History in the low country of South Carolina is as rampant as the kudzu. Columbia, SC, as the capital of the state, is no exception. On this trip to Columbia I explored the Guignard Brick Yard, the forgotten hamlet of Granby and its namesake locks, as well as the Civil War era Congaree Creek Earthworks and the long lost Fort Congaree of the Revolutionary War. For further history this can be combined with Columbia’s wonderfully rebuilt canal walk, which is just upstream of this area.
So take a day out and explore the past in Columbia, SC!
Is it goat friendly: No, but it is dog friendly.
Distance to hike: 6 miles will get you from Granby Landing, around Fort Congaree/Congaree Creek Earthworks and back on the Cayce Riverwalk, plus the mile round trip from Jones Park to Granby/Granby Locks as well as the short walk from parking to the Guignard Brick Works.
How to get there: Park at the Thomas Newman Public Boat Landing (33°56’57.3″N 81°01’45.8″W). Go south on the Cayce Riverwalk to visit the Congaree portion of the trip. Then park at Jones Park (33°57’57.3″N 81°02’21.5″W) to go to Granby/Granby Locks. Finally, drive up to the Guignard Brick Works located at 33°59’18.8″N 81°03’01.7″W.
The Guignard Brick Works began in the 1800s utilizing clay from the banks of the Congaree River to make the bricks out of which Columbia and other towns in the South were built. The current kilns were built in the 1920s and the fourth was rebuilt in 1932 when the original beehive kiln on the site burned down. While the current site has lost its picturesque dirt road and surrounding pine trees and has been sandwiched by unsightly apartment complexes, the kilns and their accompanying brick office are so unique they are worth a visit from the Three River’s Greenway that passes just below them along the river.
The forgotten hamlet of Granby and its namesake locks, which dwindled into nothing in the early 1800’s as the capital Columbia on the opposite shore of the river drew away it’s people and business, lies just north of the Jones Park on the Three Rivers Greenway. Only a stone marker and an interpretive sign remain sitting in the middle of what was once the high street. This side of the river has a history of being less popular than Columbia proper into the modern day. In the late 20th century, despite being in spiting distance of the state house, this area was essentially rural, hosting blue collar neighborhoods, heavy industry (such as steel works and gold mining), nuclear facilities, and the sewage treatment plant. Though obvious signs of gentrification are over running the area, its nice to remember that the good parts of the past remain with us, even if they are only there in spirit.
The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks and Old Fort Congaree are found along the Congaree Creek, a meandering swamp area traversed by the Cayce Riverwalk. The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks have a historical sign, but the eroded remains of the moat and wall surrounding Old Fort Congaree are unplacarded and difficult to distinguish from the later Civil War era workings.
The Old Fort Congaree was on the edge of the Saxe Gotha Township, an area of land grants provided to Swiss immigrants in the 1700s when the area was still under British control. Fort Congaree was an indian trading post that was abandoned after its small garrison left it to join George Washington and fight the Revolutionary War. Afterwards as white settlement encroached upon it, the Native Americans died out from war and disease, and as Indian trading moved further into the interior of South Carolina it was left to be flooded and eventually sedimented into oblivion by the yearly bank overtopping of the adjacent Congaree River. Flooding was once a very common occurrence on the Congaree River before modern flood control methods were introduced. The remains of the fort weren’t rediscovered until 1989, at which point archaeological investigations found the remains of pottery, glassware, tobacco pipes, and construction materials.
The Congaree Creek Civil War Earthworks were built by conscripted black labor including free blacks to defend Columbia from the approach of General Sherman’s Union troops. A battle between Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers occurred at the hastily constructed earthworks on February 15th, 1865. Modern archaeological digging has uncovered fired bullets and shell fragments from the battle and the earth works themselves are still easily visible from the trail.
- Alligators supposedly live along Congaree Creek. Don’t go play in the water. These are relatively recent immigrants – alligators were not in Congaree in my mother’s generation (before the 1990s).
- The Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve Parking area is closed for some reason…just park at the boat landing instead.
- While all sites listed can be reached from a greenway, not all sites can be reached from the same greenway.
- Parking is very limited at the Brickworks.
The banks may change, but the river keeps flowing to the sea, just as it did in the 1700s. Though back then they didn’t have the hideous green frog trashcans…