Explore the Lake Murray Dam for Exercise with a View

By:Marie McAden


If you’re an avid walker like me, you’re always looking for new, scenic routes to amble along. I’ve got a couple of wonderful trails you’re sure to love. Both are in the Columbia ​area.

Today, I’m going to tell you about the Lake Mu​rray Pedestrian Walkway, a 1.7-mile path that crosses the Dreher Shoals Dam. This popular paved trail offers fantastic views of Lake Murray, a 48,000-acre reservoir built for hydroelectric power. Walk in the late afternoon and you’ll get the added bonus of seeing a breathtaking sunset over the water.

The Dreher Shoals Dam was built in 1930 to harness the energy of the Saluda River. At 1.5 miles long and 213 feet high, it was billed at the time as the largest earthen dam in the world. The lake it created was the largest man-made lake for power production.

Today, Lake Murray is the recreational Mecca of the Midlands, enjoyed by anglers, boaters, kayakers, scuba divers, paddle boarders and swimmers. Three years ago — as part of a project to widen the roadway over the dam — the South Carolina Department of Transportation created an eight-foot wide pedestrian pathway overlooking Lake Murray. A bike lane also was added for cyclists.

It was an instant hit. And no wonder, given the beautiful view walkers and joggers enjoy traversing the dam. On one side you see the lake, on the other side downtown Columbia’s skyline.

On a recent weekday, I walked the dam with a meet-up group from Columbia. We met in the free designated parking lot on the Lexington side of the trail. We wasted no time joining the other walkers and joggers getting exercise on the pathway.

It took us about 40 minutes to make it to the other side. At this end of the dam, you’ll find the SCE&G North Recreational Area, featuring a boat ramp, fishing piers, picnic shelters and restrooms.

On the way back, we stopped to watch a couple of stand-up paddle boarders making their way along the dam. We also checked out a turtle sunning himself on the rocky embankment and the view of downtown Columbia across the roadway. The sun was just beginning to set as we finished the walk. It offered another great excuse to linger a bit longer and enjoy the lake vista.

Take note: pets are not allowed on the pathway and there are no benches to rest along the length of the trail. For more information or directions to the Lake Murray Pedestrian Pathway, click ​here. Later this week, I’ll tell you about another waterfront trail that you’ll love just as much.

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