lake hartwell natural history

Communing with nature is a natural human desire. Choose from Lake Hartwell offerings such as nature trails, botanical gardens, science centers and pick your own berry farms.

Georgia Hartwell Region | Georgia Toccoa Region | South Carolina Clemson Region | South Carolina Anderson Region
Georgia Hartwell Region
sandy creek nature center Sandy Creek Nature Center
205 Old Commerce Rd
Athens, GA 30607
Free nature center and trails open Tues. – Sat. 8:30am to 5:30pm. This small nature center has several live animals and fish as well as interactive exhibits. You can hear animal noises, go inside a small beaver house to see how they live and see how sea turtles have their young. The center also has a picnic area, restrooms, gift shop, nature library, classroom and nature trails (some are wheelchair and stroller accessible).
The State Botanical Gardens of Georgia
2450 S. Milledge Ave.
Athens, GA 30605 706-542-1244
Free (donations are appreciated), gardens and five miles of nature trails that are open 8am to 6pm, Oct. – March, and 8am to 8pm April – Sept. No bikes or pets allowed. The three story Conservatory contains a visitor’s center, café, restrooms, gift shop and vending machines. It is open Tues. – Sat. from 9 – 4:30, Sun. from 11:30 – 4:30 and is closed on Mondays and UGA holidays. If you have a stroller, follow the signs to handicapped parking (there are some regular parking spots there) otherwise, you will encounter some stairs. Many areas are available for wheelchairs and strollers.
UGA Campus Arboretum Walking Tour of Trees
The above web site provides maps of several walking tours of the campus.
Hart County Botanical Gardens
Hart County Botanical Gardens
Off Elberton Hwy (Hwy 77)
just South of Hartwell
Free, Open daylight hours
Nice nature path, butterfly garden, children’s play fort and bluebird habitat
Georgia Guidestones
Georgia Guidestones
On Hwy 77 – 7.2 miles N of Elberton and 7.8 miles S of Hartwell. Look for the small sign and you can see it in a field not far from the road
Free, no restrooms
An anonymous group funded the interesting and mysterious 119 ton Georgia Guidestones that provide a message, using 12 languages, to offer advice on the conservation of mankind. The Archaic languages of Sanscrit, Babylonian Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Classical Greek along with Chinese, Hebrew, Swahili, Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Spanish and of course English are used to convey these ideas. This monument, which is over 19 feet tall, has been called Georgia’s Stonehenge because the Guidestones have several astronomical aspects to them. These items are explained at the monument on a large plague on the ground. The rest of the story can be found at the Elberton Granite Museum.
Lake Hartwell Dam Area & Hartwell Project Visitor’s Center
Located 1 mile passed the Savannah River/Lake Hartwell Dam on the GA side or 5 miles from Hartwell, GA.
The visitor’s Center is small but worth visiting if you are going to the dam. You can request to watch a short informative film on the building of the dam. There are also films on lake safety. The center has a small model of the dam and some nature items like bird nests, several animals are shown here: a bear, wild turkey, raccoon, turtles, snake and fish. They are not alive.
Lake Hartwell Dam
Georgia Toccoa Region
lake burton fish hatchery Lake Burton Fish Hatchery
3695 Hwy 197N
Clarkesville, GA 30523
From Clarkesville take GA Hwy 197 North for 20 miles
Open daily from 8am – 4pm
See rainbow and brown trout being raised for stocking mountain streams in North Georgia.
Elachee Nature Science Center and Trails
2125 Elachee Dr.
Gainesville, GA 30504
From the North Exit 17 or From the South Exit 16 off Hwy I-985 770-535-1976 Parking is free.
Indoor nature center – Adult $5, 2 – 12 year olds $3, kids under 2 are free
Trails from 8am to dusk, you are free to use the 13 miles of hiking trails and picnic areas. There are many types of paths that range from a paved path that is great for strollers to a much longer hiking trail. From Mon. to Sat. from 10am – 5pm
The fantastic indoor nature center is usually open to the public for a fee (call to make sure that it isn’t closed for a school group, etc….). I like this center because they have tried very hard and have succeeded in creating a place for all age visitors. In each exhibit there is everything from an educational play area or interactive exhibit for small children to very high level scientific information. In the space room they have an area where children can play with astronauts and space ships on the moon. This room has weight scales that show you how weight changes from planet to planet because each planet has a different gravitational pull. The center also has a live animal exhibit.
Solar System Walking Tour
Gainesville has a scale model walking tour of our solar system. The 1.8 tour starts at the “Sun” in downtown Gainesville and ends at “Pluto” on Lake Lanier. This tour takes you through several parks and by picnic areas, restrooms, playgrounds and tennis courts. Park information can be found at
Black Forest Bear Park and Reptile Exhibit
Main Street
Helen, GA 30545
South Carolina Clemson Region
Campbell Museum Campbell Museum of Natural History
Kinard Annex Building
Clemson, SC
Open Mon. – Fri. 8am – 4:30pm. FREE, very small, less then 20 minutes needed. It’s just 1 room and 2 hallways filled with a bear, buffalo, skunk, tiger, owl, deer, moose, monkey and an interesting collection of bird skeletons, all sizes from a tiny hummingbird to a large Pelican.
Get a free parking pass and map at the Clemson University Visitor’s Center at Alumni Hall
Campbell Geology Museum
Located by the SC Botanical Gardens
Wed. – Sat. 10am to 5pm, Sun. 1pm to 5pm, closed Clemson University Holidays
$3 Adults/ $2 Children, free admission every 3rd Sat.
This small museum has a large collection of minerals, gems, meteorites and fossils from all over the world. The best part of the museum is the dark room where you can view beautifully colored rocks that glow under ultraviolet light.
South Carolina Botanical Gardens
Clemson University
I-85 exit 19-B to US 76, main entrance on Perimeter Rd.
Dawn until dusk, 365 days a year, FREE
295 acres of woodlands, streams, gardens, bridges, ponds, birds, sculptures, picnic tables and nature trails. There is an old train car and an authentic pioneer home that were relocated here.
T. Ed Garrison
Livestock Arena

