Santee State Park on Lake Marion is a 2,500-acre park founded in 1942. It was established on land in Santee donated by Orangeburg County for public use. While the Palmetto State’s largest lake is the park’s most alluring feature, other park amenities include three nature trails, birding opportunities, tennis courts, and a seven-and-a-half-mile-long biking trail. However, most people come to the park for its prime views and easy access to Lake Marion.
While there is no designated swimming area at Santee State Park, swimming is allowed at your own risk. Two boat ramps offer access to the lake, and a fishing pier, seen above, allows for a day of wetting a hook without leaving dry land.
The Village Round is a community building available for group gatherings such as reunions, meetings, and retreats. The facility boasts a large screened-in portion for grilling.
Below is a view of a small, unnamed lake within the park. It abuts a picnic area and campground but was closed several years ago due to a high population of alligators who call the lake home. The park provides both camp sites and cabins for overnight visitors. Camp sites are available for both primitive and RV camping with water and electrical hookup. Several of the campsites are lakefront.
For those desiring more modern amenities, 30 cabins offer comfortable overnight accommodations; ten of the cabins are actually situated on the lake itself, resting on a pier. These cabins, pictured below, are sometimes referred to as “roundhouses” for their round appearances.
Other natural features include the prevalence of cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) growing from the lake itself. The lake was a project of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, and much of the park’s surrounding land is cypress swamp. When land was being cleared for the lake in the early 1940s, the federal employees working on the project were called to serve in World War II. As a result, the lake was filled despite the remaining trees and stumps. Subsequently, wildlife viewing opportunities abound from both the lake and the park.
Another natural characteristic of the park is the presence of limestone sinkholes, or places where limestone has given way to time and erosion. Ecological communities form within these sinkholes, some of which are now ponds, as seen above, and others that are simply depressions. The sinkholes provide habitat to a variety of flora and fauna, depending on factors such as their depth and the presence or absence of water. The sinkholes within Santee State Park have been designated a Heritage Trust Site by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.