Lake Hartwell is a man-made reservoir bordering Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca Rivers. Lake Hartwell is one of the southeast's largest and most popular recreation lakes. The lake is created by Hartwell Dam located on the Savannah River seven miles below the point at which the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers join to form the Savannah. Extending 49 miles up the Tugaloo and 45 miles up the Seneca at normal pool elevation, the lake comprises nearly 56,000 acres of water with a shoreline of 962 miles. The entire Hartwell "Project" contains 76,450 acres of land and water. I-85 bisects Hartwell Lake and makes the area easily accessible to visitors.
Since its construction, Hartwell Reservoir has provided good fishing habitat for many species. Bream, catfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, andlargemouth bass are naturally occurring species in the lake, with quality fishing available for those species. The most popular fishing on Lake Hartwell, however, has become pursuing striped bass. Fish heavier than 60 pounds have been caught on Lake Hartwell, with 20 pounds fish being common. The majority of striped bass caught on the lake will range from 5 to 12 pounds.
Lake Hartwell has numerous recreational opportunities to enjoy.
- Camping. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages 9 campgrounds at Lake Hartwell with a total of 524 campsites. Many of the campgrounds include restrooms, showers, boat ramps, playgrounds, electric and water hook ups, courtesy docks, group camping, and designated swimming areas.
- Biking trails. The Corps of Engineers Lake Hartwell office partnered with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) to build a 7.6 miles multi-purpose trail at the Paynes Creek Campground area.
- Fishing. Hartwell is home to many different types of fish including largemouth bass, bream, hybrid and striped bass, crappie, white bass, trout, andwalleye.
- Swimming. The lake is suitable for swimming but there have been over 200 deaths on the lake through the years.
- Water sports. The Lake is a venue for a variety of sports such as tubing, water skiing, and wake boarding.
- Boating. Boating is a huge part of the recreation side of Lake Hartwell. There are five marinas along the lake, including Clemson Marina, Big Water Marina, Harbor Light Marina, Hartwell Marina, and Portman Marina as well as many public boat ramps. The lake also features the private Western Carolina Sailing Club that hosts an annual regatta in October to benefit Hospice of the Upstate.
- Wildlife. There are more than 250 species of birds and 40 different mammals around Lake Hartwell.