Clemson University off hwy 76
A multi-purpose facility with indoor and outdoor arenas that have livestock, horse shows and rodeos, handicapped accessible
Roper Mountain Science Center
402 Roper Mountain Rd.
Greenville, SC 29615
Adults $5, 6 – 12 years old $4, 5 and under free
On the 2nd Sat. of each month from 9am – 1pm, the center is open to the public, nature hikes, arboretum and butterfly garden.
The Observatory offers a “Starry Nights” Program which is open to the public on Friday nights from 7 – 10 pm except during December.
Walhalla Fish Hatchery
198 Fish Hatchery Rd (Hwy 107N)
Mountain Rest, SC 29664
FREE, open 8am to 4pm daily, closed Christmas Day and during bad winter weather
Outside, trout are produced here in support of recreational fishing. For 25 cents, you can feed the fish.
Visitors are welcome to fish in East Fork, which runs through the hatchery grounds, walk around the hatchery and/or picnic in areas provided. Public restrooms are available, the best ones are inside the fish hatchery fence. The best time to visit the hatchery is in the fall, when you are able to see more stages in the Trout’s life cycle.
A Hiking trail is accessible from the picnic area. It follows the East Fork River for 2.5 miles until it reaches the Chattooga River, then you can either go up the river 1.7 miles to Ellicott’s Rock or down river 2.1 miles to Burrell’s Ford Campground and parking lot.
Close by is the Chattooga Picnic Area, run by the US Forest Service, which has a barrier free fishing pier on the Chattooga River and is accessible from the parking lot.
Duke Power World of Energy
7812 Rochester Hwy
Seneca, SC 29672
Open Mon. – Fri. 9am to 5pm, Sat. and Sun. noon – 5pm, closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day. 800-777-1004
Located on Lake Keowee beside the Oconee Nuclear Plant, from Hwy 123 in Seneca, turn right onto Hwy 130 (next to Ingles). Travel 9 miles to the center on your right.
Handicapped accessible, animated display’s and computer games help you learn about creating energy from natural sources like falling water, coal and uranium. The self guided tour with audio stations takes about 30 minutes. It contains a beautiful night sky, rain clouds, a water wheel and a fish pond all the while teaching about power on a very high educational level. This makes it good for all ages. The adults won’t be bored and the kids will enjoy the displays. There is also a ¼ mile easy to moderate nature path, fishing area, picnic sites, butterfly garden and scenic views of Lake Keowee.
South Carolina Anderson Region
Hardy Berry Farm
232 Strawberry Rd
Anderson, SC 29626
April – Sept., call for hours/never open on Sun.
This is a family run farm where you can pick or buy fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches and muscadines when in season. Their country store sells a variety of items like fresh bread, honey, jams and homemade ice cream.
Hardy Berry Farm
Happy Cow Creamery Happy Cow Creamery
332 McKelvey Rd
Pelzer, SC 29669
Off Hwy 25, 2 miles South of Ware Place, left on McKelvey Rd., I mile
Mon. – Fri. 9am to 7pm, Sat. 9am to 5pm, closed Sunday
If you happen to be in Pelzer, stop by for some chemical free pure milk, butter, cheese, sausage, chicken, naturally grown fruits. Tours by appointment.