As the temperatures get warmer and summer approaches, Lake Murray lures Columbians with its cool(ish) water and all the fun that it can provide.
And many businesses and organizations capitalize on Lake Murray's appeal by hosting events on the 50,000-acre water playground.
You can enjoy Lake Murray every day, regardless of whether you have a boat or a lakefront house. Folks can enjoy sunsets over the lake at one of the public parks by the dam or take in views often captured in pictures while walking over the dam. Businesses rent boats, restaurants offer lakeside dining and drinking, and Dreher Island State Park has hiking and camping.
Throughout the spring and summer, events also give folks an excuse to enjoy some lake time. Here are some of those events:
Demo Day at Dreher Island
When: 1-5 p.m. Sunday, April 29.
Where: Dreher Island State Park, 3677 State Park Road, Prosperity.
Why: If you've ever wanted to try out the latest in paddle sports gear, this is your chance to test kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. Pay $2 to get into the park, then the demo event is free and includes lunch.
Lake Murray Triathlon
When: 8 a.m. Saturday, May 11.
Where: Dreher Island State Park.
Why: Dreher Island State Park is a scenic place to get some exercise. The swim is one counter-clockwise 750-meter loop; the bike course is a 16-mile loop; and the 5K run is a one-loop course with several out and back spurs, and is relatively flat and shaded.
When: Music starts at noon Saturday, June 2.
Where: Near Spence Island.
Why: Boats will tie up for this annual music event, which organizers call "the world's largest floating music festival." Proceeds from the free event benefit the vets' support organization Hidden Wounds.
Weekend With The Pros
When: Friday, June 15, through Saturday, June 16.
Where: Frayed Knot, 1701 Dreher Island Road, Chapin.
Why: Pro wakeboarders Shaun Murray and Josh Palma will give exhibitions and lessons. Murray is a four-time World champion wakeboarder and the main character featured in the video game "Wakeboarding Unleashed." You can also sign up for lessons (they're for all ages and skill levels!) and check out an in-water boat show.
July Fourth Fireworks and Boat Parade
When: 9-9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 30.
Where: Spence and Dreher islands.
Why: Watch the patriotic, fun boat parade as participants putter from Bomb Island to the dam. Then, as dusk descends, folks all around the lake can watch as one of the biggest fireworks shows in the Midlands is set off from two locations.
Reggaetronic Lake Murray Music Festival
When: 11:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. Saturday, July 14.
Where: Spence Island.
Why: Hear a blend of modern reggae, rock and electronic music — while staying cool — for free. And if you purchase a VIP pass, proceeds got to charity. Last year, proceeds from Reggaetronic benefited Camp MATES and the Autism Academy of South Carolina.
Dam Swim for Drew
When: 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8.
Where: From the Irmo side of the Lake Murray dam to the Lexington side
Why: This annual 2-mile open-water swim honors the memory of 11-year-old Drew Smith, killed in 1997 when a speedboat smashed into the boat he and his father were fishing from in a Lake Murray cove. Proceeds benefit the Drew Smith Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship awarded to a Lexington High School senior who participates in the swim.
Lake Murray Dam Run
When: 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22.
Where: From the Lexington side of Lake Murray dam to Saluda Shoals Park on the Irmo side.
Why: Because if you're going to run a 10K race, shouldn't it have a great view?
Go for a swim
When: Summer hours, starting May 2, are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Where: Lake Murray Public Park (Lexington side, aka Lake Murray Beach), 1832-1834 N. Lake Drive, Lexington.
Why: Columbia gets pretty hot in the summertime.
Info: Cost is $3 for cars and trucks, $2 for motorcycles or $5 for buses. Season passes are $45 per car. www.sceg.com/about-us/lakes-and-recreation.
See the purple martins
When: July and early August.
Where: Typically near Bomb Island.
Why: Thousands of purple martins roost at Bomb Island, and for a few weeks, you can see them flying around the island in droves. This one we can't guarantee — a few years ago, the migratory birds decided they liked Lake Monticello better. (They have since returned.) When the birds leave their roosts in bulk each morning, they form enough of a cloud to be picked up on weather radar images — and when they return at night, they frequently put on an acrobatic show. Not sure you care about purple martins? Three words: They. Eat. Mosquitoes.
Info: Keep an eye on the schedule for the yacht Spirit of Lake Murray, lakemurraycruises.com. A few public cruises to watch the birds are typically available.
Where:Frayed Knot; Rusty Anchor and Catfish Johnny's, 1925 Johnson Marina Road, Chapin (opening April 19, according to its Facebook page); Liberty on the Lake, 1602 Marina Road, Irmo; Lake Murray Deli & Snack Bar, 3340 U.S. 378, Leesville (open for the season, according to Facebook, but full menu isn't available yet); Buffalo Creek Bar & Grill, 850 Marina Way, Prosperity.
Why: These local lakefront restaurant and bars offer local bands throughout the summer — some year-round. Enjoy listening to music and gazing at Lake Murray. All have outdoor dining options.