Dreher Island State Park, just west of Columbia (South Carolina’s famously-hot state capital) is a little-known state park on its way to being the water sports hotspot of South Carolina. Columbians are no stranger to water sports, as paddlers and fishing enthusiasts flock to the city at the confluence of two rivers. However, tourists and locals alike might not realize just 30 miles away lies the answer to their watery dreams.

Situated just 45 minutes northwest of Columbia, Dreher Island State Park covers three islands and spans almost 350 acres in Lake Murray, providing a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. During lazy summer days or the temperate southern winters, Dreher Island State Park offers countless year-round activities for adventures on Lake Murray.

How to Make the Most of Your Trip to Dreher Island State Park

At Dreher Island State Park, nearly anything is possible. Visitors can host a fishing tournament, watch for the rare purple martins that call the lake home, go geocaching, scuba diving, paddle boarding, or even just spend the day at one of the three playgrounds around the park. For those looking to do it all, Dreher Island State Park camping has you covered.

Camp on Lake Murray’s Serene Shores

an rv resting at a campsite at dreher island state park

Image from The Dyrt camper Jenny P.

Boasting 12 miles of shoreline along Lake Murray, Dreher Island State Park hosts a majority of their campsites either adjacent to the beach or with a fantastic view of the water.

It’s not just about unbeatable views, however: the campgrounds are peaceful and quiet. Also, with average high temperatures in the 60s over much of the winter, it’s the perfect spot for year-round camping.

Drop a Fishing Line Anywhere You Go

boats at sunset float on lake murray at Dreher Island State Park

Image from The Dyrt camper Matt G.

For the angler, there are few better places than Dreher Island.  Several species of bass, bream, crappie, catfish, and perch are all found across Lake Murray. And with three different boat docks and multiple places to put in kayaks and canoes, it’s easy to find your perfect spot.

As a testament to its prolific fishing, Dreher Island has also been host to national-level professional fishing tournaments and is frequently found on state lists as best for fishing.

Didn’t pack your rod and reel? Don’t sweat it! The park office offers a loaner program so you can try your luck at catching dinner.

Enjoy Trails for Hikers, Wildlife Spotters, and Cyclists

a wooded boardwalk trail in summer at dreher island state park

Image from The Dyrt camper Kim H.

Three trails criss-cross the island park, providing hikers with varying degrees of difficulty but lovely views all around. The Little Gap Trail, the longest at 2.1 miles, is a moderate difficulty hike through hardwood forests. The trail starts at the kiosk on Red Maple Drive and loops around the peninsula. 

The Billy Dreher Nature Trail is a short walk near the shore that passes by the ruins of the Dreher homesite. At 0.25 miles, it’s an easy hike providing a glimpse into the history of the island. The mixed-use, bicycle/walking Bicycle Bypass cuts through the center of the park. This trail allows safe access for walkers and bikers from the campground to the tackle shop.

Admire the Unique, Native Wildlife Habitats

a dozen turtles sunbathe on a log floating in lake murray at dreher island state park as dog watches

Images from The Dyrt camper Darlene B.

As you explore the park, you may catch a glimpse of the abundant wildlife in the area, including white-tailed deer, egrets, herons, and maybe even a bald eagle!

Lake Murray is the native habitat of hard- and soft-shelled turtles, purple martins, and osprey, which means opportunities for wildlife encounters are abundant. Grab a camera or bring your sketchbook and capture a few of the resident critters. Look for wildlife without fear, as there are no alligators in Lake Murray or at Dreher Island State Park.

A small park with a lot to offer, Dreher Island State Park gives visitors the chance to boat, swim, fish, hike, or just relax and soak up some lake time. Close to everything, but a world away, Dreher Island is a little paradise in Columbia’s backyard.

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