your paddlesports destination

Lake Murray in South Carolina

Trip Overview

This is a trip report for a Day Trip kayaking on Lake Murray near Columbia, SC. We put in and took out at Dreher Island State Park which can be accessed from exit 91 off of Interstate 26. Lake Murray is currently drained down for dam repair, but a phone call to the park told us that although lake level is about 14 feet below normal, there is still plenty of water for boating. Our group consisted of four people, three from Hartsville, SC and one from Florence, SC. Driving time to get to the park was about one and a half hours from both locations.

Park admission was two dollars paid at the unmanned booth at the entrance. The roads are well marked and we easily found the boat ramp areas. There were two very busy boat ramps with adjacent parking lots filled almost to capacity. We decided to drive toward the camping areas to see if we could find a convenient place to park and launch our kayaks. Along the road leading to the camp sites, there was a visitors center near the lake. I say near the lake because normally it would be so, we actually ended up carrying our boats around a thousand feet to the water. Also due to the drained condition, what is usually a pretty nice shoreline was currently either mud or stones. In retrospect, the boat ramp would probably have been a better plan.

We had planned an early arrival to try and avoid the heat and were paddling by 9:30 am. Under a sunny sky, we headed west into the narrow end of the lake. The shoreline of Lake Murray has been developed quite a bit with a lot of nice waterfront homes. It is interesting to see all the docks far out of the water, many looking like freakish freestanding decks. The current plan is for the lake to be drained well into next year so it could be a good time to find a frustrated owner and get a good deal on some lakefront property.

We paddled on the main portion of the lake as well as up and back in several inlets, stopping for lunch on an island. The island had plenty of beach area, but beware of rocks in the shallow water. I tried to run up on an area that looked pretty clear but ended up with some pretty deep scratches on the bottom of my wooden boat. To make matters worse, I proved my true stupidity when I tossed a rock on top of my boat while clearing the rocks out of an area so the others could land. After lunch we headed back to the east and arrived back at the park around 2 pm.

Summary Lake Murray is a nice place to paddle with many places where you can stop for lunch or just to take a break. Dreher Island State Park appeared to have good facilities and is easy to get to. This is a good location for a day trip of paddling or several days if you like to camp.


Two dollars for park admission. Additional charges for camping.


Exit 91 off of I-26 and follow the signs to Dreher Island State Park.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip