Every year, many people flock to Lake Hartwell to camp, participate in water sports, sail or cast their cares away with a fishing pole as they enjoy one of the Upstate’s popular outdoor recreation areas.
Off I-85 on the South Carolina and Georgia border sits the 56,000-acre man-made lake bordering the Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca rivers. Surrounded by 962 miles of shoreline and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1955 and 1963, Lake Hartwell was originally part of a flood control, hydropower and navigation project created by the Hartwell Dam. Today, Lake Hartwell has evolved into one of the Southeast’s largest and most popular pubic recreation lakes, according to the Corps of Engineers website.
“It’s three times bigger than Lake Keowee,” said Take Cover Storage general manager Blake Jones. “It’s a great fishery because it’s a little more open. Fishing is one of the biggest attractions on the lake.”
The lake is known for large mouth, spotted and striped bass and crappie as well as hybrid striped bass (a cross between a striped bass and white bass). The lake is kept stocked by the Georgia and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, said Bucktail Guide Service owner Preston Harden.
“Hartwell is a very good fishing lake,” Harden said. “It’s one of the best for bass fishing, and it’s not an accident I’m here. They have had the Bassmaster Classic here three times in 10 years because the bass fishing is so good. The Bassmaster Classic is like the Super Bowl of fishing. The fishing on this lake is as good as any in the South.”
While fishing is popular, others enjoy coming to Lake Hartwell for boating, swimming, waterskiing and tubing.
“It just depends on what you want to do,” said Harden. “Not everyone likes to go fish. Kids like to tube, kneeboard or ski. Camping is also popular. You can tent camp, rent a cabin and more. A lot of people like to just pull up on a beach, get a chair out and put their feet in the water.”
Due to the lake’s size in the big water area south of I-85, Lake Hartwell has attracted sailboat regattas and has a sailboat club where you can get sailing lessons, Harden said.
“We offer a place for people who like to sail or want to learn to sail, to keep their boat and to hang out with other sailors,” said Western Carolina Sailing Club Commodore John Barnard. “Our club has been here since 1964, so as soon as water was there to sail on, sailing is popular.”
While visitors may take advantage of myriad activities including fishing and sailing using the public boat ramps and private marinas as well as Georgia and South Carolina state parks, the federally owned Lake Hartwell is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Things to do around the lake:
- Camp at Tugaloo State Park, Lake Hartwell State Park, Hart State Park or Sadlers Creek State Park
- Watersports including tubing and skiing
- Have a picnic at one of the recreation areas including Fair Play Recreation Area, Broyles Recreation Area, Friendship Recreation Area and Singing Pines Recreation Area