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Lake Wateree lies 30 miles northeast of Columbia, South Carolina near Interstate 77. Duke Energy created the lake in 1920 by building a dam on the Catawba River to provide hydro-electric power for textile mills and the surrounding area. Lake Wateree is 27 miles long and covers more than 13,800 acres with 242 miles of shoreline when full. The lake derives its name from the Wateree Creek that empties into the lake near the dam. The Catawba and the Wateree Rivers are the same body of water that changes names at the lake. Fairfield, Kershaw, and Lancaster Counties border the lake, whose residents enjoy its recreational pursuits and the income from the influx of year-round visitors. The history, beauty, and mild climate of the area make it an appealing vacation spot as well as an inviting place to live.
Careful monitoring and strict regulations have made this lake one of the few left in South Carolina that are clean for swimming and safe for eating the fish that are caught there. Wateree Lake provides areas of interest for everyone from children to seniors and activities that range from bird-watching to jet-skiing. Five marinas located at various points around the lake offer refueling, boat slips, boat and jet-ski rentals, fishing equipment rentals, boat storage areas, fishing and camping supplies, snacks and groceries, and lots of free information. Boat ramps are plentiful, and several are state-provided with no charge to boaters, jet-skiers, and fishermen. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources patrols the lake to make sure that boating regulations and fishing limits are observed and to protect public safety and the environment. Maps and regulation pamphlets are available at the marinas and stores in the area.
The Lake Wateree State Recreation Area is a 238 acre park along the shoreline that provides 72 sites for camping, each containing electrical and sewer hook-ups. Picnic areas, a playground, and bathhouses are also provided. Nature trails and a bird refuge are available for quiet walks, and offer an opportunity to see wildlife such as deer, fox, raccoon, egrets, blue heron, mallard and wood ducks, and even the occasional alligator or eagle in its natural habitat. Fishing areas allow for the chance to catch crappie, bream, largemouth bass, catfish, and striped bass. In the spirit of true Southern hospitality, marina and campground employees and locals will gladly share where to go and what bait to use to make fishing a pleasant and memorable experience. Several fishing tournaments are held each year to encourage both amateur and professional anglers to visit the area. And even though the best fishing is from a boat on the lake, many large catches have been made from the shoreline to the delight of young and old alike.
Cabin, houseboat, and private property rentals encourage the stay of vacationers other than campers. Retirees find a wealth of housing options, from low-cost apartments in nearby towns to log cabins and million-dollar private residences right on the water. Many lakefront lots remain available for those wanting to build their dream home or vacation getaway. Anyone looking to relocate to the Lake Wateree area will find an abundance of housing in all price ranges and a competitive job market near enough for easy commuting.
At 27 miles long Wateree Lake provides an excellent span for sailing, and the mild temperatures in winter and the constant breezes allow for the sport to be enjoyed almost year round. Pleasure boating, water skiing, and wakeboarding are primarily enjoyed during the summer months, but even at its peak such a large body of water never seems overcrowded. Many secluded coves offer quiet spots to swim and sunbathe or to observe nature along the banks while watching the sunset.
Nearby, the towns of Camden and Kershaw which were historically significant in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars offer museums, antebellum homes, community theaters, battlegrounds, and cemeteries to explore. Antique shops, restaurants full of southern comfort food, and specialty shops are also worth a visit. In the spring and fall horseshows, steeplechases, festivals, craft fairs, and battle reenactments provide additional entertainment. Lake Wateree and the surrounding area truly offer something for everyone.
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