This morning, I kayaked Lake Murray for a fun day-trip. I put in at the Lake Murray Dam on the Irmo side. The cost is free if you park before 10am on the weekends or 11am M-F. After this time, it is only $3, which isn't too bad considering the location. I put in at 7am, so it was free. From here, you can travel around 5 miles to Goat Island, and then 5 miles back to the dam.
Being that it was so early, the water was calm and inviting, without many speed boats (which is the most mentioned fear I've heard about kayaking the lake). A few fishermen were present, but they were already anchored; there was no worry of being overran by bigger crafts from what I saw.
From leaving at the dam, I traveled up the right of the lake, on the Irmo side. Having the dam in the background made it very easy to judge distance and keep your barrings. The first major location I passed was the Lake Murray Sailing Club, which has private docks and a private beach. Being that it was 7am, no one was utilizing the area. After passing the club, I reached my only major obstacle, which was the inlet area leading to Yacht Cove. To get to the other side of the inlet, you can hug the shoreline and travel around the cove for 1.5 miles, or cut straight across in the open for .2 miles. The .2 miles is completely across the water, with all the fear of incoming speed boats and jetskis to go with it. Because it was still very early, I risked the straight across and had no issues. On the way back it was later, and I should have taken the inlet then because a young kid on a jet ski kept getting a little too close to my tiny kayak.
After getting across the cove it was smooth sailing (rowing?) towards Goat Island. Certain areas of the water had more rocks than I would have expected, but if you give yourself a little distance between yourself and the shoreline it should be fine. Just keep going and enjoy the views of beautiful million dollar homes and the trip is worth the workout.
In the end, I made it a total of 2 miles out before returning back to the dam for a 4 mile total trip. The water was extremely peaceful, and I saw one other kayak during my trip. The weather was great and no boats gave me a heart attack.
Paved parking, great boat/kayak launch, nice fishing peers
$3 after 10am (Sat/Sun) or 11am (M-5). Free to park before then.
Take I-20 to exit #55 and go north on SC#6 for 9.5 kilometers (5.9 miles). Right after you cross the dam, the park entrance will be on the left.
Take I-26 to Lake Murray Blvd (towards Irmo). Stay on Lake Murray Blvd until you reach the lake. Turn right, just before you cross the bridge/dam.