The Saluda River originates from three primary headwater areas, including land drained by the South Saluda River near Table Rock Reservoir (and including the Oolenoy River near Pumpkintown); the Middle Saluda River near Jones Gap and Cleveland; and the North Saluda River near the Poinsett Reservoir (also known as the North Saluda Reservoir). The watersheds of the two upper reservoirs are undeveloped and effectively protected through a conservation agreement. As such, they provide some of the highest quality drinking water in the country to the rapidly growing greater Greenville area. Protection of other headwater areas is secured through ownership by the state, conservation organizations, and through conservation easements.

Further downstream, the Middle Saluda joins the South Saluda near Slater-Marietta and flows south to meet the North Saluda near Dacusville. Below the North-South confluence, the Saluda River flows southeast to Saluda Lake, which is the source of water for the Easley area. The dam at Saluda Lake generates hydropower and is the first in a series of dams on the main stem of the Saluda River.

From Saluda Lake, the Saluda River flows south past Powdersville over the Piedmont (hydropower) dam, the Upper and Lower Pelzer (hydropower) dams, the Lee Steam Diversion Weir (near Williamston), the Holiday (hydropower) dam east of Belton, and finally to the Ware Shoals (hydropower) dam, before joining with the Reedy River and Rabon Creek at Lake Greenwood. The Saluda River supplies drinking water to Belton and Honea Path; Lake Rabon and Lake Greenwood are also drinking water sources. In addition to drinking water and hydropower, the rivers and streams of the Upper Saluda Watershed support local business and industry, offer a number of recreational opportunities, and support a rich diversity of aquatic and other wildlife.

The Upper Saluda River Watershed encompasses parts of Greenville, Pickens, Anderson, Laurens, Abbeville, and Greenwood Counties and the municipal areas of Marietta, Travelers Rest, Greenville, Powdersville, Piedmont, Mauldin, Simpsonville, Fountain Inn, Williamston, Belton, Honea Path, and Ware Shoals, and other smaller communities.

The Upper Saluda Watershed Map is an online interactive map that allows users to vitually "see" the watershed, turn on various data layers, navigate, and zoom in to areas of interest.