10 Best Lakes for Swimming and Paddling near Augusta, GA

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If you are looking for a recreational lake near Augusta, you have a good choice. There are large, developed reservoirs nearby, as well as some smaller options for more peaceful gateways.

Some lakes on this list are known for fishing and paddling, while others are full-on recreational reservoirs with no limits. Whatever activity you seek, Augusta has it.

Lakes near Augusta:

  1. Savannah Rapids Park
  2. Lake Olmstead
  3. Lake Thurmond aka Clarks Hill Lake
  4. Diamond Lakes Regional Park
  5. Lick Fork Lake
  6. Lake Brown
  7. Riverside Park
  8. Lake Murray
  9. Lake Greenwood
  10. Lake Oconee
Lakes near Augusta Georgia Comparison Table

1. Savannah Rapids Park

  • 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.

Related: 6 Amazing Lakes near Charleston, SC

2. Lake Olmstead

  • Official Page: Lake Olmstead
  • Distance from Augusta: 2 miles (5 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, 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. Although swimming in the lake is possible, the water quality isn’t ideal, so it’s up to you.

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.

Related: 9 Superb Lakes near Columbia, SC

3. Lake Thurmond aka Clarks Hill Lake

  • 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 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.

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.

Related: 11 Stunning Lakes near Athens, GA

4. Diamond Lakes Regional Park

Diamond Lakes Regional Park
  • 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!

Related: 9 Superb Lakes near Columbia, SC

5. Lick Fork Lake (May – Nov)

Lick Fork Lake
  • Official Page: Lick Fork Lake
  • Distance from Augusta: 28 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, 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.

Related: 6 Amazing Lakes near Charleston, SC

6. Lake Brown

Lake Brown
  • Official Page: Lake Brown
  • Distance from Augusta: 45 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Nature Trips

Lake Brown is a 100-acre reservoir in Barnwell. It is best known for fishing because of the 24-hour free public access.

Facilities here are pretty limited. There are a few fishing piers and boat launching ramps. Kayaking, canoeing, and SUPs are popular activities, but not swimming.

Despite the Lake’s metropolitan location, it doesn’t feel crowded or noisy. It’s a peaceful place. 

Perhaps, it’s not worth the drive, especially considering that Clarks Hill Lake is nearer, but if fishing is your primary sport, it might be worth it.

Related: 11 Stunning Lakes near Athens, GA

7. Riverside Park

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. 

The park offers access to the river with a fishing pier and boat launching ramp. Also, there is a kayak rental shop if you want to give paddling a go.

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. 

One significant advantage of kayaking here is that you can make a loop and finish in the same place without needing a shuttle.

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

Related: 9 Superb Lakes near Columbia, SC

8. Lake Murray

Lake Murray
  • 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. 

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.

Related: 6 Amazing Lakes near Charleston, SC

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.

Related: 11 Stunning Lakes near Athens, GA

10. Lake Oconee

  • 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. Oconee really is a destination for everyone.

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.

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