The Pinopolis Lock at state-owned utility Santee Cooper’s Jefferies Hydroelectric Station in Berkeley county, features massive concrete walls with huge steel gates on either side. The lock is 60 feet wide and 180 feet long and holds 6 million gallons of water. The lock was a key component of the federally funded $70 million Santee Cooper project, constructed from 1939 and 1942 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Program.
The lock allows watercraft and commercial vessels to be raised or lowered 75 feet between Lake Moultrie and the Tailrace Canal. This enables navigation to and from the port of Charleston from Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion. The lock is the only way to navigate between the Tailrace Canal and Lake Moultrie by boat.
The lock can hold boats as large as 150 feet and can fit up to a dozen 16-foot boats at one time. Boaters simply enter into the concrete box and tie up their boats to the floating mooring area. The massive steel gates are closed, water is pumped in and the boaters begin to rise. It takes about 20 minutes to fill the chamber. Once you reach the top, there is an intense view of the canal far below.
The Pinopolis Lock, now at 80 years old, was the highest single-lift lock in the world at the time of construction. Technology has come a long way since then, but as you rise and fall through the Pinopolis Lock, you are reminded of some incredible engineering, making the structure as strong, reliable and essential as ever.