The Land Before the Lake
Historic Dreher Shoals Site
The Saluda Dam covers a significant water power site called Dreher Shoals. It marks the location of water power development dating back to the early 1800s. Still standing beneath Lake Murray are chiseled stone walls of a residence known as the Rock House. Many believe it was home for the caretaker of the old canal locks built around Dreher Shoals. Here, early riverboat traffic was diverted around the 20-foot fall of rapids.

Now covered by Lake Murray, the Rock House was in the vicinity of the dam site. It is believed to have been home for the canal locks' keeper and built in early 1800.

During excavations made for the present Saluda Dam, workers discovered the course of the canal with its locks of hand-hewn granite masonry. They also unearthed several water wheels of early design. The wheels had wooden shafts and roughly forged impellers, obviously the product of a local forge. Engineers believed they were the work of pioneer John Dreher whose water power-driven grist mill was crafted on the site a century before.

As work began on the dam site, workers unearthed remnants of John Dreher's grist mill. Note the array of equipment, from mule-powered drag pans to steam-powered trains and packers.

The Saluda River seems to have inspired dreams of water power development for a number of years. The Engineering Corps of General Robert E. Lee's army advanced a proposal during the Civil War for the construction of a large water power development on the Saluda River.

Early Plans for Dreher Shoals and Bear Creek Sites
By 1912, there was need for additional electric power in Columbia, primarily to meet the growing electric demand from mills. Consideration was given to the construction of a dam at Dreher Shoals, but this was abandoned in favor of the construction (1912-1914) of Parr Shoals Hydro on the Broad River.

The abandonment of the development on the Saluda River was only temporary. Lexington Water Power Company (which merged with South Carolina Electric & Gas Company in 1943) owned flowage rights for 24 miles along the Saluda River. Engineering studies were made with two dams in mind--one at Dreher Shoals and one at Bear Creek, about 10 miles upstream. Due to the inadequacy of the market and resulting cost of generating electricity, neither project was undertaken.


Mutual congratulations were extended on the official opening day of Parr Hydro Plant. Left to right, Henry L. Parr, original owner of the site; Edwin W. Robertson, president Parr Shoals Power Company; J.T. McLellan, construction superintendent.

Rights to Dreher Shoals passed to General Gas & Electric Corporation, parent company of Broad River Power Company in 1925. The next year, control of the Bear Creek site was purchased by the New York engineering firm of Murray and Flood.
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