"110,600 Acres of Fresh Water Paradise"
Lake Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina, centrally located within five counties. The lake is often referred to as South Carolina's inland sea. The man-made reservoir has a 315-mile shoreline, is over 40 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point, and covers nearly 110,600 acres or 173.7 square miles of rolling farmlands, former marshes, and river valley landscape. The Santee River was dammed in the 1940's to supply hydroelectric power, as part of the rural electrification efforts initiated under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal during the Great Depression. It is one of the fifty largest lakes in the United States, whether natural or man-made.
Lake Marion is surrounded by five of South Carolina's counties including Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Orangeburg, and Sumter.
Most of Lake Marion's nearly 300 miles of shoreline are protected as national wildlife refuge, wildlife management areas, or state parks so no more than 30% of the shoreline can ever be developed. Public access is provided through several public boat ramps, Santee State Park, and the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. Interstate 95 crosses Lake Marion between the towns of Santee on the south side and Summerton on its north side. Clarendon County and a portion of Sumter County lie on the north shore of Lake Marion and Orangeburg, Calhoun, and Berkeley Counties lie on the south side.
Lake Marion and adjacent Lake Moultrie were created in the early 1940's as part of the Santee Cooper Hydroelectric and Navigation Project. Beginning in April 1939, over 12,000 workers cleared 177,000 acres by hand in one of the largest earth-moving projects ever undertaken. Entire communities and over 6000 graves were relocated to make way for Lakes Marion and Moultrie.
These two lakes, commonly referred to as the Santee Cooper lake system, are joined by the 6.5 mile Diversion Canal. The two lakes are fed by many tributaries, including the Congaree, Wateree, Santee and Wyboo, and also by numerous springs, including Eutaw Springs.
Lake Marion is named for the American Revolutionary war general, Francis Marion. His former home of Pond Bluff was one of those flooded when the lake was created. Lake Moultrie was named for Governor William Moultrie.
If you enjoy camping, fishing, boating and golf, the Santee Cooper Lake system has it all. Both Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion offer countless opportunities for the adventurous spirit and if you live here, you can enjoy it all from your backyard. Take out your fishing boat, pontoon boat, speedboat, canoe, jet-ski, or kayak and enjoy the lake at your own pace. Or you can camp at any of the 29 campgrounds or on a pristine island, take a tour boat or guided fishing trip, canoe the backwater swamps or hike trails through the state parks.
For the golf enthusiast, Lake Marion offers 17 championship courses in the surrounding area. Many of these fine courses have been ranked by Golf Digest's Places to Play Guide. Enjoy classic tree-lined layouts, dramatic elevations and views of beautiful Lake Marion.
For the boat enthusiast you can travel from Lake Marion up the Santee River and into the Congaree or Wateree Rivers. Or from Lake Marion you can travel through the Diversion Canal to Lake Moultrie. At the end of Lake Moultrie lies the 75-foot high Pinopolis Lock, which lowers boaters down to the Tailrace Canal which takes you to the Cooper River and on to Charleston Harbor.
Santee Cooper Power Company, along with our parks system, had the foresight to preserve many of the wild places in Clarendon County, so we enjoy an abundance of wildlife and scenic waterways. The Santee National Wildlife Refuge - 13,000 acres of hardwoods, pines, marshes, old fields, ponds and open water - was set aside for wildlife, especially migratory birds.
Ducks, geese, herons, hawks, gulls, eagle, egrets, osprey and anhingas can be seen all along the cypress-lined shores of Lake Marion. Ospreys build nests on cypress stumps, providing entertainment and beauty as they dive like bullets and snatch fish from the water. We even get a glimpse of the majestic bald eagle every year. Other wildlife that call Lake Marion home include deer, fox, squirrel, turtles, dove, turkey and alligators.
Lake Marion is known for its big fish. The state fishing record for Largemouth Bass (16.2 lbs.) was set at this lake. Santee Cooper Lakes are most known for striped bass, a saltwater fish that has flourished since becoming landlocked when the lake system was dammed. Other fish that abound are White Perch, White bass, Crappie, Channel catfish, Arkansas Blue Catfish, Shellcrackers, Bream and Chain (Jack). Some catfish species grow to over 100 pounds.
Conditions vary from shallow swamps and black water ponds to vast open water with a multitude of underwater structures. When Lake Marion was created the area was not completely cleared. As a result, there are thousands of stumps, standing dead tree trunks and live cypress trees at various locations around the lake. This natural structure has been credited for creating our haven for fish, especially the large mouth bass.Additional Information (links)
Santee Cooper Country - Discover South Carolina's Great Lakes, Marion & Moultrie
Santee National Wildlife Refuge
Santee Lakes Map (Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie)
Santee Lakes and Surrounding Counties Map