Clarks Hill Lake Information
Clarks Hill Lake, also known as Lake Strom Thurmond, is a reservoir between Georgia and South Carolina. It was built between 1946 and 1954 by the Army Corps of Engineers at the confluence of the Little River and Savannah River. At 71,000 acres it is the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi River.
Thurmond Lake is one of the Southeast's largest and most popular public recreation lakes. Built 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 Clarks Hill one of the 10 most visited Corps lakes in the nation.
The dam is 22 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 of 330 mean sea level, With a shoreline of 1200 miles, the entire Clarks hill “Project” contains 151,000 acres of land and water.
The dam is a concrete-gravity structure, flanked on both sides by embankments of compacted earth, is more than a mile long (5,680 feet) crossing the Savannah River. The concrete section is 2,282 feet long and rises 200 feet 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.
The dam is built of more than 1 million cubic yards of concrete and more than three million pounds of reinforcing steel. The depth of the lake behind the dam is approximately 180 feet. The power plant contains seven 55,000 horsepower turbines and the seven penstocks that carry the water through the turbines are 20 feet in diameter. The average yearly generation from the Thurmond Power plant is 700 million Kilowatt hours.
Originally the project was to be called Clarks Hill Dam after the nearby South Carolina town of Clarks Hill, and the Revolutionary War hero Elijah Clark, whose burial place is on the grounds of Georgia's Elijah Clark State Park on the western shore of the lake. The “s” at the end of Clarks was omitted due to a clerical error in the original congressional authorization, and the project became Clark Hill Dam. 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 Clarks Hill Dam.
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 U.S. history who was from Edgfield on the South Carolina side of the lake. This movement gained support due to the senator's great popularity in the area, and in 1988 the project was congressionally renamed J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake at Clarks Hill.
The bill passed through Congress with little fanfare or notice. Georgia residents were quite surprised the next year when they discovered the lake had been renamed after a politician from another state. In response, a group of Georgia legislators, led by Rep. Doug Barnard Jr. of Augusta, who was, ironically, the only Georgia co-sponsor of the original 1987 bill, introduced a bill to rename the lake Clarks Hill once again. That bill, however, was unsuccessful, and the name remained unchanged.
To this day, many residents of Georgia and South Carolina, including most of those who live nearby, refer to the lake by its original name.