J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake

History - Pictorial Timeline

Early Construction 1908 - 1954

1908: Flooding of the Savannah River
Clark Hill Dam was built to prevent recurrent flooding of the Savannah River in and around Augusta, Ga. 


1908: Flooding Carriage

A Horse and carriage carry two dapperly dressed gentlemen through the streets of downtown Augusta during the great flood of 1908.

The Magnolia Cemetery grounds suffered each time the Savannah River flooded. The families of those buried here would come to retrieve the wooden markers that had washed to one end of the cemetery and put them back into place - hopefully back into the correct place. The markers in the Confederate section were replaced in no particular order after one of these floods. Silt from repeated floods have buried the Confederate Square markers about halfway to their tops. The great flood of 1908 did extensive damage to markers, plot walls and walks.


1944: Authorization by Congress
Construction of Clark Hill Dam was authorized by Congress.


1946: Construction began
Construction workers at the Clark Hill Powerhouse area August 1951. Contracts for the main generating units were placed in he summer of 1949, and a contract for the generators required 32 railroad cars to transport it to the site. The downstream arm of the second-stage cofferdam had been left in place to facilitate construction of the powerhouse.

Because of a shortage of materials due to the military requirements of the Korean conflict, the powerhouse phase of the construction lagged from the beginning. However, by July 1952 the powerhouse was 60 percent complete. The first generating unit was operating by November 1952, and the first electrical power from the dam was transmitted into South Carolina in January 1953. Six remaining units went into operation between February 1953 and July 1

Early Construction 1908 - 1954


A construction worker at Clark Hill Dam on Oct. 25, 1948 working on the Clark Hill Dam Reservoir. The reservoir was the first of the multipurpose projects to be completed in the comprehensive river basin developmental plan and is approximately 22 miles north of Augusta.

A dam (a common Teutonic word, cf. Swedish and German damm, and the Gothic verb faurdammjan, to block up) is a barrier built across flowing water in order to hold it back, often creating a water reservoir or lake behind the dam. Dams may be built to provide water for irrigation or town water supply, control the amount of water in rivers or to provide hydroelectric poser. Dams may also be built to control effluent from industrial work sites such as mines or factories.




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1952 The first generating unit:
The first generating unit went into operation, and within 1 year, South Carolina received its first Transmission of electrical power.



1954 Clark Hill Dam was completed



1954 Clark Hill Dam was renamed Clarks Hill Dam at the request of SC Senator J. Strom Thurmond.

Name Change:
Clark Hill Dam, built and operated by Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was completed in 1954 at a cost of $79 million. The resulting lake covers 71,000 acres of water and 80,000 acres of land. The Clark Hill project represented the first time the Corps built a dam and lake project with recreational facilities simultaneously.

originally the project was to be called "Clarks Hill Dam." The "s" on the end of "Clarks" was omitted due to a clerical error tin the original Congressional Authorization, an the project became "Clark Hill Dam.: Later, Senator J. Strom Thurmond requested Clark Hill Dam be renamed "Clarks hill Dam." in 1988, Clarks Hill Dam was congressionally renamed "J. Strom Thurmond Dam an Lake at Clarks Hill."

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Camping at Clark Hill:
The first Clark Hill recreation facilities were constructed between 1946 and 1954, coincidental with completion of dam. The lake, one largest inland bodies of water in the South, has been a popular site for fishing, boating, camping picnicking, and other forms or of recreation.

Colonel Paschal Strong, Savannah District Engineer, announced that Corps policy was to work closely with local interests. He further stated that it as incumbent on state or local government agencies to develop and manage the public parks, subject to the approval of the Corps: that participation by local, state and other governmental agencies would determine the number of facilities provided: and that any plans were subject to final approval by the Chief of Engineers. Under these conditions and with considerable local involvement, and initial plan for recreation and conservation was developed for Clark Hill.


