Boating around South Carolina

By:Page Ivey

Date:6/10/2013


Like most South Carolinians, when I think of spending a weekend at the lake, I think of the South Carolina ​Upstate or the state’s largest two lakes – ​Marion and ​Moultrie – near Santee.

I almost never think of my own back yard.

Lake M​urray is South Carolina’s third-largest lake. It was created in the 1920s by damming the Saluda River just outside of Columb​ia to create power for South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. The damming flooded 50,000 acres of farmland in four counties.

In the past 20 years, the lake has seen a boom in construction, both on the water and off. Old marinas have been renovated and new businesses have been created offering visitors new ways to get on the water.

Two large boats, the Southern​ Patriot and the Spirit of​ Lake Murray offer sunset cruises, dinner cruises and, in the summer, the cruises are tied to the purple martins’ evening return to Bomb Island in the lake.

Bomb Island got its name during World War II when it was used to as part of the training for fighter pilots in the famed Doolittle Raiders squadron who staged an early air assault on Tokyo. That means there is more than one B-52 bomber under the water there.

There is even an “app for that” to determine what lies beneath the lake. Application developer David Brinkman has compiled historic information about the communities, churches, farms and cemeteries that were flooded when the river was dammed. It includes a number of underwater structures along with their approximate depths for those hearty enough to try to dive to the bottom. (According to DiveBu​ddy.com, the visibility is poor below Lake Murray at just 3-6 feet for you aspiring deep-water lake divers.) The app, aptly named “Under Lake Murray,” can also help anglers find those underwater fish attractors as well as public boat ramp locations. The application works with GPS-enabled Android-based smartphones and is free.

For those (like me) who prefer my lake fun at shallower depths, there are boating opportunities (both motor- and human-powered), camping locations and other great ways to get out and enjoy the water, especially as the heat of summer approaches.

Dreher Island State Park ecompasses nearly 350 acres on three separate islands. You can access the park by car or boat. The park has five villas (two- and three-bedroom options), lakeside RV and tent campgrounds, nature trails and 12 miles of shoreline.

Other overnight accommodations along the lake include homes, guest cottages and even a converted caboose right on the water. Many of these are listed by Lake Murray Cou​ntry, Lake Murray Vacation Re​ntals and L​ake M​urray Fun. There also are plenty of hotel and motel rooms off the water, but near the lake.

No matter where you stay, you simply have to get on the water. That’s the whole point, after all. The easiest access are the two public access points at the dam provided by lake owner SCE&G. There is a public beach on the Lexington side of the dam. You can bring the whole family for the price of parking one car (about $5) and a free public boat ramp on the Irmo side of the dam. The dam itself, renovated within the past 20 years, is also an attraction and walkers, joggers and bikers can be seen enjoying it every day.

If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent pontoons, motorboats, kayaks or canoes from a variety of vendors at area marinas. Lake Murray has dozens of access points.

Pontoons rent for about $200 for a whole day (eight hours), a little more on weekends, while kayaks and standup paddleboards rent for about $50-60 a day.

The beauty of Lake Murray is its many coves that invite exploration for paddlers and those who prefer cruising to the speed of the “big water” in the middle of the lake.

Make sure you are checked out on your motorized rentals and that you keep an eye on the depth finder. Water levels can fluctuate rather quickly and you wouldn’t want to spend your day waiting to be towed after running aground somewhere.

And don’t worry about having to pack lunch, there are at least a half-dozen restaurants along the lake that you can get to by boat.

Also, if you just have a day, keep an eye out for special tours, such as the pontoon tour of homes or gardens offered each year by the Lake Murray Ass​ociation. The captains are homeowners at the lake and really love showing off what the lake has to offer. Next up is Ladies Day on the Lake, June 18, at Lightho​use Marina.

Related Content

10 State Parks Where You Can Stay and Play on the Water
If you’re looking for a place to vacation on your boat, South Carolina has lots of choices. Dock, pitch your tent, check into a cabin or lodge — all are available at one of our spectacular state parks.
Relaxing Paddle Through Lake Murray
The 48,000-acre Lake Murray reservoir is a perfect getaway for a relaxing paddle, especially in the late afternoon setting sun. The natural beauty of the lake and surrounding land create a picturesque journey through South Carolina's outdoors.
Explore Charleston by Boat, Bike or Kayak
You can take a carriage ride, hop aboard a bus or follow a guide on a walking tour of Charleston. Or, you can think outside the box and experience Charleston from a different perspective. Sailboat, bike, or kayak around the historic seaport town.

Featured Products

Discover Upcountry Carolina Association
Mountains

Greenville

Mountains

Mountains

The
Mountains Region

Learn More
South Carolina’s Upcountry region is tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains midway between Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA. The area boasts more than 150 w ...
Lake Marion
Midlands

Eutawville

Midlands

Midlands

The
Midlands Region

Learn More
Lake Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina, covering 110,000 acres. It is known for its big fish and abundant wildlife. Public access is provided through several ...
Lake Moultrie
Coast

Moncks Corner

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Lake Moultrie is a 60,000 acre man made lake operated by Santee Cooper. It is known for large fish and abundant wildlife. Public access is through public boat ramps, a ...
Lake Murray
Midlands

Irmo

Midlands

Midlands

The
Midlands Region

Learn More
Lake Murray is a 50,000-acre man-made lake in the Midlands of South Carolina. It is operated by South Carolina Electric and Gas Company and is known for striped bass fish ...
Lake Murray Vacation Rentals
Midlands

Gilbert

Midlands

Midlands

The
Midlands Region

Learn More
Lake front vacation homes located all around Lake Murray. These are for rent by the night, week or month (select homes). We also handle annual leases on vacant lake front ...

Featured products and attractions in "Boating around South Carolina"

Nearby Attractions

  • {{item.name}}

You might also like:

Richard B. Russell Dam And Lake
Midlands

Calhoun Falls

Midlands

Midlands

The
Midlands Region

Learn More
Overlook gives a great view of the dam and the top end of Lake Thurmond. Lake Russell is a 26,650-acre impoundment on the Savannah River, perfect for all types of water s ...
Blackwater Adventures
Coast

Pinopolis

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Offers more than 30 unique, informative and scenic, zero-octane paddle tours in coastal South Carolina. From the vast, open waters of Lake Marion and Moultrie, to the pea ...
Thornhill's General Store and Lodge
Coast

Pineville

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Thornhill's General Store and Lodge is owned and operated by the Campbell family conveniently located 1 mile from the Santee Cooper lakes and river. We have a convenience ...
Sweetwater Lake Campground
Midlands

St Matthews

Midlands

Midlands

The
Midlands Region

Learn More
Water and electricity. All sites lakefront! ...
Stumphole Landing - Campgrounds
Midlands

Elloree

Midlands

Midlands

The
Midlands Region

Learn More
Full hook-ups available; dump station on site; laundry facility; fishing pier. Bait and tackle shop. Game Room and Restaurant on-site. Some sites lake ftont. Also have v ...
Springfield Campground (Corps of Engineers)
Mountains

Anderson

Mountains

Mountains

The
Mountains Region

Learn More
Majority of sites located on the shores of Lake Hartwell. April 1 - October 31. Single family sites are $26 and the double sites are $52 per night. The gate opens at 7 a. ...