About the Catawba-Wateree River Basin

The Catawba-Wateree River Basin extends from the headwaters of the Catawba on the slopes of Grandfather Mountain near Blowing Rock, NC to Lake Marion near Columbia, SC. Information about the Catawba-Wateree River basin, including maps, historical information, water quality information and links to other sources of information is included below.

Lower Catawba-Wateree River Basin Map
Map of the lower Catawba-Wateree River basin showing access points for canoes and kayaks, locations or major discharges, locations of pollution events and other places of interest.
Upper Catawba River Basin Map
Map of the upper and middle portions of the Catawba River basin showing access points for canoes and kayaks, locations of major dischargers, locations of pollutions events and other places of interest.
Linville Gorge
Aerial photo of Linville Gorge by J. Wes. Bobbitt. Flight provided by Southwings.
About the Catawba-Wateree River
The Catawba River and the Wateree River are essentially one river that begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and flows through the Charlotte metropolitan area into Lake Wateree in South Carolina. The name of the river changes to the Wateree River in Lake Wateree and eventually joins with the Congaree River in Lake Marion.
Lowes Headquarters on Lake Norman
medium size, 660 x 1083 aerial photo of Lowes Headquarters on Lake Norman. photo credit, Wes Bobbit at bottom
There are eleven major lakes in the basin and the dams that form these lakes have a major impact on the flow of the river.
Catawba subbasins in North Carolina
Map of NC section of the Catawba showing sub-basins.
Line Map of the Catawba in NC
large, 1300 x 1124 pixel image of Catawba River and its lakes in NC
Catawba-Wateree Basin Map from USGS
medium size, 637 x 877 gif map of Catawba/Wateree rivers basin with labeled counties and NC & SC area locator graphic
Maps of the Catawba-Wateree Basin
Links to maps of the Catawba and Wateree Rivers are listed below (under the map of the basin):
Catawba River Lakes and Dams
small, 537 x 534 pixel map of Catawba River, dams and tributaries in NC & SC
Upper Catawba River Trail Brochure - Front
Brochure showing locations of canoe and kayak trail on the Upper Section of the Catawba River from Lake James to Lookout Shoals Lake.
Access on the South Fork of the Catawba
Description of the put-in and take out points on the South Fork of the Catawba near Spencer Mountain.
Native-American Settlement
small B&W drawing of Native-American settlement along the Catawba.
1800s Harvest in Catawba Valley Burke County
medium size B&W historical photo of 1800s Harvest in Catawba Valley, Burke County, NC
1860s - General Shermans 14th corps crossing the Catawba near "Rocky Hill" SC
small, 440 x 329 B&W image (line drawing) of 1860s - General Shermans 14th corps crossing the Catawba near "Rocky Hill" South Carolina.
1916-07 Catawba Flood near Ft Mill SC So Rwy Bridge
medium size, 700 x 449 pixel historical B&W photo of 1916-07 Catawba Flood damage near Ft Mill, SC So Rwy Bridge. Duplicate on server. #2
1916-07 Catawba Flood near Ft Mill SC So Rwy Bridge
medium size, 700 x 449 pixel historical B&W photo of 1916-07 Catawba Flood damage near Ft Mill, SC So Rwy Bridge. Duplicates on server. #1
Early History of the Catawba-Wateree River
The basin has a long and colorful history that includes an advanced native-American civilization, America's first declaration of independence, America's first gold rush, an early canal system, the harnessing the of the river for cotton mills, the harnessing of the river to generate electricity and many other events.
History of Nations Ford
The Nation Ford and Nation Ford Road have witnessed an extraordinary span of human history. From the days of pre-history when Catawbas and other Native Americans traveled the trail and fished the river to the coming of European traders and settlers; from ancient battles between Indian tribes to the struggles of the American Revolution and Civil War; from the passage of common men to the flight of a President and his crumbling Cabinet; from the flames of armed conflict to the destruction of raging floods; from travel on foot and horseback to the coming of the railroad; from the early grist mill to the textile age. Through all these events, the Nation Ford Road had helped to shape our modern world.
