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The 10 Best Lakes to Visit in South Carolina

South Carolina Lakes

South Carolina is home to a huge array of lakes. Some are artificial, some are natural, but all promise excellent opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming. If you prefer to stay on dry land, you'll find plenty to enjoy hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting along their shores. If you want to check out the finest lakes the Palmetto State has to offer, here are the 10 best lakes in South Carolina.

10. Lake Keowee

Lake Keowee has been keeping anglers, boaters, and swimmers happy since 1971, and looks in no danger of stopping anytime soon. Measuring 26 miles long and 3 miles wide, it spans both Oconee County and Pickens County. Famous for its superb array of recreational activities, it offers excellent year-round fishing (spotted bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, catfish, yellow pouch, crappie, rainbow trout, and brown trout are the main species found here); kayaking and boating (both boats and kayaks can be rented from the marina); and swimming. If you decide to extend your stay, there are several campgrounds in the local area.

9. Lake Moultrie

Lake Moultrie is the third largest lake in South Carolina, occupying more than 60000 acres of land in Berkley County. It's recognized as one of the best places for fishing in the state, with a diverse topography that includes everything from black water ponds to shallow swamps. It boasts a wide variety of fish, including channel catfish and various species of trout and bass. Other popular activities include swimming (although do bear in mind that no lifeguards are present) and canoeing, along with hiking and biking along the shoreline.

8. Lake Hartwell

Boasting an area of 56,000 sq km, Lake Hartwell offers numerous opportunities for recreational activities. The lake boasts five marinas (Big Water Marina, Hartwell Marina, Harbor Light Marina, Portman Marina, and Clemson Marina) along with several boat ramps, making it an ideal destination for visitors looking to kayak or canoe around the water. It's also home to the Western Carolina Sailing Club, so you can expect to see plenty of sailboat racing and sailing events throughout the year. Thanks to its location adjacent to Lake Hartwell State Park, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and wildlife spotting.

7. Trophy Lakes

Named as one of the best lakes in South Carolina by, Trophy Lakes is ideal for watersports lovers. In fact, it was specifically designed for skiers, being small enough and shallow enough to offer endless opportunities for water-based fun. Located just a short drive from Charleston, it's ideal for vacationers looking to combine the thrill of the outdoors with the recreational opportunities of the city.

6. Lake Wylie

Stretched over both Carolinas, Lake Wylie has the distinction of being the oldest lake on the Catawba River. Covering 13000 acres and boasting a shoreline of 325 miles, it offers bountiful opportunities for fun and games in the great outdoors, including swimming, boating, biking, and hiking. There are also numerous picnic tables and several playgrounds for kids. If you want to stay in the area, you'll find plenty of camping sites scatted along its shore.

5. Lake Murray

Lake Murray is affectionately known as the “Jewel of South Carolina,” and for very good reason. With its crystal clear, sparkling waters and picture-perfect surrounds, it's one of the most scenic lakes in the state, if not the entire country. Fishing is permitted throughout the year, except on the second Tuesday of each month and public holidays like Christmas and New Year. Channel catfish, bass, black crappie, trout, and bluegill are among the most common species. Boating is permitted between sunrise and sunset (except on public holidays and the second Tuesday of the month) and small boats and kayaks can be rented. Swimming in the lake is prohibited, but if you're desperate to cool off, you can take a dip at nearby beaches like Marina Beach, Martins Landing Beach, and Sunset Beach. With dozens of picnic tables, 10 barbeques, and some excellent opportunities for rollerblading, hiking, and bicycling, it's a great place to enjoy some family-friendly fun.

4. Lake Bowen

Named as one of the best lakes in South Carolina by, Spartanburg County's Lake Bowen offers abundant opportunities for outdoor fun and recreation. Boat ramps are available if you want to venture onto the water, while those who prefer to stay on dry land will find plenty of hiking trails and picnic pavilions to make use of.

3. Lake Strom Thurmond

According to, Lake Strom Thurmond is the second largest artificial lake in the state. It's also one of the best, attracting hordes of visitors each year thanks to its abundant array of marinas, campgrounds, parks, boating ramps, and activities. The fishing is excellent, offering keen anglers the chance to test their wits against species like largemouth bass, striped bass, channel catfish, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, bream, and crappie. Other popular pastimes include boating, hiking, biking, and camping.

2. Lake Jocassee

Lake Jocassee is known as one of the cleanest lakes in the state. It's also one of the most beautiful, and was even chosen as the setting of the movie "The Hunger Games" in recognition of its picture-perfect setting. Boating is one of the most popular pastimes, with visitors having the option to either bring their own vessel or rent one for the day. It's also highly regarded among anglers, who have the opportunity to fish for spotted bass, redeye bass, and smallmouth bass, as well as rainbow trout and brown trout. Swimming, hiking, scuba diving, bird watching, and picnicking round off the list of activities on offer.

1. Lake Marion

It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to learn that South Carolina's biggest and most famous lake also ranks as its best. Large enough to encompass five different counties, this man-made lake was created back in 1941 when the Santee Dam was constructed. It's still used for water conservation today, but it's the abundant recreational opportunities on offer that attracts the crowds. Wildlife lovers will have a whale of a time spotting the incredible array of wildlife in the area - keep your eyes peeled for ducks, egrets, wild turkeys, hawks, alligators, deer, and foxes. The waters are teeming with largemouth bass, white perch, striped bass, crappie, channel catfish, white bass, bream, redear sunfish, and the Arkansas blue catfish, making it a great spot for anglers. Camping, hiking, and boating are also possible, although take care if you venture into the lake for a splash - while swimming is permitted, there are no lifeguard facilities available.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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