Clark Fredericks, campground manger for McDuffie County, is shown at one of the campsites at Big Hart Campground, which opened last week.

This past weekend, would-be campers trickled through Big Hart Campground driving slowly trying to eye the perfect campsite to book for future stays.

Most had just learned that McDuffie County just reopened the campground and bookings were underway. Three campsites were already occupied for the first weekend.

“I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls as we were working to get big Hart opened up so I knew there was a lot of community interest and also a lot of interest from outside our area from people who like to camp there,” said McDuffie County Manager David Crawley. “For those that enjoy camping, obviously it means that they have some other options,” Crawley said. “It also allows others to visit our community and have a little hidden treasure in our community that they can enjoy as they’re here.”

Like Raysville Campground, Big Hart Campground is a former Army Corp or Engineers Campground which is now being operated by McDuffie County. McDuffie County operated Raysville under a five year lease initially, and now both campgrounds are part of a 10-year lease agreement.

“I think it’s great that they are finally at a place where they can open it up. Big Hart is a popular campground and it usually had a lot of people staying at it on a regular basis. For the community in general, this is a really good thing for us,” said Elizabeth Vance, Thomson-McDuffie CVB director.

What's the difference between the two county campgrounds?

“The sites are pretty similar in size. To me, Raysville is a little more private,” said Clark Fredericks.

However, he points out when spring returns and vegetation greens up a little more there will seem to be just as much privacy at Big Hart.

“I love both of them,” he added.

Big Hart Campground features 31 individual campsites, most all of which are on or overlooking Clarks Hill Lake, and a group campsite with a pavillion and seven campsites. Raysville Campground has 55 sites. Both have a boat ramp, although the one at Big Hart is located just outside the campground.

Big Hart Campground, unlike Raysville Campground, has a playground and access to the day use area which includes another playground, a beach swimming area, and about 30 picnic areas. There is also a boat ramp adjacent to the campground.

According to Crawley, the day use area will be reopened in May for the Memorial Day weekend.

“We obviously don’t have any other day use areas around the lake in McDuffie that are available to the public that doesn’t camp,” said Crawley.

In the future there is a possibility to host some bass tournaments, he added. Bookings at both Big Hart and Raysville can be done online. Even though Big Hart has just opened, all sites are already booked for the Fourth of July and Memorial Day weekends. The price per night is $30 per campsite. All campsites feature a fire ring, a pole that will hold a lantern, a picnic table, and water and electrical hook ups. At Big Hart, the group camping area rents for $150 a night and has spots for seven campers.

At both campgrounds the gate opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. and visitors are expected to leave by 9:30 p.m.

“Last time we camped up here we had a tent. We bought a camper and have been camping more,” said Alvin Wilder, of Dearing.

He and his wife have already booked a site and one day last week he drove through to check out the campsites. Suellen Gordman is the camp host at Big Hart Campground and welcomes guests with a smile and cordial conversation. She has camp hosted before, but this is her first time hosting at Big Hart.

“I just love the area, it’s so peaceful and its beautiful. Everybody that I have met, other campers, coming out here have been just as nice as they can be,” she said.

McDuffie County is currently looking for a second camp host at Big Hart Campground. Anyone interested can call the number on the campground’s website.