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  • (PHOTO BY COLE STILWELL | CHRONICLE) Camping on a Lake Murray peninsula near Dreher Island State Park.

THE WORLD OUTDOORS - Cool off at this Lake Murray island

With summer's long, hot days, everyone will seek ways to stay cool. 
What better way to stay cool then by enjoying our very own Lake Murray? There's so much to do on and around the lake, a lot of it you probably didn't know about. 
The lake is home to Dreher Island State Park. It covers 3 islands about 10 minutes from Chapin, on 348 acres and home to many events from fishing tournaments to a huge Independece Day 4th of July firework show. 
We even came to be part of one. 
On a hot Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, my grandpa, Chuck McCurry, and I made our way out to the park. It had been around 3 years since we last visited it.
We drove into the park on a road winding through a softwood forest. After crossing a short bridge we were on the first island.
The islands are bigger than you would think lake islands would be. In fact, the park is home to the biggest island on the lake. 
We crossed onto the second island where the main office and boat ramps are.
We stopped to learn what we could about the park. 
That's where we learned about the boat and paddle board demo day, hosted by River Runner Outdoor Center. 
We talked to the ranger in the office to learn more about the park. 
Dreher Island has 3 boat ramps, villas, campsites and hiking trails. 
What about swimming? At Dreher Island, you can swim at you own risk anywhere along the park's 12-mile shoreline. 
The state park serves as the perfect hub for national fishing tournaments with fishing tournament shelters, great striped and large-mouth bass fishing spots, and the parks close proximity to Columbia. 
We thanked Ranger Bob Kienzk, who had been a ranger for 6 years, for all his help but before we left we made sure to take a selfie with him. 
Next we made our way onto the third and biggest island where the demo day was being held. The island was so big it was easy to forget you were on an island. 
The demo day in a large open cove swimming area was hosted by River Runner Outdoor Center in downtown Columbia. Vendors from all over the southeast were there with about 40 boats. 
The crowd was testing everything from paddle boards and pedal boards to canoes and kayaks.
 I tried out a speed kayak and it flew.
Chuck tried out a more comfortable kayak. 
We got to meet a lot of interesting people. 
Once we were kayaked out, we drove to one of the three trailheads. 
We hiked the short yet secluded Billy Dreher Trail in just 10 minutes. The trail ended at a lightly wooded point with a panoramic view of the lake, once the home of Billy Dreher. A old chimney still stood as proof.
Billy Dreher died in 1938 at age 80. His family donated the land to the park service in 1990.
Dreher Island is perfect for fishing and swimming. 
Several public parks on the south (Lexington) side of the lake are great for cooling off and taking a swim. They include the SC Ekecric & Gas Dam Park, Bundrick Island, Shull Island and Murray Shores Park.
 

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