established a Board of Directors in August 2009. In 2010, the Board began working on a watershed assessment and a five-year strategic plan for the organization, which was finalized in 2011. Our strategic plan establishes our advocacy and organizational goals. The Board periodically reviews this plan and updates as needed.
We work to protect and improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and recreation on the Congaree, Lower Saluda and Lower Broad Rivers through advocacy, education and enforcement of environmental laws.
Congaree Riverkeeper’s advocacy efforts cover three different rivers in the Midlands of South Carolina and their tributaries. Our jurisdiction starts on the Broad River at the Parr Reservoir, and runs downstream approximately 28 miles where the Broad meets the Saluda River in Columbia. Our jurisdiction also includes a 12-mile stretch of the Saluda River from Lake Murray Dam, downstream to its confluence with the Broad River in Columbia to form the Congaree River. Our third river segment includes the entire Congaree River, which flows 50 miles from Columbia to the confluence with the Wateree River, near Lake Marion.
The Congaree, Lower Broad, and Lower Saluda Rivers are a tremendous asset to the Midlands. They provide our source of precious drinking water, a place to play, and a place of beauty that should be protected and preserved for future generations. Each of these three rivers is unique and outstanding, in different ways. The Lower Broad River provides a remote paddling experience over beautiful rocky shoals where travelers routinely spot American Bald Eagle and the showy Rocky Shoals Spiderlily. The river offers the best smallmouth bass fishing in State, a rare treat this far south. The Lower Saluda River, a State Scenic River, ranks among the best ten urban whitewater rivers in the nation and offers excellent rainbow trout fishing. The Congaree River, on the other hand, is a flat winding coastal plain river that flows through South Carolina’s only National Park. It has been designated a “National Recreation Trail” by the US Department of Interior and “Congaree River Blue Trail” by American Rivers. Visitors to Congaree National Park can paddle Cedar Creek, the only Outstanding National Resource Waters in South Carolina, as it winds through the park before emptying into the Congaree River. These unique attributes and significant designations attest to the outstanding recreational opportunities these rivers can provide, and their value to our quality of life.
These rivers are not without threats, however. Over the years, the water quality has degraded. The Lower Broad, Lower Saluda and Congaree Rivers are plagued with problems associated with urbanization and poor planning and management. Portions of these rivers do not support recreational use due to excessive bacteria levels. Aquatic life is not supported in many of the urban or suburban tributaries because of high copper and mercury levels in the water. Within the Congaree Riverkeeper area are approximately 40 NPDES permitted outfalls discharging wastewater. Stormwater runoff, floodplain and waterfront development, and non-point source pollution all pose threats to water quality. These problems must be addressed if we are to maintain the integrity of our rivers for our residents.