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

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

Welcome to the ultimate guide to J. Strom Thurmond Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About J. Strom 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

Find Places to Stay at J. Strom Thurmond Lake

If you’re considering a J. Strom Thurmond Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a J. Strom Thurmond Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite J. Strom Thurmond Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

J. Strom Thurmond Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


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

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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