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11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Augusta, GA

The selection of lakes near Augusta is diverse. There are smaller lakes for peaceful nature getaways, as well as huge reservoirs with every type of water activity imaginable.
Lake Oconee in Georgia

When it comes to lakes and reservoirs, Augusta residents have plenty of options nearby.

While many lakes prohibit swimming due to water quality, the large reservoirs managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offer designated swimming beaches.

Top swimming lakes near Augusta include the massive Clarks Hill Lake just 26 miles away, Lake Murray near Columbia, and distant but scenic Lake Russell.

For paddling enthusiasts, nearly all regional lakes allow kayaking and canoeing. Locals favor Savannah Rapids Park on the Georgia side of the Savannah River, with launch sites and rentals minutes from downtown Augusta. Riverside Park at Betty’s Branch also offers easy kayak access and rentals.

Naturally, anglers are drawn to the stocked waters and abundant populations of bass, catfish, and other fish at these easily accessible lakes.

Use the comparison table below to find the best lake for your recreational needs!

Lakes near Augusta Georgia Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Savannah Rapids Park

Savannah river rapids in Augusta and the border between Georgia and South Carolina in the middle of the Savannah river
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Savannah Rapids Park
  • Distance from Augusta: 10 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Nature Trips

Savannah Rapids Park is a newly developed recreation area on the outskirts of Augusta. It offers access to the Savannah River and Augusta Canal, making it the best paddling destination near the city.

You can play next to the rapids or float back to Augusta and Lake Olmstead in your kayak, canoe, or on the SUP. Also, there is a rental shop on premises for all your kayaking needs.

Other activities in the area include hiking, cycling, and nature trips. For example, a historic Augusta Canal Trail that follows the channel for 10 miles back to the city is a highly-rated and popular path.

The only downside to this location is that swimming is not recommended here partly due to the dangerous rapids but primarily because of the poor water quality.

Still, there are plenty of picnic areas, grills, and scenic views, so Rapids Park is a worthy choice, especially considering its proximity to the city.

2. Lake Olmstead

A walking path around Lake Olmstead in Augusta Georgia
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Lake Olmstead
  • Distance from Augusta: 2 miles (5 min)
  • Activities: Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Walking, Birding

Lake Olmstead is a small reservoir located by the Savannah River in West End. It’s a charming natural area just a few miles away from downtown, which is the lake’s biggest advantage – it’s local.

This destination is mainly known for fishing and kayaking, but you can also use motorboats and even SUP here.

Still, the lake offers a stadium, paved paths, picnic tables, and a rental shop. Even if you aren’t planning on getting wet, there is a lot to do here.

Lake Olmstead won’t win ‘best destination’ awards, but it’s right on the doorstep and is perfect for a paddle about or fishing after work.

3. Clarks Hill Lake

View of Lake Thurmond (Clarks Hill Lake) with blue skies clouds in Georgia and South Carolina Border
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Clarks Hill Lake
  • Distance from Augusta: 26 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Nature Trips

Clarks Hill Lake, aka Thurmond Lake, is a vast, 71,000-acre reservoir located just half an hour drive away from Augusta. It is a place with numerous state and day-use parks and 1,200 miles of protected shoreline.

Despite its size, the lake is well-developed. It boasts dozens of primitive and modern campgrounds, cabins, lodges, and hotels nearby. No matter the level of comfort you prefer, there will be an option for you.

When it comes to activities, your possibilities are limitless. From jet ski races to kayak quests and SUP yoga, you won’t get bored here. Also, there are six marinas dotted around the lake for all your boating needs and technical support.

What’s more, the nearest designated swimming beaches to Augusta are along the shores of Clarks Hill Lake. West Dam Beach provides the closest option, situated just 22 miles from Augusta. It features a sandy beach and a buoy-lined swimming area. Another choice is Lake Springs Recreational Area, a mere 25 miles from the city.

