Jocassee Gorges tract is a large and rugged forested area characterized by
various forest community types, swift mountain streams, waterfall
settings, rare plant habitats, dry rocky ridges and moist dripping rock
faces that combine to give the area its unique biological character and
scenic beauty. Much of this area is wild and has limited access for the
casual visitor. Surrounding the core of the Jocassee Gorges, however, are
managed areas - "Gateways" if you will - where the visitor can
readily experience the major natural features found within the Gorges,
including the scenic qualities, forest communities, rare plant species and
many stream settings.
These Gorges Gateways include a series of South Carolina state parks and
other established locations with facilities to accommodate day use and
overnight visitors. From the Gateways, visitors can obtain information on
the Gorges, establish their base of operations for a day or a week's stay
and readily experience firsthand many of the natural wonders and outdoor
recreational opportunities of the Jocassee Gorges and adjoining areas.
Keowee-Toxaway State Park
The history of the Cherokee Indians who once lived in
this area is depicted in the park museum and four outdoor kiosks. This
1,000-acre park features outstanding rock outcroppings and views of the
Foothills and Blue Ridge mountains. Rhododendron, mountain laurel and
other mountain vegetation can be found along the streams in the park. A
large rental cabin in a wooded area features an upper deck porch
overlooking Lake Keowee and a private floating courtesy dock.
Hiking opportunities abound at Keowee-Toxaway State Park. Hikers can
choose from Raven Rock Trail, a strenuous four-mile loop; Natural Bridge
Trail, a moderately strenuous one-mile loop; or the Cherokee Interpretive
Trail, an easy quarter-mile loop. Trailside camping is allowed at
designated sites on Raven Rock Trail.
Enjoy bank fishing in Lake Keowee for bass, bream, crappie, catfish and
carp. Boat access to Lake Keowee is only five miles from the park.
Keowee-Toxaway State Park, open year-round, is 15 miles northwest of
Pickens at the intersection of SC 133 and SC 11 at Lake Keowee. Park hours
are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. April - October. During November - March, park hours
are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday - Thursday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
Office telephone: (864) 868-2605. Address: Keowee-Toxaway State Park, 108
Residence Drive, Sunset, SC 29685.
Devils Fork State Park
Nestled along the shore of Lake Jocassee against a
picturesque Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop, Devils Fork State Park lies in
the heart of the Jocassee Gorges. Designed in harmony with the environment
of this scenic area, the park was developed in cooperation with Duke
Energy. Twenty contemporary mountain villas make this park a popular
vacation destination at what many consider the most beautiful lake in the
Besides mountain villas, Devils Fork offers 59 campsites, 25 walk-in tent
sites and boat-in primitive camping. Anglers may enjoy fishing in Lake
Jocassee for brown and rainbow trout, largemouth, smallmouth and white
bass, bream and catfish. Four boat ramps are available for private boat
access on Lake Jocassee. A park store/tackle shop offers limited grocery
items, snacks, souvenirs, firewood and bait.
Hikers can take advantage of the Oconee Bell Trail, a moderate
one-and-a-half-mile loop, or a moderate three-and-a-half-mile loop hiking
trail. Within easy driving distance of the park are waterfalls, the
Chattooga River, other hiking trails and many other state parks on or near
Devils Fork State Park, open year-round, is 5 miles north of Salem off SC
11 and 15 miles northwest of Pickens. Daily park hours are 7 a.m. to 9
p.m. April - October. During November - March, daily park hours are 7 a.m.
to 6 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 944-2639. Address: Devils Fork State
Park, 161 Holcombe Circle, Salem, SC 29676.
Table Rock State Park
Table Rock Mountain provides an impressive backdrop for
an upcountry retreat. Some of the most challenging hiking trails in the
state system, a nature center and year-round programs are among the many
attractions awaiting each park visitor. The restaurant offers diners a
panoramic view of nearby Table Rock and Pinnacle mountains. The Civilian
Conservation Corps (CCC) built Table Rock State Park in the 1930s, and
many of the park's structures display the CCC's unique rustic style of
architecture and stonework. The entire park, including the mountain, is
listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Table Rock State Park offers 14 cabins, 100 campsites, a family style
restaurant, park store and Nature Center. Seasonal swimming and canoe
rentals are available. Anglers can enjoy fishing for bass, bream and
catfish in 36-acre Pinnacle Lake or 67-acre Lake Oolenoy, which features a
barrier-free fishing pier. Trout from the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery are
stocked at Pinnacle Lake in the spring for fishing. Hiking trails include
access to the eastern terminus of the Foothills Trail; Carrick Creek
Trail, a moderate 2-mile loop; Table Rock Trail, a moderately strenuous
3.5 mile one-way trip; and Pinnacle Mountain Trail, a moderately strenuous
3.4-mile one-way trip.
