Clarks Hill Lake is known for being one of the best lakes for fishing in the Southeast. Avid anglers haul in largemouth, striped, and hybrid bass along with catfish, bluegill, and crappie. But it’s not all about fishing at the 71,100-acre lake. At Clarks Hill you can enjoy water skiing on the glassy waters of quiet coves and hangout to sunbathe or picnic on the sandy beaches. Boats of all kinds are allowed on the 1,200-mile shoreline lake.
The lake is located about 20 miles north of Augusta, Georgia. Get there by taking I-20 W and exit 199 onto Washington Rd. Turn right onto Hwy 28 and follow it to Clarks Hill, SC. Coming from the Atlanta area, take I-20 E to GA- 150 E and exit 175. You’ll seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but Augusta is a short drive away where you’ll find plenty of shopping and dining and accommodations if you don’t want to take advantage of the many campgrounds and cabin rentals around the lake. Augusta is also the site of the world-famous Masters Golf Tournament held annually at the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club. Golf pros like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer participate in the tournaments.
Drive across the dam to Clarks Hill Park to get a good idea of the lake’s vastness. The jade green waters resemble a distant ocean accentuated by migrating seagulls from the Atlantic coast 154 miles to the southeast. Aside from the view on the horizon, the rest of the landscape is rural red Georgia clay and seemingly endless miles of pine trees. Along the bank shores of the campgrounds, you’ll likely find freshwater clam shells, another indication of the lake’s proximity to the Atlantic.
There are several parks around Clarks Hill Lake with tent and RV camping. But if you want a real wilderness experience, check out the primitive campgrounds at Bussey Point and LeRoy’s Ferry. Reservations can be made at the recreation.gov website. The most visited park is Clarks Hill Park, a wooded day-use area with picnic shelters, electrical hook-ups, drinking water, flush and vault toilets, a dock, boat ramp, and beach. A mix of hardwood forests and pines surround the park providing shade in the summer and color in the fall. If you like hiking, you’ll find it here with trails that run along the scenic shoreline. The Lake Springs Loop is 1.8 miles long and the Bartram Trail is 27 miles long with shorter sections to hike from intersecting trailheads.
Like several of Georgia’s lakes, Clarks Hill has an interesting history. The lake was originally named after Augusta businessman John Mulford Clark. In 1987, Congress passed a law to rename it Thurmond Lake in honor of S.C. senator Strom Thurmond. Thurmond, a long-time senator once filibustered against the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. As the state began to shy away from naming locations after known racists, the name was changed back to Clarks Hill Lake.