Lake Murray, SC (Paul Kirby) – In a tribute to one of the visionaries that looked at Lake Murray decades ago and saw what it could be, Saturday kicked off a phenomenal run of about nine days of non-stop fun as its waters came to life. Last week, a Celebration of Life Service for Charles “Charlie” Logan Higgins, Sr., 77, was held in Columbia after he passed.
Charlie Higgins was one of the two men who years ago realized that with some effort, and the right person, Lake Murray could become the recreational Mecca it is today. He owned a small “fish camp” and boat landing on the lake’s edge called Holland’s Landing at that time. He and another landing owner, Robert Long, began the discussion that eventually became Capital City Lake Murray Country. Later, the pair would serve on the board that hired a marketing genius named Miriam Atria to be the executive director of CCLMC. After that, it was full steam ahead as Lake Murray became a premier destination for people seeking recreational opportunities from all over the state, nation, and world!
The Fourth of July is a premier time on Lake Murray. Because the holiday falls about mid-week this year, there’ll be almost non-stop action as people enjoy everything from swimming and boating to camping and fishing on its waters. Saturday was the first official day and the waters of “The Jewel of South Carolina,” a name penned by Miriam Atria and very appropriate, came to life early and bustled until late. There were some folks fishing in quiet spots from early till late, a cove here, a creek there, but for the most part it was about red, white, and blue and a wet celebration!
Years ago, Atria came up with several ideas that have become iconic; the Fourth of July Boat Parade and the Fourth of July Fireworks show. Both were Saturday and both huge hits!
The Boat Parade always happens on a Saturday close to the Fourth. At noon, Atria and a large boat full of fun lovers, staff, and judges meet the pre-registered parade participants at Bombing Range Island in the center of “The Big Water.” With a bit of prompting from the crew of the cruiser, the extensively decorated boats parade toward the towers of the dam. There are so many American flags, colored flairs, banners, and revelers that it’s almost an assault on the eye if you’re not prepared. There’s also patriotic music blaring from loudspeakers aboard many of the participants. Other boats join in because it just seems like the right thing to do; Oh, and by the way, it’s just fun!
At the dam, the CCLMC crew lead boat pulls up in front of the towers and one-by-one the entered boats parade by. They display their numbers for the judges, honk or blast horns, wave, jump, and just generally have a blast. The judges must pick a top three and an honorable mention out of the many entrants, a formidable task. Afterward, the winners receive a call from the staff identifying them. It’s almost sensory overload it’s so much fun. The winners and their entries’ pictures are included below for your enjoyment.
For the remainder of the day, the waters of Lake Murray are alive with thousands of revelers enjoying the cool, clean waters, Sandy Beach, boating, tubing, and just generally partying together! If you know where to look you can find flotillas of boats bound together as they enjoy each other’s company, food, drinks, and hospitality. For those of you who are wandering, yes there are still fishermen if you know the right spots for that too.
As day fades into evening and then dark descends, you suddenly begin to see more lights than a Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree take over the waters. On both ends of the lake, families gather on boats, with chairs on the bank or docks, and stopped in cars at strategically pre-plotted viewing spots. Adults and children alike buzz with excitement as the fireworks show draws near. This too is one of Miriam’s babies.
From an island close to the dam and Dreher Island State Park, a huge firework show, simulcast to music on the radio, lights off. It seems to last forever yet it’s always over too fast. It’s the perfect ending, yet it’s just the first day. Sunday was almost as busy, and that rounded out weekend one.
During the week, you’ll see camping at every prepared hook-up and site. There’ll be tents at most of the island spots where someone just decided to clear a site years ago and it stuck. The real fishermen know that the weekday is the best for hooking the big ones, or at least staying on a prime spot. You’ll see couples in pontoons, kids zipping around on personal watercraft, and people swimming to beat the heat. Remember, this is just the beginning, there’s still a number of days to go.
There are lots of great things to do all the time in Capital City Lake Murray Country. The region includes all four counties that touch the shores of the lake. If you want to know more about Lake Murray, or the water’s not your thing, check out CCLMC’s website at www.lakemurraycountry.com.