J. Strom Thurmond Lake, Georgia & South Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Georgia - Classic South - South Carolina - Old 96 District -

Also known as:  Lake Strom Thurmond, J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir, Clarks Hill Lake, Thurmond Lake

J. Strom Thurmond Lake, aka Clarks Hill Lake, holds the title of second largest artificial lake east of the Mississippi River. Straddling the Georgia-South Carolina border, the lake encompasses a mind-boggling surface area of 71,000 acres, and welcomes millions of visitors per year. This enormous body of water touches seven counties and the Savannah, Broad, and Little Rivers. With such stunning natural beauty and a wide variety of things to do, it comes as no surprise that this has been one of the top ten most visited US Army Corps of Engineers lakes in the country for decades.

Constructed between 1946 and 1954, Lake J. Strom Thurmond’s original use was for hydroelectric power, flood control, and water navigation. Originally, the lake was to be called “Clarks Hill Dam;” however, the “s” was omitted (a clerical error), and it was christened “Clark Hill Dam.” This name was corrected and then controversially changed once again in 1987, in honor of Senator Strom Thurmond – a man notorious for vehemently opposing civil rights and anti-segregation legislation in the 1950s and 60’s.

Today, J. Strom Thurmond Lake’s functions have been expanded to include water storage, wildlife management and recreation. Clarks Hill Lake also boasts an incredible 1,200 miles of shoreline. Beautiful houses and recreational areas accent these imposing woodland landscapes. More than 250 islands sprinkle the lake’s glassy waters, thanks to the Thurmond Dam – a concrete and earth embankment 2,282 feet long and 200 feet high with an impressive 23-gate spillway.

Canoeing, kayaking, and boating are the best ways to explore all of the hidden nooks and crannies that Clarks Hill Lake has to offer. Fishing is a breeze because of the various fish attractors throughout the lake – the most interesting being recycled Christmas trees that were purposefully sunk to this end. Crappie, bream, catfish and striped, hybrid and largemouth bass are prevalent. Hunting is permitted on over 55,000 acres of adjacent land. Three of the area’s most popular hiking trails consist of the eight-mile Bartram Trail, the 12.4- mile Bussey Point Horse Trail, and the 3.5-mile Shriver Creek Trail; numerous short interpretive trails are also prevalent, and real estate properties and vacation rentals are available. Facilities at Clarks Hill Lake include fishing piers, picnic areas and a visitor center.

Aside from Thurmond Lake, two other bodies on the Savannah River are managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers – Hartwell and Richard B. Russell Lakes. Among them, challenging hiking trails reward adventurers with unparalleled views from atop lush, rolling hilltops. Camping grounds offer convenient places to pitch a tent and cook up a hearty evening meal. Numerous playgrounds are widely available, providing ideal distractions and social hangouts for children.

Astoundingly, nine day use facilities and six national parks also surround Lake Strom Thurmond. South Carolina’s Sumpter National Forest is comprised of 371,000 acres run by the USDA Forest Service; white water rafting down the Chattooga River and camping throughout the Ellicott Rock Wilderness areas are the forest’s claims to fame. Three primary South Carolina State Parks are contiguous with the lake – Baker Creek, Hamilton Branch, and Hickory Knob. Across the border, Georgia’s Mistletoe State Park offers rustic log cabins, challenging mountain biking trails, and fantastic bass fishing opportunities. Bobby Brown and Elijah Clark State Parks can also be found close by.

Whether you call it Clarks Hill Lake, J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir or Thurmond Lake, you’ll never find a dull moment in this part of the South. If you wonder why this sparkling body of water is so immensely popular – come discover the fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities that this immaculate lake has to offer.

Things to do at J. Strom Thurmond Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Playground

Fish species found at J. Strom Thurmond Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass

J. Strom Thurmond Lake Photo Gallery

J. Strom Thurmond Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 71,000 acres

Shoreline Length: 1,200 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 330 feet

Average Depth: 36 feet

Maximum Depth: 180 feet

Water Volume: 1,730,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1954

Drainage Area: 6,150 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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