Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the State of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. The 2012 United States Census estimates put the city at 131,686. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County. The city is the center of a metropolitan statistical area of 784,745, the second-largest within the state. The name "Columbia" was a poetic term for the Americas derived from Christopher Columbus. Located 13 miles (21km) northwest of South Carolina's geographic center, Columbia is the primary city of the Midlands region of South Carolina, which comprises several counties in the central portion of the state. The city lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Saluda and the Broad, which merge at Columbia to form the Congaree River, which is popular with paddlers and kayakers in the area. The state's flagship and largest university, the University of South Carolina, is located in Columbia. Historically, the city was the location of the South Carolina Secession Convention, which marked the departure of the first state from the Union in the events leading up to the Civil War. At the time of European encounter, the inhabitants of the area that became Columbia were a people called the Congaree. In May 1540, a Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto traversed what is now Columbia while moving northward. The expedition produced the earliest written historical records of the area, which was part of the regional Cofitachequi chiefdom. From the creation of Columbia by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1786, the site of Columbia was important to the overall development of the state. The Congarees, a frontier fort on the west bank of the Congaree River, was the head of navigation in the Santee River system. A ferry was established by the colonial government in 1754 to connect the fort with the growing settlements on the higher ground on the east bank.
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