Living Here Guide

Lakeside living: The lure of the water

The lure of Lake Murray brought Mark and Donna Finkernagel back to the Midlands.

The couple and their four children moved to the lake from New Jersey in 1999, but then Mark’s job took them to Austin.

After five years in Texas, they were back again, returning to a lake community that by then included Mark’s parents, New Yorkers and frequent visitors who had decided to make Lake Murray their home.

“We wanted to come back to Chapin,” Donna Finkernagel said. “We loved it here.”

The couple bought their current lakefront home in the Hilton community in 2009.

A peaceful setting for homes from weekend fishing cabins to extravagant estates, Lake Murray provides what Finkernagel called “instant entertainment.” The family enjoys every kind of water activity; the kids grew up boating out to Wessinger Island to fish and camp.

Most evenings, the couple will sit down on the dock in their Adirondack chairs — he with a cigar, she with a glass of wine.

“We love to go out in the evening, and we’ll just tool the shoreline. Meet friends out there, watch the purple martins.”

While it takes 25 minutes to drive, it’s a 10-minute ride by boat to visit Mark’s mother Alice in Timberlake. (His father Bill passed away last year.)

The couple’s college-aged children — Kyle, 21, Taylor, 19, and twins Luke and Hannah, 18 — have migrated back for visits this summer, enlivening their four-bedroom home, on a cove near a public boat landing.

“When we’re on the lake, we enjoy each other,” Donna Finkernagel said. “We laugh. We eat well. It’s nothing but good.”

Mark owns a locker supply business in Columbia. He has a home office in the first-floor master bedroom that opens onto a screened-in porch.

From there, a set of steps leads down to a small lawn and dock with a deck boat, christened “Fink’s Fins,” lashed to it.

The family has a collection of watercraft – from kayaks to noodles – that they use to enjoy and explore the lake. Their golden retriever, Copper, jumps in with them.

Donna has taken over a second-floor bedroom for her art studio. Light from a bank of windows streams onto a double-sided, antique drafting table she purchased here, moved with the family to Texas, and brought back again.

“I like a mixture of old and new,” she said. “I really appreciate antiques, old things. I inherited several things from my grandfather, and I really cherish those family things.”

Donna Finkernagel said they enjoyed their time in Austin. “But our hearts were on the East Coast,” she said. “This is home.”

More neighborhoods on the water

Numerous lakes and rivers in the Midlands offer homesites as well as recreational areas.

The largest is Lake Murray and its power-generating dam, built from 1927 to 1930. At the time, it was the largest reservoir of its kind in the world, covering 50,000 acres and parts of four counties, according to tourism agency Lake Murray Country.

Today, its 650-miles of shoreline is home to thousands of residents, most of whom live there year round.

Don’t have a home at Lake Murray? Take a dip at the public beach, celebrate the 4th of July with the annual fireworks display or take a stroll across the dam.

Congaree Park downtown is a new subdivision on the West Columbia bank of the Congaree River. The Riverwalk, a picturesque walking trail, is just beyond the fence.

Lake Katharine is one of the largest lakes in a Richland County chain extending from Arcadia Lakes through Forest Acres. People who live there say it’s like a remote resort, yet they can be downtown in minutes.

Lake Carolina, in Northeast Richland, is a series of neighborhoods built in a traditional downtown style with the lake as a centerpiece. Among the amenities of the 200-acre lake are Sunset Park, with picnic tables and walking trails.

Lake Wateree, about 30 miles northeast of Columbia, offers a bird refuge and recreational areas along its 216 miles of shoreline. It, too, was created to generate energy.