Lake Hartwell is one of the Southeast’s most popular lakes for fishing, boating, and other water sports. The massive 56,000-acre lake straddles the Georgia-South Carolina border a little over 100 miles northeast of Atlanta. Its easy access from I 85 and to the Savannah River National Scenic Hwy makes the area even more attractive.
Fed by the waters of the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca Rivers, the creation of the Corps lake began in 1955 as an $89 million project for hydroelectricity and flood control. The lake, dam, town of Hartwell, and the county of Hart were named in honor of Nancy Hart, a Revolutionary War heroine that exploited members of the Loyalists in the backcountry of Northeast Georgia.
After the lake’s completion in 1963, its purpose was expanded to include fishing and wildlife management with outdoor recreation easily accessible to the surrounding 25,000 acres, giving rise to Lake Hartwell State Park. Today, Lake Hartwell is one of the nation’s most popular Corps lakes with an average 657 ft lake elevation attracting visitors from around the globe.
Lake Hartwell offers superb fishing, some of the best in at least two states, and is the host of numerous bass tournaments. Anglers haul in largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass, bream, crappie, catfish, walleye, and the occasional trout. It’s not uncommon to pull in a 20- pounder, and fish have been caught weighing as much as 60 lbs. The lake is also popular for boating and all types of water sports from jet skiing to floating on the lake aboard a party pontoon. Boaters are accommodated with two private boat ramps and a courtesy dock. All types of watercraft can be rented at one of the local marinas.
Lake Hartwell’s 963 miles of shoreline includes Lake Hartwell State Park with great camping options and outdoor fun. RV and tent campers from two states have been making group camping trips with friends and family to gather at the lake for at least 50 years. The park has 115 paved sites for RVs, and 13 walk-in tent sites on its campgrounds. The sites have electrical and water hookups available. Restrooms with showers are nearby. The park has courtesy docks for boating, playgrounds for the kids, and a 140-foot fishing pier. Visitors can also explore hiking trails all around the lake.
For other accommodations, Lake Hartwell State Park is one of the few parks that offer unique camper cabins. Available for rent at any time of the year, the two camper cabins give you the full camping experience with a roof overhead along with heat and air conditioning. The 12 ft x 12 ft cabins have one double bed and a set of bunk beds. A front porch on each cabin faces the lake. They have indoor lights, electricity, and Wi-Fi, but there is no running water and all cooking must be done outdoors. The cabin sites have an outdoor spigot, fire ring, and grill. Cabin campers have access to the park’s comfort stations. Reservations can be made online.