Review of River Forks Recreation Area on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, SC
Overview of Amenities at River Forks Recreation Area
2 Boat Ramps
Where is River Forks Recreation Area?
What Does River Forks Have to Do?
River Forks is one of my favorite recreation areas on Lake Hartwell after only one visit! My family consisting of myself, my husband, a ten year old boy, an eight year old boy, and a three year old girl went for the very first time on July 6th, 2014.
There are 3 designated swimming areas, 3 play grounds, more than enough picnic tables with grills, multiple covered shelters that are reservable, a two lane boat ramp, courtesy dock, bathrooms, almost unlimited bank fishing areas, and a designated hunting area.
There is plenty of space for your whole family! In fact if you really want to make sure you can have enough space you can reserve the entire Loop A for $150. This will give you an entire private beach, covered shelter, bath house, playground, and parking area all to yourself!
How Much Does River Forks Recreation Cost?
Basic day use is only $4 per vehicle regardless of how long you stay, even if it's all day! Picnic shelters can be reserved in advance for $40 (each). If you have a very large group of people meeting up, the entire Loop A can be reserved in advance for $150. Reservations can be made by calling the Hartwell Lake Office at 888-893-0678.
How Are the Swimming Areas at River Forks?
As someone who grew up on the coast of South Carolina with tons of beaches, I tend to be pretty picky about my swimming locations when it comes to lakes. After all I am use to sand between my toes, and no amount of years living in the south makes red clay (mud) feel nice to walk on!
Luckily all three swimming areas at River Forks Recreation Area have sand put down both on the beach area and in the water all the way out to the yellow designated swim area poles (see pics for yellow poles/pipes).
The first swim beach you will get to on your right after entering loop B (straight after paying) is a bit more muddy than the rest due to a little bit of a drought issue. The water is about 10 feet lower on the beach than usual. It appears as the water level went down it took some of the sand with it. However this is the largest of the two beach areas in Loop B, so with ample beach area it may be the best option on a crowded day if you actually want some space for your belongings. The downside to this beach area is there is little to no shade. If that is an issue there are picnic tables in the wooded area behind the beach, but if you have children that you need to watch constantly they will have to come with you every time you go to the picnic tables due to no good view of the beach.
The second swim beach on your right after entering loop B is the smallest of the swimming beaches, but it is fully sanded! I didn't feel any mud while walking out into the water. The designated swim area is smaller and so is the beach. However they have buoys much further out that keep the boats away, so if you want to swim further you can always cross over the designated swim borders and head out toward the buoys. A positive to this beach is the shade that is on all sides of the beach area. The picnic tables are also closer to the beach area.
The third swim beach is in Loop A (the road to your left after paying). If you have small children it is the best one to go to. The playground is actually on the beach. The designated swim are is larger than either of the other ones. There is also more parking at this beach than the other two so you won't have to search much even on busier days. The sand is everywhere at this beach area. There also seemed to be less boat traffic on this side of the recreation area than the others. No waves for us means more fun for our three year old!
Lake Hartwell is a man made lake bordering both Georgia and South Carolina. The lake is close to 56,000 acres! The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages 9 campgrounds at Lake Hartwell. They also have another 15 Corps managed recreation areas for people who want to spend the day (or maybe just an hour or two...) at the lake. Because camping is not allowed within these areas, they are commonly referred to as "day use" areas. In addition, the Corps manages 29 "access" areas on Lake Hartwell. Access areas are smaller recreation areas that usually have a boat launching ramp only, however, some may have restrooms and picnic tables. Many of these will have great places to fish and sometimes even places to swim (though not designated). There are also four state parks, five marinas, and several city/county recreation areas located around Lake Hartwell for everyone to enjoy!
My Overall Review of River Forks Recreation Area
I have been to several of the day use areas on Lake Hartwell. This one is great for the whole family. My children are 10, 8, and 3. We all had a blast. Even though it was Fourth of July weekend it was not over crowded like some of the other Hartwell locations. With three beaches we traded out spots quite a few times. One of the playgrounds is fully shaded so it was a great break from the sun. The bathroom was amazingly clean for a public bathroom! I actually didn't feel gross going into it.
Overall it is a great place. My only complaint would be that the park rangers were so busy over at the boat ramp doing free inspections that they were not circling through Loop B very much. The result was an idiot who thought we should all have to listen to their music bumping for about 15 minutes with words that were not okay for small children to hear. The positives far out weighed the negatives and my family WILL be returning.
When we were done for the day we circled through the boat ramp area and noticed tons of blackberries growing on the side of the road right after turning onto the boat ramp road. So we all got out and picked quite a few for a snack on the way home!
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