Lake Hartwell - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
R. Karl Dieter
Lake Hartwell – Keowee & Seneca Rivers
The Keowee, Seneca, and Little Rivers between Route 183/Oconee Nuclear Station/Keowee Dam and Lawrence Bridge provide several day trips along the prettiest section of Lake Hartwell. Boat ramp access is available at Lawrence Bridge on the Seneca River and Holders Access on the Keowee River.
Day trips from Lawrence Bridge to the Nuclear Power Plant and return (13.6 miles), to Holders Access and return (7.0 miles), or to Newry on the Little River and return (6.8 miles) provides one set of options. Paddles from Holders Access to the Nuclear Station and return (6.0 miles), and from Holders Access to Lawrence Bridge and return (7.0 miles) offer a second set of options. If a shuttle is available, a one-way paddle between the Nuclear Station and Lawrence Bridge is a third possibility (6.5 miles), while additional trips can be planned around the Litter River, which merges with the Keowee River to form the Seneca River 1.0 mile north of Lawrence Bridge. Access to the Keowee River at the Nuclear Station is possible (at high lake levels only) via the old 183 roadway and a step trail to the river’s edge.
Launching from Lawrence Bridge turn left, paddle under the bridge and then proceed 1.0 mile to the confluence of the Little River on the left and the Keowee River straight ahead. This first mile covers a wide lake like setting exposed to the winds and in the summer will have motorboat traffic. After passing the mouth of the Little River the channel narrows considerably with interesting rock formations on the left side of the river. The next 2.4 miles have no houses or human presence along the shore until a hundred yards before Holders Access on the left bank of the river. The river channel bends and winds its way to a large open lake at 2.4 miles (34o 44’ 57.78"N, 82o 53’ 38.32"W, approximate taken from Google Earth) and about a mile below Holders Access. White tail deer, red tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, turtles, bass, beavers, and turkey vultures can be seen along this section. There are several sandy beaches at low water where you can stop for lunch, swim, fish or just relax and take a nap.
At 3.5 miles you reach the concrete boat ramp of Holders Access. This begins the second prettiest section of Lake Hartwell. After the few vacation houses at 0.8 miles north of Holders there is only river and forest with one power line crossing the river. Turkey vultures, wild pigs, fish in the river, and Blue Herons can be seen on this section. The water is often clear enough to see the stumps of old trees beneath the water’s surface and fish swimming among the roots. Some interesting rock formations on the river appear at a horseshoe bend 0.7 miles below the 183 bridge. Just before the 183 bridge you will encounter a rocky shallow area. Keep close to the left channel since this is the deepest section and you should be able to reach the bridge and the Duke signs forbidding further passage toward the Dam. The ability to reach the 183 bridge will depend upon water levels.
The lower section of the Little River where it merges with the Keowee is pretty, but after the bend in the river you begin to encounter a number of houses on the left bank. As you approach Newry, the water becomes brackish, smelly, and has the appearance of industrial waste. A good trip for a windy day when more open areas are a challenge.
Day trips from the Keowee Dam (10.9 miles and 11.2 miles), Holders Access (7.9 miles and 8.2 miles), and Lawrence Bridge (4.36 miles and 4.7 miles) to the Clemson Boat Ramp (34o 41.945’N, 82o 50.300’W) or the Boat Dock at Wendy’s (34o 41.437’N, 82o 50.373’W), respectively, are also possible. From the Lawrence Bridge Access, paddle south away from the Bridge. At around 0.7 miles, 6-mile creek enters from the far left side and a short paddle into this inlet leads to the old concrete dam that holds back the waters of Lake Isaqueena. The paddle from Lawrence Bridge south for 2.5 miles is a wide lake at high water with numerous boat docks and houses on the western shore. No human structures are on the eastern shore, which constitutes the Clemson Experimental forest. Around 3.5 miles the railroad bridge will come into sight; turn left to paddle to the Clemson Boat Ramp and turn right to paddle to the Wendy’s dock turning left at the first inlet after the 123 bridge. The paddle from Lawrence Bridge to Clemson involves lake paddling with 0.3-0.6 mile crossings if you choose the shortest distance and do not paddle close to shore. Although the boat docks and homes along this section of the lake are intrusive, this is a pleasant paddle on gorgeous days when sun, clouds, and water can compensate for the human presence.
Caution: Very turbulent, rapidly rising and fast flowing water results when the floodgates are opened at the Keowee Dam. The fast flowing water can be experienced 10-miles below the Dam. Releases are infrequent and controlled by the Duke Energy office in Charlotte, NC. A warning horn is supposed to sound 15 minutes before water release.
Some sections may be impassable depending upon Lake Levels. At full pound Hartwell is 660 feet. Below 654 feet (-6 feet) it will be difficult to reach the 183 bridge and below 648 feet (-12 feet) it will be difficult to pass through the large lake area 1.0 mile below Holders Access, which will now be a very shallow channel and a large swarth of sandy beach and dry grasslands that are underwater at higher lake elevations. Below 648 feet access to the river from the Lawrence Bridge ramp may not be possible. Access at Holders will be possible but not from the concrete ramp. You may need to park on the dry land and carry the boat and gear down to the river.
Hotels and motels in Seneca and Clemson. There is an RV park at Holders Access. Camping is allowed on islands in Lake Hartwell.
There is a $3.00 fee for launching at Lawrence Bridge Access, which also has restroom facilities and picnic tables.
Twelve-Mile Park in Clemson has two boat ramps, swimming area, picnic areas, restrooms and charges a fee for day use.
Directions: Lawrence Bridge
(34o 44.094’N, 82o 52.477W): From Clemson drive west on US 123 to a traffic light (Bloom’s Grocery Store) and turn right onto Old Clemson Highway. Proceed 1.7 miles and turn right onto Lawrence Bridge Road and drive until you reach Lawrence Bridge (2.1 miles). The boat ramp is on the right side just before the bridge.
Holders Access (34o 45.840’N, 82o 53.634’W): From Clemson drive west on US 123 to the intersection with 130 (Rochester Highway). Turn right onto 130 and travel 5.5 miles. At the sign for an RV park, turn right and follow the dead end road to the boat ramp.
Route 183/Keowee Dam Access: Continue on 130 for 1.5 miles from Holders Access to the intersection with 183 (E Pickens Highway). Turn right onto 183 and cross the bridge over the Keowee River. Just beyond the bridge, turn left onto the old roadway for the old 183 bridge. There is a yellow barrier here and space to park the vehicle. You must carry the boats about 200-400 feet until you reach the top of a hill. The old roadway may be covered in Kudzu. There is a very, very steep path that leads down to the water and requires careful footwork, but is doable. For this trip it is best to have a friend that can return your vehicle to the take-out point (Holders Access or Lawrence Bridge).
Clemson Boat Ramp (34o 41.945’N, 82o 50.300’W ): At the 123 and 133 intersection in Clemson, proceed North on 133 (College Avenue) under the railroad bridge and turn left onto Mountain View Lane after passing through the first stoplight. Follow Mountain View lane to where it dead ends at the Clemson Boat Ramp. The entrance to 12-mile Park on 133 is 1.0 mile from the 123/133 intersection and has a boat ramp, swimming area, and picnic areas.
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers:
706-856-0300 and 1-888-893-0678
Resources: Kingfisher Map
#302 - Lake Hartwell
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