The Congaree National Park was established '... to preserve and protect for the education, inspiration, and enjoyment of present and future generations an outstanding example of a near-virgin, southern hardwood forest situated in the Congaree River flood plain in Richland County, South Carolina' (Public Law 94-545). The resource managers at Congaree National Park are concerned about the timing, frequency, magnitude, and duration of flood-plain inundation of the Congaree River. The dynamics of the Congaree River directly affect ground-water levels in the flood plain, and the delivery of sediments and nutrients is constrained by the duration, extent, and frequency of flooding from the Congaree River. The Congaree River is the southern boundary of the Congaree National Park and is formed by the convergence of the Saluda and Broad Rivers 24 river miles upstream from the park. The streamflow of the Saluda River has been regulated since 1929 by the operation of the Saluda Dam at Lake Murray. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service, Congaree National Park, studied the interaction between surface water in the Congaree River and ground water in the flood plain to determine the effect Saluda Dam operations have on water levels in the Congaree National Park flood plain.
Analysis of peak flows showed the reduction in peak flows after the construction of Lake Murray was more a result of climate variability and the absence of large floods after 1930 than the operation of the Lake Murray dam. Dam operations reduced the recurrence interval of the 2-year to 100-year peak flows by 6.1 to 17.6 percent, respectively. Analysis of the daily gage height of the Congaree River showed that the dam has had the effect of lowering high gage heights (95th percentile) in the first half of the year (December to May) and raising low gage heights (5th percentile) in the second half of the year (June to November). The dam has also had the effect of increasing the 1-, 3-, 7-, 30-, and 90-day minimum gage heights by as much as 23.9 percent and decreasing the 1-, 3-, 7-, 30-, and 90-day maximum gage heights by as much as 7.2 percent. Analysis of the ground-water elevations in the Congaree National Park flood plain shows similar results as the gage-height analysis--the dam has had the effect of lowering high ground-water elevations and increasing low ground-water elevations. Overall, the operation of the dam has had a greater effect on the gage heights within the river banks than gage heights in the flood plain. This result may have a greater effect on the subsurface water levels of the surficial flood-plain aquifer than the frequency and magnitude of inundation of the flood plain.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
The Effects of the Saluda Dam on the Surface-Water and Ground-Water Hydrology of the Congaree National Park Flood Plain, South Carolina