PRESS RELEASE: South Carolina’s Catawba River Bypass Project Complete, Open to Public

Long Bypass Reach opens to boaters for the first time in over 100 years.

GREAT FALLS, S.C. (March 16, 2023) – Water is flowing down the Long Bypass Reach of the Catawba River in Chester County, S.C. for the first time since 1907, bringing life and voice back to the rolling granite waves that are the historic “Great Falls” of South Carolina. Officials celebrated the completion of the multi-million-dollar Great Falls-Dearborn Diversion Bypass project that has returned water to the Catawba’s 2.25-mile Long Reach for new recreational opportunities and to restore aquatic life and lowland habitat. The area will be open to public for paddling March 18.

The innovative two-channel design enables a minimum flow of water through the diversion dam while also providing safe boater bypass during high-flow recreational releases. Paddlers will now be able to traverse past the Diversion Dam with a similar difficulty grade as the beautiful corridor of Class II-III whitewater below.

“For anyone that cares about the environment and enjoys playing in rivers, this is a significant milestone,” said Scott Shipley, president of S2O Design and Engineering, the firm that led design and construction of the project. “Paddlers are going to come from all over the region to experience the rapids and surf waves of the Catawba’s Long Reach.”

The long bypass reach will receive six 2,940-cfs recreational releases on two Saturdays and four Sundays per month from March 1 to October 31. There will also be a continuous 850-cfs boatable base-flow from February 15 to May 15, and 450cfs the rest of the year.


The project’s 400-foot Main Channel directs most of the flow down 12 feet of drop from the reservoir to the bottom pool. It incorporates three innovative multi-stage drop structures optimized for safe passage and easy surfing at base flows, creating larger, more powerful whitewater features at release flows.

The 1,075-foot Recreation Bypass Channel (known locally as “the paperclip”) is a narrow, winding channel that features nine drop structures that control the rate and intensity of flows through the channel, a recovery pool, an island with gradually sloped sides, and portage trails for boaters to exit the channel if needed. The access channel’s design also incorporates special formations to prevent fish from being trapped at lower flows.

This project was spawned from Duke Energy’s FERC requirements when relicensing the Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project and is part of the utility’s ongoing efforts to further open local lakes and rivers to recreational use.

“This was an innovative approach to a complex challenge, and our team, including Duke Energy and the engineering firm, has done an outstanding job of navigating the numerous engineering, construction, environmental, and regulatory variables,” said Scott Shipley.

Shipley also stressed that while the features in both channels provide opportunities for playing and surfing, this is considered a flow release project and not a traditional whitewater park.

S2O Design commends American Whitewater, which represented paddling interests across the basin during the FERC relicensing process and was responsible for spearheading the effort to open up this reach of the Catawba River to boating.

About S2O Design & Engineering
S2O Design is an engineering firm specializing in innovative river engineering, restoration, and community-focused whitewater park design. Our team of expert boater-engineers has planned, conceived, designed, and created some of the best in-stream whitewater parks as well as largest and most dynamic recirculating whitewater parks in the world. S2O Design is led by engineer, Olympian, and three-time World Cup Kayak Champion and Freestyle Kayak Champion Scott Shipley. For more information, visit