Camping at Big Hart Campground in the 1970's


Camping at Clark Hill Campground in the 1970's


Visitor Center:
J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake Visitor's Center during the early 1980's. The visitors center went through a major rehab during the summer of 2001, and re-opened  Oct. 5, 2001 with new displays. Collectively, the displays and exhibits depict the history of the area, the purposes of the dam, the abundant resources available, and the role of the Corps in managing the lake and surrounding lands.

J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake serves about seven million visitors each year.

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Recreation Areas





 Lake Springs Recreation Area








Boating at Parksville 1984

 Boating at Parksville 1984               

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Probably the favorite pastime at Thurmond Lake is fishing. J. Strom Thurmond Lake provides 71,100 acres of opportunity for the angler. The lake features white, striped and hybrid bass and a good population of largemouth bass. Crappie, bluegill, sauger and catfish round out he major species of game fish.

Numerous boat ramps, fishing piers, and bank fishing areas provide experienced and novice anglers with ample fishing opportunities. Fisheries habitat improvements include the maintenance of 33 deep water and 14 shallow water fish attractors , felling trees into the water along the shoreline, and planting flood tolerant plant species along the shoreline. Deep water fish attractors are marked with an information buoy.





A family camps at Thurmond Dam and lake







J. Strom Thurmond Power Plant


Outside shot of the J. Strom Thurmond Power Plant



Inside display of the Thurmond Power Plant




Inside shot of the Thurmond Power Plant display



Power Plant control room



Power Plant generator

The Generator:
The generating units are currently undergoing a $70 million rehabilitation of each generating unit that will increase power output of each generating unit by 30 percent. Rehabilitation includes installation of auto-venting turbines, which will improve dissolved oxygen levels in the river water below Thurmond Dam but at least two pounds per million.

The use of auto-venting technology in Thurmond Dam represents the first use of this new  technology anywhere within the Corps.

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Inside the Visitors Center


Kelly Wellman learns more about water safety

January 2005:
Kelly Wellman, a visitor from Statesboro, Ga., learns more about water and boating safety with the interactive life jacket station where visitors can see and touch life jackets and can listen to water safety messages at the J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake Visitor.

Factoid: One of the first displays visitors see when entering the Visitor Center is a small suspended from the ceiling. Swimming under the boat are the fish that got away.


Inside the Thrumond Dam Museam



Touring the Museam 1



Visitors inside the Visitor Center


Two young ladies in the museam



                                                                                                                                             Jet Skiers enjoying recreation at the lake

Jet skiers enjoy a moment of recreation at the lake


The gates of Thurmond open


Thurmond Dam Spillway gates open 1998



Photo of the drought conditions
A kid cooking on a grill at the lake

Drought conditions in 1999 - 2002



Kids playing on the shore of Thurmond lake
Man in a kyak



Two young visitors enjoy playing on the playground

Playground fun
Two young visitors enjoy playing on the playground equipment at on e of the swimming areas at J. Strom Thurmond Lake. Although the Corps operates no beaches with lifeguards, most camping and day use areas offer convenient access to the water for swimming and water skiing.

Factoid: Thurmond Lake is one of the 10 most visited Corps lakes in the nation.


Children playing in a lake


Three young girls in a canoe



Water Safety with Park Ranger David Quebedeaux

Water Safety:
Park Ranger David Quebedeaux makes sure boaters have their life jackets before heading out on the lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the leading provider of outdoor recreation on all Federally-managed public lands in the United States. With a recreation base that is primarily built around water, the Corps has a dedicated focus on water safety.

Abundant wildlife  populations make quality hunting and wildlife observation opportunities possible. Good wildlife management is critical in maintaining these populations. In addition to more than 27,000 acres managed by the Corps, 29, 500 acres of project land have been leased to Georgia and South Carolina wildlife management.


A deer standing in the woods

Thurmond lake is well-known for deer and turkey hunting. Quail, dove and other small game also are abundant. Resident flocks of Canadian geese have been established o n the lake, and populations are large enough to permit limited hunting.