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Thurmond Lake is one of the southeast's largest and most popular public recreation lakes. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1946 and 1954 as part of a flood control, hydropower, and navigation project, authorized purposes now include recreation, water quality, water supply, and fish and wildlife management. Each year, millions of people utilize the many public parks, marinas, and campgrounds conveniently located around the lake to pursue a variety of outdoor recreational experiences, making Thurmond one of the 10 most visited Corps lakes in the nation.
Thurmond Lake is a man-made lake bordering Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Broad, and Little Rivers. The lake is created by Thurmond Dam located on the Savannah River twenty-two miles above Augusta Georgia and 239.5 miles above the mouth of the Savannah River. The lake extends 39.4 miles up the Savannah River, 29 miles up the Little River, and 6.5 miles up the Broad River in Georgia, and 17 miles up the Little River in South Carolina, at normal pool elevation, Thurmond Lake comprises nearly 71,100 acres of water with a shoreline of 1200 miles. The entire Thurmond â€œProjectâ€ contains 151,000 acres of land and water.
J. Strom Thurmond Lake and Dam is the first Corps of Engineers project to be built in the Savannah River Basin. Hartwell Lake and Dam the second project built in the basin was completed in1963, and a third project, Richard B. Russell Lake and Dam was completed in 1985. Together these three lakes form a chain of lakes that is 120 miles long. Congress authorized Thurmond Lake in 1944 and construction began in 1946. The project was completed in 1954 at a cost of $79 million.
Originally the project was to be called â€œClarks Hill Damâ€. The â€œsâ€ at the end of â€œClarksâ€ was omitted due to a clerical error in the original Congressional Authorization, and the project became â€œClark Hill Damâ€. The authorization document outlined the plan of development for the basin with authorized purposes of power production, incidental flood control, and navigation. Later, recreation, water quality, water supply, and fish and wildlife management were added as authorized purposes. After that the dam was renamed â€œClarks Hill Damâ€.
The 1966 Flood Control Act authorized the building of Trotters Shoals Lake and Dam on the Savannah River between Clarks Hill Lake and Hartwell Lake. This lake was later renamed to commemorate a late senator from Georgia, Richard B. Russell who was very important in supporting the building of dams on the river. This created a movement to rename Clarks Hill Lake after J. Strom Thurmond, the longest serving senator in US history who was from Edgfield on the South Carolina side of the lake. This movement gained support due to the senatorsâ€™ great popularity in the area, and in 1988 the project was congressionally renamed â€œJ. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake at Clarks Hillâ€
Thurmond Dam is a concrete-gravity structure flanked on both sides by embankments of compacted earth some 5,680 feet (over 1 mile), crossing the Savannah River. The concrete section is 2,282 feet long and rises 200' above the riverbed at its highest point. Highway 221 crosses over the top of the dam connecting Georgia and South Carolina. The spillway contains 23 large gates, each 40 feet wide by 35 feet high, for the quick release of water from the lake.
Lakes Online Website for Strom Thurmond - Clarks Hill Lake: StromThurmond.USLakes.info.