In fishing circles, Dreher Island State Park is known as a prime launching spot for anglers looking to reel in one of Lake Murray's trophy largemouth bass. But there's a lot more to do at this 348-acre park than drop your line in the water.
Located just 30 minutes from the state capital in rural Newberry County, Dreher Island offers a quiet respite from the fast-paced city life. Last week, I drove up from Columbia to take a walk in the woods and clear my head of the hectic holiday madness.
The Little Gap Trail was just what the doctor ordered. A moderate 2.1-mile hike, it cuts through a thick forest of pines and hardwoods offering plenty of water views along the way. Small directional signs posted on trees make it easy to follow the path even in the winter when the ground is covered in a blanket of leaves.
A great walk for visitors traveling with children and/or dogs, the trail traverses several small hills - just enough to make it interesting without taxing you too much.
On this sunny Monday afternoon, we ran into a herd of deer foraging in the forest. We didn't see the bald eagle that nests in the area, but I've spotted him numerous times flying overhead while sailing on Lake Murray.
The shorter, Billy Dreher Nature Trail is another easy walk that leads to the original home site of the park's namesake. Ruins of his home can be found at the end of the loop trail.
Scattered around the island are 13 large picnic pavilions, many of them overlooking the lake. Shelters may be reserved for $30 to $38 a day. If they're not reserved, you can use them on a first-come, first-served basis for free.
The park also features 105 campsites on two peninsulas. Most of them are so close to the water, you can launch a kayak without having to haul it more than a few feet from your car. A lakefront vista for just $18 to $22 a night - sweet!
Not into camping? No problem. Stay at one of the five fully furnished contemporary villas tucked along the shoreline of another one of the island's peninsulas. In addition to the comfortable accommodations, you'll have use of a dock reserved exclusively for villa guests.
Undoubtedly, the most popular park amenity is the marina, featuring a boat ramp, tackle shop and dock. Over the years, Dreher Island has played host to a number of major national bass tournaments, as well as loads of local competitions. The facilities also are a favorite with recreational boaters.
For more information on Dreher Island State Recreation Area, click here or call (803) 364-4152.