Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake

When it’s time for outdoor recreation, Americans head for the water. The Corps many lakes, rivers, and beaches offer everyone fun, fitness, rest and relaxation. And, America’s first choice for water-based recreation is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; one out of every ten Americans will visit a Corps lake this year.

The three lakes in the Upper Savannah River Basin – Hartwell, Russell, and Thurmond – offer a variety of recreational opportunities. However the recreation areas are operated quite differently at the three lakes.

At Lake Russell, almost all recreation areas are leased to and operated and maintained by either Georgia or South Carolina. The cost of the land, as well as the costs for construction and development of these recreation areas, was shared 50/50 (cost sharing) by the Corps and the state where the facility is located, all in accordance with the Federal Water Project Recreation Act of 1965 Public Law 89-72. The project has two Corps-operated recreation areas. These are the two unique and informative visitor centers at the powerhouse and the Natural Resource Management Center, located 20 miles east of Elberton, Georgia and 8 miles west of Calhoun Falls, South Carolina off US 72. In addition the project has 21 state-operated recreation areas (8 in Georgia and 13 in South Carolina); 1 locally-operated recreation area; and 1 Marina lease. The project also includes about 600 prehistoric and historic sites ranging in age from the end of the last Ice Age to the early 20th century – some of which are now under water, but many of which can be visited. In all, the Richard B. Russell Lake and Dam has more than 1.1 million visitors per year enjoying a wide variety of recreational activities including water sports, hunting, hiking, picnicking, camping, and fishing.

By contrast, Thurmond and Hartwell were built prior to passage of the Water Project Recreation Act and do not fall under this guidance. The Corps purchased all recreation area land at both lakes; and it developed, operates and maintains more than 90 recreation areas at the two lakes. But Thurmond and Hartwell also have recreation areas that are leased to the states, local agencies, and individuals/companies (e.g., marinas). Although these leased areas are on land purchased by the Corps, the facilities were developed and are operated and maintained at the expense of the lessee.





Recreation areas




Recreation areas




Recreation areas




Marina leases




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The lakes offer something for everyone. Visitors to Russell, Hartwell and Thurmond can enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities, including water sports, hunting, hiking, picnicking, camping, and fishing – all in very different settings. For instance, Hartwell, being close to a major population area, has high public use (more than 10 million visitors annually) and a decidedly suburban flavor. Russell offers a more rural, pristine setting with quieter recreational opportunities. Thurmond, with its large lake and land base, offers a combination of the two environments and unique features such as Dorn Sport Fishing and Boating facility, the largest boat-launching facility in the southeast, located in McCormick County near Hawe Creek Campground.

Safety…Lake Russell, as a public recreation lake, is provided for the use and enjoyment of you, our visitor. However, each year, needless injuries and deaths occur as a result of swimming and boating related accidents – most of which are preventable. To insure your enjoyment, you should observe water safety precautions as well as applicable federal, state, and local laws when using the lake’s waters for swimming, boating and other activities.