Clarks Hill’s Shores

Ain’t that a Dam Site –
Clarks Hill Dam, creator of the third-largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi. (Photo/Tom Poland)

At 71,535 acres, it’s as big a lake as you’ll see in this region. In fact it’s the third-largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi River, and it’s only 100 miles, about two hours, away. A mighty dam backs up the Savannah River creating more than 1,200 miles of shoreline. Along that shoreline are some fine state parks and great fishing and recreation opportunities.

This watery wonderland came about from man’s need to control the raging Savannah River. For many years it flooded the region and in particular Augusta, Ga. Erecting a major dam provided a solution with the double bonus of providing hydroelectric power and recreation opportunities. Be sure to go to the Visitor’s Center to learn more about this major dam and reservoir.

Clarks Hill Lake forms a vast border between Georgia and South Carolina along Abbeville, McCormick and Edgefield counties. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built it from 1946 to 1954 near the confluence of the Little River and the Savannah River. As names go, the lake has had its problems. Originally referred to as Clarks Hill Dam, the “s” in Clarks was left out by error and the dam project became known as Clark Hill Dam. In 1987, Congressional Representative Butler Derrick introduced a bill to rename the lake after Strom Thurmond. That didn’t sit well with Georgians. Georgia’s Legislature passed House Resolution No. 115 making “Clarks Hill” the official name for the dam and the lake. To this day no self-respecting Georgian refers to the reservoir as Lake Strom Thurmond.

Each year, millions of people flock to the parks, marinas and campgrounds clustered around the lake to enjoy outdoor recreational experiences. Clarks Hill Lake is one of the 10 most visited Corps-built lakes in the nation. Both Georgia and South Carolina refer to the lake as their “fresh-water coast.” Largemouth, white, striped and hybrid bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish make the lake a fisherman’s paradise. Bass tournaments are common there.

Nowhere as developed as many lakes are Clark Hill Lake’s wildlife is abundant. Wildlife Management Areas offer prime places to hunt and just enjoy nature. Just getting outdoors is fine too. State parks on the South Carolina side include Calhoun Falls, Baker Creek, Hickory Knob and Hamilton Branch. State Parks on the Georgia side include Mistletoe, Elijah Clark and Bobby Brown. You’ll find plenty of campgrounds and cabins to choose from.

On the South Carolina side be sure to check out the Little River Blueway and its opportunities for canoeing and kayaking. You’ll find 51 miles of beautiful paddling trails here. Ample opportunities for mountain biking and hiking too. The Blueway area features 63 holes of golf, skeet shooting and numerous historical sites. Be sure to visit the Badwell Cemetery while in the area. There’s also a 50-mile scenic drive for those who choose to forego paddling and biking.

Fall makes for a great time to head over to this major reservoir. Seeing the reflections of colorful leaves along a glassy shoreline is a treat. Whether you camp or stay in a cabin, fall is a fine time to visit the “Georgialina” freshwater coast.

If You Go …

• Consider making reservations at some of the fine cabins in South Carolina and Georgia’s parks.

• Visit the S.C. State Parks website at www.southcarolinaparks.com/

• Visit the Georgia State Parks Department website at www.gastateparks.org/

• Visit the Little River Blueway website for more information www.littleriverblueway.org/

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

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