Once upon a time, there was a young woman whose lover died in battle during World War I. Obviously heartbroken and grief-stricken, she felt a need to show that her love for him would never fade. As she considered how in the world she could achieve this, she finally decided to affix a padlock to bridges in Hungary where the two lived. Sometimes they would meet at these locations for a romantic walk. And as the legend has it, people took notice and others who had lost loved ones followed suit. The trend soon spread and as it moved west, it made its way to Paris and then across the ocean all the way to a lakeside trail in South Carolina where these love locks at the Lake Murray dam are found!
The lakeside trail that traverses across the Lake Murray dam is called the Johnny W. Jeffcoat Walkway. It’s paved and is 3.6 miles out and back.
No pets are allowed on this trail.
On the Lexington side of the trail, you can park free-of-charge in a small parking area if you’re there just to enjoy the trail.
For a nominal fee, you can park to the left of this lot at the Lake Murray Public Park, which has a large beach area and swimming area plus dozens of picnic shelters, some of which can be reserved. This is one of only a few public swimming areas on the entire lake.
It’s busier at some times than others.
The walk across the dam is a pretty one, with broad views of Lake Murray. Expect noise from those traveling by vehicle across the dam, and you’ll also experience some wind coming off the water.
On the fencing at the Lexington side, you’ll see the “love locks” at Lake Murray dam, as they are called. The trend became most commonly associated with Paris, probably due to its reputation as the city of romance. The Pont des Arts bridge is even famous for being the “love lock bridge in Paris.”
The locks have not always been placed to commemorate lost love; some have been placed by newlyweds who then threw the key into the water as a gesture symbolizing love sealed forever. Still others have different stories behind them. So many locks were placed on the Pont des Arts bridge that city officials feared the bridge’s structure would be damaged. The locks and the fences they were attached to were removed in 2011.
Along with the Lake Murray love locks, you’ll see other items at times, such as part of an exhaust pipe, a pacifier, or this silhouette of Texas. Some of the locks are personalized in some way, such as painted over or with dates and initials etched into them.
In 2022, the love locks tradition reached a 10-year milestone, and there are currently no plans to remove the locks. However, an effort was begun to provide people with another way to leave a legacy at the dam that will not risk compromising its structural integrity.
As you move towards the Irmo side, the hydroelectric intake towers are an iconic view seen along the hike across the dam.
It’s a peaceful place for a leisurely stroll or to get some exercise in.
Also on the Irmo side are restrooms, a two-lane boat launch ramp, a courtesy dock, a pier for fishing, paved parking for 105 vehicles with trailers, and some parking for cars. It’s much more than a spot for a beautiful hike – you could spend an afternoon or even the entire day enjoying the lake in a multitude of ways!
Did you know this story behind the love locks at the Lake Murray dam? Have you ever put a lock on the fence there? Care to share the story of your lock?
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Address: Lake Murray Dam North Recreational Area, 2101 N Lake Dr, Columbia, SC 29212, USA