Lake Hartwell ranks as one of the top destinations for outdoor activities in the Southeast. It lies on the border of Georgia and South Carolina about halfway in between the metropolitan areas of Atlanta and Charlotte making it ideal for weekend getaways. Popular things to do at Lake Hartwell include boating, swimming, fishing, and camping.
Swimming is the most popular outdoor recreation activity and for good reason. The Lake Hartwell Waterfront is almost a thousand miles long with many allocated swim areas. Pristine cool waters offer refreshing relief from summertime heat and humidity. Sandy beaches can be found up and down the shoreline at various parks, recreation areas, and campgrounds.
Lake Hartwell Boating
Boating is one of the favorite activities on the lake and there are all kinds. This may be the best lake in the South for sailing and there’s even an event called the Sailboat Regatta that takes place here each Spring.
Although there’s a wide range of motorboats, the most prominent boat on Hartwell Lake is the pontoon. There are also plenty of big coves providing attractive water surfaces to go water-skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, and canoeing. Another up and coming family-fun activity is water tubing. This year the town of Hartwell is featuring its inaugural Jet Ski Tournament and hopes to make it an annual event.
Lake Hartwell Fishing
Two rivers over forty miles long plus the big water below the point at which they join lead to plenty of fishing opportunities. The freshwater is an excellent breeding ground for several species of fish including largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, bream, carp, and gar.
Striped Bass and Hybrid Bass can be found all over Lake Hartwell but especially in the Big Water section. In fact, Lake Hartwell holds the state record for a striper being caught at 59 lbs. The 56,000-acre lake is stocked annually with this great fighting fish. Trout and walleye fish can be found right below the Hartwell Dam in the Savannah River. Both the Georgia DNR and South Carolina DNR stock this area regularly.
Lake Hartwell Campgrounds
Gorgeous campgrounds that dot the lake provide the perfect setting for outdoor recreation activities and family adventure. My personal favorites include Hartwell State Park and Twin Lakes Park in South Carolina; and Tugaloo State Park and Paynes Creek Park in Georgia. Hartwell State Park is where I stayed when I first visited Hartwell Lake. It provides many lots on the water and with easy access just off Exit 1 of Interstate 85 in S.C.
Two of the biggest campgrounds offering the most amenities are Tugaloo State Park and Twin Lakes Campground.
Tugaloo State Park features are 393 acres and features:
- 105 Tent, Trailer, and RV Campsites – cable TV hookups!
- 5 Primitive Campsites
- 20 Cottages – some with docks for boats!
- 7 Picnic Shelters and Group Shelter
- Swimming Beach and Bathhouse
- Tennis Courts
- Boating – has 2 ramps
- Hiking – 4 miles of trails
- Canoe Rental
- Miniature Golf
Twin Lakes is a seasonal campground open March 1 through Nov. 30 and is run by the Army Corps of Engineers. This scenic campground is just minutes away from Clemson University off Exit 14 on Interstate 85 in South Carolina.
Twin Lake Campground features:
- 102 sites – all-electric with water hook-ups
- swim beaches
- boat ramp with courtesy dock
- picnic shelter
Paynes Creek Campground is in the Reedy Creek area of Georgia and its season runs from May 1 through Sept. 8. It is also run by the Army Corps. of Engineers. This is my personal favorite campground because the lots are huge, most are on the water, and they are filled with lots of trees making them very private.
Campground amenities at Paynes Creek include:
- 2 swim beaches
- courtesy dock and boat ramp
The Lake Hartwell Dam was built as a reservoir in 1959 creating Hartwell Lake which is fed by two rivers; the Chattooga River and the Seneca River. Both rivers are over 40 miles long and fed by waters originating from the Blue Ridge Mountains. The natural beauty and clear blue waters are the reason why so many people, including myself, return to the lake year after year.