Lake Cooley Needs to Be on Your Summer Bucket List

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Would your family like spending time by a beautiful lake in Spartanburg but you’re not sure where to go? Whether you like fishing, kayaking, or just somewhere peaceful and relaxing, we’ve got just the place for your family! 

We have everything you need to know about Lake Cooley, including how to obtain a fishing license, how to rent a kayak, and more.

About Lake Cooley In Wellford, SC

Lake Cooley is a 330-gallon watershed located in Wellford, just about 10 minutes north of Wade Hampton road. This hidden gem is home to the Lake Cooley Outdoor Education center. The center is a two-story building that includes a classroom filled with live & mounted wildlife. The ground level of the center houses the rental facility.

Lake Cooley in Spartanburg County

Water sports on Lake Cooley

Several different styles of kayaks and paddleboards are available for rent on a first come first serve basis. The rates start at ten dollars for a two-hour rental and are currently available Friday through Sunday.

  • May 29th and 30th
    8 am – 8 pm
  • June 3rd – June 30th
    Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 12 pm – 8 pm
    Saturdays and Sundays 8 am – 8 pm
  • July 1st – July 31st
    Monday through Friday 12 pm – 8 pm
    Saturdays and Sundays 8 am – 8 pm
  • September 10th – September 26th
    Saturdays and Sundays: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The current rates and hours can be viewed on the park’s website.

Things you will need to bring include: a drivers license, a credit/debit card or exact change, a life vest for children under 10 (not provided).

If you are fortunate enough to have your own kayak, then you’ll need to purchase a permit decal from SJWD in person during weekday business hours. The office is located on Highway 29 in Wellford. The permit is $40, is good through December of the year purchased, and is only valid for Lake Cooley.

Spending Time With Your Family on Lake Cooley

Our family recently spent a day on the lake. My son received a kid-size kayak for Christmas, and this was his kayak’s maiden voyage. He used his kayak, and we rented a tandem kayak. If you are bringing children under 10 and plan to use a rental, you will need to provide a life vest for them to wear. They are required the entire time you are on the lake. Also, be sure to allow plenty of time to check-in, fill out waivers and get fitted for life vests.

Our day on the lake was memorable. Our son took to his kayak like it was second nature and the toddler was surprisingly well behaved. Towards the end of the rental time, she was getting ready to jump off the kayak and go swimming (which, by the way, is prohibited, even though you might see it happening).

I like this lake because it seems like the boat traffic is minimal. Most of the traffic was kayaks or paddleboards. We did see a few pontoon boats, but they were anchored. We were already planning our next trip to the lake before we had left.

Lake Cooley kayaks picnic shelters Spartanburg

Fishing on Lake Cooley

If you are a fishing enthusiast, you’re in luck. There are two fishing piers at the lake and they also offer specialty fishing kayak rentals. Small fish are plentiful around the shore and make the perfect bait for the bass fish that lurk in the lake, just be sure to bring a net. I can’t say I’ve caught one, but the bass have taunted me while swimming past my hook.

A freshwater fishing license can be obtained from the SCDNR website and is only $10. Children do not need a license if with a licensed adult.

Events at Lake Cooley

All 2021 events are TBA due to the novel Coronavirus.

The Get to Know Your Watershed event in April is a great way to meet the environmental and conservation groups in the community. There are activities for kids, free giveaways, and the opportunity for everyone to receive a free boating permit from SJWD.

The annual Lake Cooley fish rodeo is a popular event for families in May. It is an annual event and children receive a free fishing pole (while supplies last) & a hot dog lunch. It’s a lot of fun and SCDNR officers are there to help.

The Spartanburg Parks department was having special family camp-out nights at the lake throughout the year, prior to the pandemic.

Kidding Around hosts its own annual “Mom Escape” morning paddle at this Upstate Lake. Be sure you are subscribed to our newsletter! The limited slots go extremely quickly and are announced to our loyal subscribers first.

Picnic Shelters and Grills at Lake Cooley

If you pack a picnic or would like to grill at the lake – there are two picnic shelters available and restrooms. Not to worry if you forget snacks or refreshments! The rental area has drinks, bagged snacks, and frozen treats for just $1 each.

The New Playground at Lake Cooley


As if we haven’t already given you enough reason to head to Lake Cooley, the new playground installed recently is all the more reason. This is a great, small playground with lake views and right next to a huge picnic shelter.

I really think this lake has everything you could want, and it’s conveniently close. I hope that you decide to check Lake Cooley out this summer. I promise you won’t regret a day on the lake with your family.

Lake Cooley
100 Cooley Dock Road, Inman | 864.949.1002

About the Author
Melanie is a native New Yorker, who landed in the Upstate by way of Florida. She is the mom of two awesome kids, and the three of them love going on adventures! She enjoys sharing her finds with friends and loves even more that she can share them with Kidding Around readers! She can be found on Instagram @figuringthisoutdotcom
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Chris Parham
Chris Parham
2 years ago

Is the education center free?

Hope Curry
Hope Curry
2 years ago

Is there a swimming area?

Bethany Winston
Admin
2 years ago
Reply to  Hope Curry

No, swimming is prohibited at this lake.