Lake MarionSOUTH CAROLINA
• River: Santee River
• Length: 615 Miles
• Surface Area: 110,600 Acres
• Maximum Depth: 77 feet
• Length: 40 Miles
The upper most of the two beautiful bodies of water that comprise the Santee-Cooper Reservoir, Lake Marion is bordered by Clarendon, Calhoun, Berkeley, Orangeburg, and Sumter counties. It's head waters extend upstream nearly to the confluence of the Wateree and Congaree Rivers, where seasonally flooded, forested wetlands form the wildlife-rich Sparkleberry Swamp
"As a result, fisherman there will find thousands upon thousands of stumps, dead tree trunks, and live cypress trees."Construction of Lake Marion was part of the rural electrification efforts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Originally a navigation and hydroelectric power project, the Santee-Cooper Power and Navigation Project also provided much-needed jobs during the Great Depression. With the onset of World War II, completion of the project was accelerated. The Lake Marion Dam was complete and closed in November 1941, before the land-clearing work for Lake Marion was finished. As a result, fishermen there will find thousands upon thousands of stumps, dead tree trunks and live cypress trees. Much of this large woody debris serves as excellent fish habitat for nearly all fish species that inhabit the lake, especially crappie, bream, and catfish. Native aquatic vegetation is also present on the gently sloping shorelines and backwater sloughs, providing habitat for largemouth bass, pickerel, bream, and many other species.
Navigational aids have been added throughout the lake to assist boaters; however, caution should be exercised when traveling on the waters of Lake Marion. The 6.5 mile long Diversion Canal connects lower Lake Marion to Lake Moultrie, and provides a productive and weather protected area for anglers.
LAKE MARION EMERGENCY CONTACTS
Emergency - 911
DNR Law Enforcement: 1-800-922-5431
Operation Game Thief: 1-800-922-5431
Forest Fire Dispatch: 1-800-777-3473
Report Litter Violations: 1-877-7LITTER
Lake Marion, the upper reservoir of the Santee-Cooper hydropower project, is formed by the Santee Dam on the Santee River. Lake Moultrie, the lower reservoir, is formed by the Pinopolis Dam on a diversion canal from Lake Marion within the Cooper River drainage. The project diverted nearly all the water from the Santee River into the Cooper River.
The earthen Santee Dam is eight miles long and has 62 Tainter gates (spillways). Despite its large size, the dam creates only 1.92 megawatts of hydropower. It's true value is realized as an important flood control structure, a major cornerstone of socioeconomic stability in the region, and home to the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. Hydroelectric facilities at Pinopolis Dam were designed to produce the lion's share of the original Santee-Cooper electrification project, currently about 128 megawatts. In 1985, as part of a large-scale rediversion and redesign, the United States Army Corps of Engineers installed the St. Stephen Dam hydro facility to recapture lost generating capacity of another 84 megawatts.
Diversion of the majority of water from the Santee River, one of the largest on the Eastern seaboard, to the small tidal Cooper River, the Santee-Cooper project virtually eliminated the lower 90 miles of the Santee River and transformed the Cooper River into a major freshwater river. Although a re-diversion canal was constructed in the early 1980s, allowing 80% of the water entering Lake Moultrie to be redirected back to the Santee River, these flows are not dependable and are based on hydroelectric needs, not on the needs of the Santee River ecosystem.
This has severely impaired aquatic habitat and has negative effects on migratory fish such as American shad, blueback herring, striped bass, and the federally endangered short nose sturgeon. These flows have also been insufficient for flooding bottomland forests that border what used to be one of the largest rivers on the Atlantic coast.
Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie provide some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities in South Carolina. State record channel catfish, blue catfish and largemouth bass have been caught in Lake Marion. Thousands of waterfowl find shelter within the basin’s extensive floodplains including within the Santee National Wildlife Refuge located on the northern shore of Lake Marion. Both lakes are popular destinations for boaters. Due to low and inconsistent flows, recreation is limited on the Santee River.
A number of conservation listed plant and animal species are found within the Santee-Cooper River Basin including numerous mussel species and the federally endangered short nose sturgeon.
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Hydropower Reform Coalition
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