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So large it covers parts of six counties in two states, Lake Hartwell draws millions of visitors a year to play on its 56,000 acres of water. With plenty of water for boating, water skiing and fishing, it has become one of the most popular recreation lakes in the southeast. Lake Hartwell in the Northeast Georgia Mountains and Upcountry South Carolina is one of the most visited US Army Corps of Engineer lakes in the nation.
The US Army Corps of Engineers created Lake Hartwell for flood control, navigation and hydro electric power. Today it is also used as a water supply reservoir. Construction on Hartwell Dam, seven miles downstream from where the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers join the Savannah River, started in 1955. The reservoir was completed in 1963 and extends 49 miles up the Tugaloo River and 45 miles up the Seneca River. Hartwell Lake's outflow is the Savannah River. The Corps maintains a summer pool of 660 feet MSL (mean sea level) and a winter pool of about four feet lower. Along with Hart County and the Town of Hartwell, Lake Hartwell was name after Nancy Morgan Hart. Mrs. Hart moved to Georgia with her husband Benjamin in 1771. She raised eight children, and her escapades during the Revolutionary War are legendary.
The Hartwell project includes 76,450 acres of water and land and covers parts of Hart, Franklin, and Stephens counties in South Carolina and Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties in Georgia. Lake Hartwell's 962-mile shoreline is surrounded by Corps-controlled land and four state parks. The Corps maintains several campgrounds, picnic areas, boat ramps and a visitor center at the dam. Lake Hartwell is one of the top five visited Corps sites in the United States.
Anglers come to Hartwell Lake for the striped bass fishing. Also known as rock fish, a fish over 60 pounds was caught in Lake Hartwell, and fish in excess of 20 pounds are common. There are also healthy populations of crappie, bream, catfish, hybrid bass and largemouth bass. Because of PCB's in the water there have been fish advisories in effect since 1976 (see sidebar link).
There are two state parks on the Georgia side of the lake and two on the South Carolina side. Hart State Park, now known as Hart State Outdoor Recreation Area, covers 147 acres near Hartwell, Georgia. It includes a campground, boat ramp, and trails for hiking and biking. Tugaloo State Park is also in Georgia. Its 393 acres include a boat ramp, swimming beach, and a waterfront campground. There are also canoe and cottage rentals, hiking trails, and a mini golf course. Near the Georgia - South Carolina border, the Lake Hartwell State Recreation Area is 680 acres in Oconee County, South Carolina. The recreation area has a campground and cabins rentals. There are also hiking trails and a boat ramp. Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area is on a peninsula in Anderson County, South Carolina. It is 395 acres and includes a campground, boat ramp and hiking trails.
Lake Hartwell is less than two hours from both Atlanta and Charlotte. Interstate 85 bisects the lake providing easy access, and there are several towns near the lake with various accommodations and amenities. The town of Hartwell, which shares its name with the lake, has vacation rentals and real estate for sale for those wishing to extend their stay.
Lake Hartwell's size ensures that there is room for everyone and more than enough to do. Its proximity to Atlanta and Charlotte make it the perfect weekend destination and a fantastic southern getaway.
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