Landsford Canal Chanel and Bridge
392 x 500 pixel B&W photo of Landsford Canal Chanel and Bridge
Post-Civil War History of the Basin
After the Civil War, the Catawba Basin was transformed from a rural backwater to a major textile manufacturing center, transportation hub, and financial center.
Lake Wylie Dam after 1916 Flood
medium size 600 x 319 pixel B&W historical photo of Lake Wylie Dam after 1916 Flood. Larger version elsewhere on server.
Water icon
Water icon
Coal fired powerplant icon
Coal fired powerplant icon
Nuclear icon
Nuclear icon
Red pushpin icon
Red pushpin icon
Maps of the Basin
Links to maps containing information about the Catawba-Wateree River basin.
Water Facts
Information about water quality and water quantity issues in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin
2007 Brochure about the Catawba Basin
Brochure prepared by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources with information about the Catawba basin.
Water Quantity and Water Quality Information
Information about hydrological issues, including water quality and water quantity, in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin.
Catawba History
Information about the history of the Catawba River basin.
Hiking & Camping
Information about hiking and camping in the Catawba Basin.
The Land of the Sky and Beyond (1895 ?) by Frank Presbrey 1
The Land of the Sky and Beyond (1895 ?) by Frank Presbrey 1
The Land of the Sky and Beyond (1895 ?) by Frank Presbrey 2
The Land of the Sky and Beyond (1895 ?) by Frank Presbrey
The Land of the Sky and Beyond
Excerpt from The Land of the Sky and Beyond (1895 ?) by Frank Presbrey, which describes the train ride from Old Fort to Asheville, through the headwaters of the Catawba.
Landsford Canal - Where Rocks and History Intertwine
Information about the history and geology of Landsford Canal.
Ft Dobbs
Ft. Dobbs
Great Falls of the Catawba
Great Falls of the Catawba
Battle of Cowans Ford
Battle of Cowans Ford February 1, 1781.
The Great Wagon Road in NC
The Great Wagon Road in NC showing fords over the Catawba River
The Great Wagon Road in NC
Map showing the route of the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia and the various fords across the Catawba River.
Paddling the Catawba-Wateree River
Information about paddling trips on the Catawba-Wateree River.
Upper Catawba River Basin
Information about the upper Catawba River basin, including the Linville River, Johns River, Wilson Creek, Little River, upper South Fork River, Henry Fork and other tributaries of the Catawba River above Lake Norman.
2010 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report
The State of the Environment Report was established in 1987 with the purpose of describing Mecklenburg County’s current environmental status for the public and the Board of County Commissioners; to give the County objective measures to evaluate progress toward a clean, healthy environment; to highlight the major issues facing the County; and recommend direction concerning those issues. Appreciation to the 2010 Mecklenburg County Chapter Editors: Megan Green – Air Quality Chapter Sharon Foote – Groundwater and Surface Water Chapters Michael Kirschman – Land Chapter Laurette Hall – Solid Waste Chapter
Original Riverkeeper
Robert Davidson of Holly Bend (near Mountain Island Lake) may be the original Catawba Riverkeeper. In 1797 Robin Davidson was appointed as “Overseer and Commissioner” for that part of the Catawba River from Dutchman’s Creek to Tools Ford.
Map of Pollution Events in the Region
SkyTruth interactive map showing location of reported pollution incidents in the region.
Ten Great Places to Visit in the Catawba Basin
As we rush around in our daily lives, criss-crossing the basin, it is easy to overlook the beauty that is under our noses. Use your summer vacation to explore places in the Catawba basin that you've always wanted to visit but have never taken the time to visit.
Excavation of Fort San Juan near Morganton
Fort San Juan at Juora near Morganton (1567-1568)
Hiking in the Catawba Basin
Information about trails and places to hike in the Catawba Basin.
About the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Infographic
About the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Infographic
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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559