Monticello Reservoir, also known as Lake Monticello by local residents, is a quiet lake in the central midlands region of South Carolina. It is an easy 30 minute drive north of Columbia. The main part of the lake covers nearly 7,000 acres with 51 miles of shoreline. The smaller 300-acre Monticello Recreation Lake is located just north of the main lake, separated by a dike where Highway 99 crosses over. Monticello Reservoir provides opportunities for year round recreational activities.
The lake is owned and managed by the South Carolina Electric & Gas Company. It was built in the late 1970s for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station, which provides electric power for the region. Although the dam impounds Frees Creek, the reservoir also receives water from the Broad River through nearby Parr Reservoir. The electric company owns a buffer of land around the shoreline of the entire lake to maintain its natural beauty and prevent overdevelopment.
The Fairfield County Recreation Commission operates Lake Monticello Park off Highway 215, near the intersection of Highway 213. The park offers a number of recreational activities. There is a picnic area, a playground, a fishing pier, and restroom facilities. Sports enthusiasts may enjoy the tennis courts, basketball court, and baseball/softball field. The park contains paved walking trails. Swimming is allowed in the lake, but there is no lifeguard on duty. Lake Monticello Park is open from sunrise to sunset, and there is no admission fee. Another park area is located on the smaller Monticello Recreation Lake. Visitors may walk the 1.5 mile nature trail, enjoy a picnic, or swim. Fishing is allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This park is also open from sunrise to sunset.
Fishing and boating are popular on Monticello Reservoir. There are two free public boat ramps on the lake. One is located just north of Lake Monticello Park on Highway 215. The other boat ramp is located at the north end of the lake off Highway 99. Both are open during daylight hours. There are no private boat ramps or marinas on Monticello Reservoir. Boaters should exercise caution as lake levels can fluctuate as much as 5 feet in a 12 hour period. No jet skis or water skis are allowed on the lake.
Anglers enjoy excellent fishing in Monticello Reservoir. Fishermen may catch a variety of bass, including largemouth, smallmouth, striped, and spotted. The lake is also popular for catching catfish and crappie. A valid South Carolina fishing license is required.
The areas mild weather makes outdoor activities popular at Monticello Reservoir year round. Visitors to central South Carolina should plan to enjoy a day at one of the regions most scenic lakes.