Murray’s Locks

Locks of Love above the Lake Murray dam.

Ready for a long trip to Paris, France? How does 4,208 miles across the Atlantic sound? Much too far? No passport? Well no need to fret. You don’t have to fly to Paris. Just drive 40 miles southwest to the Lake Murray Dam and you’ll see a touch of Paris and more. The Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris is where thousands of couples lock padlocks to a fence-like rail. They inscribe their names and messages onto the locks and throw the keys into the River Seine to eternalize their enduring love. There for all to see is an unbreakable bond.

You can see symbols of enduring love in the Midlands too. Paris’s “love locks” have crossed the Atlantic to festoon the fence at Lake Murray Dam. What captures your emotions are the many locks and the sentiment and emotional messages they send. I drove over to the dam on a sultry September afternoon. Billowing thunderheads shot into the sky, their images reflected onto Lake Murray. As I drove over the dam to the Lexington County side I saw all types of locks glittering in late summer sunlight.

The locks celebrate romance, the birth of babies, and sadly they offer up sentiment for the dearly departed. One lock gave the birth and death dates of one soul along with the words, “God Only Knows.” One lock secured a giant red heart to the fence. Two locks had sparkling glitter glued to them. The fence amounts to an art gallery in a way. People express love in creative ways. If you go, see if you can find the antique lock covered in rust. It’s a lock from yesteryear that requires a key like great grandparents used.

When you’ve taken in all the locks and their messages, be sure to walk the dam. Across the dam and back is 3.4 miles, a decent walk but walking it in the heat of the day can be taxing. Why not plan a fall walk when the humidity is low. If you do, you can see the skyline of Columbia down river. On the dam’s lake side, you’ll see a huge expanse of deep water flecked white with sails and power boats’ feathery wakes.

You’ll be walking over a historic spot too. The Lake Murray Dam, officially known as Dreher Shoals Dam, possesses a rich history. General Robert E. Lee’s Engineering Corps first envisioned a waterpower facility where the dam stands. The dam was built from 1927 to 1930 and at the time it was the world’s largest earthen dam. The Midland’s signature lake takes its name from William S. Murray, an engineer involved in the dam’s design and creation. When you walk the dam, you tread across an engineering miracle. The Dreher Shoals Dam runs approximately 1.5 miles long and stands 213 feet high. It holds back an impoundment 41 miles long and 14 miles wide at its widest point. The lake’s surface covers approximately 48,000 acres. All that water forms a 640-mile shoreline. Head down to Lake Murray and enjoy a touch of Paris. Choose a clear blue October or November day and fall foliage will make the journey all the prettier.

If You Go …

Dreher Shoals Dam

Just outside Irmo on Highway 6

Park for free in the area reserved for dam walkers

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected].

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