Apart from the water activities, the lake provides access to dozens of top-rated trails for hiking and mountain biking. And although the area is relatively flat with no significant climbs, it offers tranquil walks in the woods with stunning lake views.

Overall, Clarks Hill Lake is a vast, developed destination with limitless options. It certainly deserves a separate post to cover all the details. But for now, you can find more information here.

4. Diamond Lakes Regional Park

A gorgeous shot of a lake in the park surrounded by lush green and autumn colored trees and plants with powerful clouds at sunset
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Diamond Lakes Regional Park
  • Distance from Augusta: 11 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Nature Trips

Diamond Lakes is an urban park south of Augusta that features a couple of ponds, a campground, and a baseball field. It is an unusual mix between urban and wild.

Just 25 years ago, the park was a speedway full of spectators and revving engines. Nowadays, it’s a more tranquil place for families and outdoor fans.

What makes this location different is the sporting facilities. There are tennis and volleyball courts, baseball and softball complexes, and playgrounds. It’s a popular destination for active families, and kids seem to love it!

The disadvantages here are that swimming isn’t allowed in lakes, and they are too small for boating, too. However, you can fish and paddle to all your heart’s desire. It’s especially good for SUPs and kayaking.

Also, the park features a developed campground with electric hookups for RVs and sites by the lake. Perfect for a weekend stay!

5. Lick Fork Lake (May – Nov)

Lick Fork Lake
  • Official Page: Lick Fork Lake
  • Distance from Augusta: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping, Nature Trips

Lick Fork Lake is a small reservoir on the edge of the Sumter National Forest, some 25 miles north of Augusta. It’s a wild place in a scenic setting, perfect for peaceful nature getaways.

This location isn’t as developed as many others on the list. There is a campground with vault toilets and a fishing pier with a boat launching ramp, and that’s pretty much it. 

You can use kayaks, canoes, and SUPs here, but the motorized craft isn’t allowed. Also, there are a few trails in the area for hiking and mountain biking.

The lake is open to the public between 1st May and 15th November; it’s a summer destination. Another issue with this place is that it lacks some TLC. The trails are poorly marked and overgrown, and campsite facilities can be cleaner. 

Still, it’s a fun lake to escape civilization and recharge batteries in nature.

6. Hamburg Lake

Beautiful leaf colors reflecting on Hamburg Lake in Mitchell, Washington County, Georgia.
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Lake Hamburg
  • Distance from Augusta: 55 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Tranquil Hamburg Lake is the star attraction of 741-acre Hamburg State Park.

Fed by the Little Ogeechee River, the 225-acre lake offers premier fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, and bream. Anglers can cast from the shoreline or launch trolling boats at the on-site ramps.

Paddlers can explore the lake’s shores and wildlife by renting kayaks and canoes.

While swimming is prohibited due to alligators, the lake still provides excellent boating, birdwatching, and relaxing views.

Hikers circumnavigate the lake on scenic trails edged with shady pines.

With modern lakeside campsites and peaceful vistas, Hamburg Lake is the perfect place to retreat into nature.

7. Riverside Park

  • Official Page: Riverside Park
  • Distance from Augusta: 12 miles (20 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Nature Trips

Riverside Park is a popular recreation area on the banks of Bettys Branch, just north of Augusta. 

Although not technically a lake, Betty’s Branch offers the best kayaking experience in the area. Paddlers can embark on a 6-mile Bettys Loop route from Betty’s Branch up the Little River, then downstream along the Savannah back to the park. With rentals and river access a stone’s throw from Augusta, Betty’s Branch offers an unbeatable kayaking experience.

Apart from fishing and paddling, the park offers plenty of sporting amenities like tennis and volleyball courts and baseball grounds. Plus, there are plenty of picnic tables and a dog park. 

It’s an excellent place for paddling, but Clarks Hill Lake is a much better option if you want to go swimming or boating.

