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J. Strom Thurmond Dam & Lake at Clarks Hill

J. Strom Thurmond Dam & Lake at Clarks Hill straddles the central Georgia – South Carolina border. It encompasses 71,000 acres of water surrounded by 1,200 miles of shoreline. Built between 1946-1954, this site is the largest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project east of the Mississippi River. Although it is primarily administered by the Corps, numerous additional access points to the lake exist via USFS, State, and County Parks sites, all together serving an estimated 5.5 million visitors annually. 

The surrounding shoreline area is primarily pine hardwood forest, including yellow poplar and red gum.  It’s home to many types of wildlife, including bald eagles, beavers, and is an important stopover for migratory waterfowl. 

Almost every kind of water recreation opportunity is available, from kayaking to swimming, water skiing to fishing. A wide variety of additional recreational activities on the shoreline and surrounding public lands exist as well, including: 13 developed campgrounds comprising 554 sites, 60+ miles of trails, including the Bartram National Recreation Trail, hunting, equestrian, biking, and day use / picnic areas. I spent a few days here on the South Carolina side in late April 2017, enjoying a picnic lunch and the views at the Parksville Wayside Picnic Area (administered by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism), spending a couple of nights at Modoc Campground (**Pro Tip: Because Site 11 has no hookups, it’s cheaper than any other site in the campground and has an essentially private peninsula on the lake**), and exploring the Visitor Center and free day use / access areas just north of the Dam.  

Fees vary according to the activity; with many areas free to access. Campground fees range from $6-$24, and several are open on a seasonal basis only. Reservations for Modoc (next open 3/30 – 9/29/2018) are available via, although I was able to get a walk-up site. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the 50% discount with my annual America the Beautiful Interagency Pass. However, that discount does apply for lifetime Pass holders (Senior, Access, etc.) Check the main website or with the Visitor Center, which is near Augusta, GA, for the most current information regarding fees, and also closures, current water levels, and alerts.

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