8. Lake Murray

Lake murray south carolina coast and pier
Source: dreamstime
  • Official Page: Lake Murray
  • Distance from Augusta: 72 miles (1h 20 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Lake Murray is a vast, 48,000-acre reservoir near Columbia. It is a very well-developed location; in fact, most of the shoreline is occupied by private dwellings. Nevertheless, there are plenty of spots for recreation.

Compared to Clarks Hill Lake, Murray has fewer campgrounds, RV parks, or nature reserves. Instead, it boasts an impressive array of cabins, lodges, hotels, and marinas that offer tons of water activities, including sailing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, and much much more. 

Lake Murray boasts designated beaches at several state and county parks encircling its shore. Dreher Island State Park is a popular spot for taking a dip in the lake’s refreshing waters. Despite the longer drive, it remains a prime destination for Augusta residents for swimming and beating the summer heat.

Also, you can go fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding here. Basically, you can do any water-based activity imaginable at Lake Murray; they even have scuba diving tours.

As mentioned above, the only disadvantage of this location is the lack of wilderness (compared to Clarks Hill Lake). Still, if you prefer comfortable stays and restaurant dining, Lake Murray is a perfect choice.

9. Lake Greenwood

  • Official Page: Lake Greenwood State Park
  • Distance from Augusta: 74 miles (1h 30 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Lake Greenwood is an 11,400-acre reservoir on Saluda River that stretches for 15 miles and offers plenty of coves and beaches to explore.

The lake has a developed shoreline with lots of residential buildings. But unlike its neighbor (Lake Murray), the reservoir offers a selection of campgrounds and RV parks, although there are cabins and lodges, too.

Other facilities include boat launches, beaches, fishing piers, marinas, and rental shops. And when it comes to activities, you can do pretty much any type; there are no restrictions.

Perhaps one of the best locations on the reservoir is Lake Greenwood State Park. It has a developed campground with clean facilities, access to the beach, and plenty of nature. 

Despite the advertised 0.8 miles of trails, the park actually has over 4 miles, which neatly loop together.

Lake Greenwood is a fantastic family destination with a good balance of wild and developed. And the famously clear water makes it the perfect summer choice.

10. Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee in Georgia
  • Official Page: Lake Oconee
  • Distance from Augusta: 83 miles (1h 20 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Lake Oconee is a 19,000-acre reservoir near Greensboro that never disappoints. It’s a highly-rated destination with clean water and a relaxing atmosphere.

Like other big reservoirs around Augusta, Oconee has developed shores with private communities, resorts, and golf courses. One of the lake’s pearls is The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds – a luxury resort overlooking the lake with lots of activities on offer.

Still, there are campgrounds dotted around the water, including KOA RV park, for those who prefer staying in nature. Lake Oconee really is a destination for everyone.

What’s more, Lake Oconee has several designated swim areas, but Old Salem Park is the most popular for taking a dip. With sandy shores and a beach area, Old Salem Park provides Lake Oconee visitors with an ideal place to swim.

And like other big lakes on the list, there are plenty of marinas, boat rental shops, and boat ramps to support every water-based activity imaginable. No one gets bored here.

So, no matter the level of comfort you require, or the activity you want to try, it’s all possible at Lake Oconee.

11. Lake Russell

Lake Russell on Georgia South Carolina Border
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Lake Russell
  • Distance from Augusta: 65 miles (1h 20 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Camping, Hiking, Nature Trips

Vast Lake Russell stretches across the Georgia-South Carolina border, offering 26,650 acres of boating and fishing bliss.

While a long drive from Augusta, it’s worth the trip to experience the lake’s natural and historic wonders. Below its waters lies the submerged Georgia-Carolina Memorial Bridge.

At the lake’s swim beaches and two state parks – Calhoun Falls and Richard B. Russell – visitors can boat, fish, kayak, and camp lakeside.

With over 500 miles of undeveloped shoreline, Lake Russell feels serene and secluded. Visitors seeking adventure on and along its waters won’t be disappointed.

The lake may be man-made, but its parklands and scenery offer an abundance of natural recreation waiting to be explored.

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