Table Rock State Park, open year-round, is 12 miles north of Pickens on SC
11. Daily park hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Office telephone: (864)
878-9813. Address: Table Rock State Park, 246 Table Rock State Park Road,
Pickens, SC 29671.
Oconee State Park
This popular mountain park sits on a plateau in the
foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Oconee State Park's
mountain lakes provide opportunities for swimming and fishing. Visitors
can enjoy the year-round solitude of rustic cabins and spacious picnic
areas at the western terminus of the Foothills Trail. Built in the 1930s
by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), many of the structures on the
park today display the CCC's rustic style of architecture and stonework.
Many visitors use the park as a base while visiting area attractions,
hiking on the Foothills Trail or rafting on the nearby Chattooga River, a
National Wild and Scenic River.
Nineteen rustic cabins are available for rent at Oconee State Park. The
large campground includes 140 RV campsites, 10 walk-in tent sites and a
primitive camping area for organized groups. A park museum includes
antiques, CCC tools and a trout-fishing display, and a park store offers
limited grocery items, souvenirs, camping supplies and firewood. Hikers
may choose from many different trails: Oconee Trail, an easy two-mile
loop; Old Waterwheel Trail, moderate 1.5-mile loop; Lake Trail, easy
one-mile loop; Hidden Falls Trail, moderate to difficult 2.5-mile loop; or
the 80-mile Foothills Trail.
A program sponsored by the DNR allows visitors to check out fishing
equipment free at Oconee State Park. Park guests can enjoy fishing in the
20-acre and 12-acre lakes for bass, bream, and catfish. Trout from
Walhalla State Fish Hatchery are stocked for fishing in spring. Seasonal
lake swimming and rental pedal boats are also offered.
Oconee State Park, open year-round, is 12 miles northwest of Walhalla on
SC 107. Peak hours November - March are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. From April
- October, daily park hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Office telephone: (864)
638-5353. Address: Oconee State Park, 624 State Park Road, Mountain Rest,
Caesars Head State Park
Caesars Head is an excellent park for nature
enthusiasts and photographers. This park joins Jones Gap State Park and
other natural areas to compose the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and
Recreation Area. At 3,266 feet above sea level, Caesars Head provides a
panoramic view of nearby valleys, Table Rock and Pinnacle mountains, and
other distant peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Raven Cliff Falls,
situated along one of the park's many hiking trails, is one of the highest
waterfalls in the eastern United States. Wildflowers bloom in profusion
throughout the park, offering the visitor an ever-changing palette of
colors in all seasons.
Trailside camping is allowed at 23 designated trail sites. Caesars Head is
an access point to the Foothills Trail and to 50 miles of Mountain Bridge
Wilderness and Recreation Area hiking trails. The Raven Cliff Falls
suspension bridge is about 3.5 miles from Raven Cliff Falls parking lot.
Registration is required for use of Mountain Bridge trails.
Anglers may enjoy fishing in the Middle Saluda, Matthews and Julian creeks
for trout. In some areas, only artificial lures are permitted. Day-use
facilities include a visitors' information center, picnic shelters, park
store and gift shop.
Caesar's Head State Park, open year-round, is on US 276, 37 miles
northwest of Greenville near the S.C./N.C. border, and 5 miles off SC 11.
Daily park hours April - October are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and November -
March, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 836-6115. Address:
Caesar's Head State Park, 8155 Geer Highway, Cleveland, SC 29635.
Jones Gap State Park
Trailside camping in one of South Carolina's most
pristine mountain wilderness areas can be enjoyed at this 3,346-acre park.
Located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Recreation Area, this park
encompasses the Middle Saluda River, designated as the state's first
scenic river. The park is also an access point to the Foothills Trail.
More than 400 species of flora, including rare and endangered plants and
state record trees, can be found here. The park's Environmental Education
Center offers nature exhibits and a lab area. Portions of the old
Cleveland Fish Hatchery have been restored and are stocked with trout for
Hikers have access to the Foothills Trail and to 50 miles of Mountain
Bridge Wilderness and Recreation Area trails. Registration is required for
Mountain Bridge trails. Trailside camping is allowed at 23 designated
trail sites. A heated restroom facility with hot showers is available for
Flyfishing is popular in the Middle Saluda and Matthews Creek for trout,
artificial lures/flies only.
Jones Gap State Park, open year round, is 25 miles northwest of Greenville
off SC 11 and 11 miles northwest of Marietta. Daily park hours April -
October are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and November - March 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Office
telephone: (864) 836-3647. Address: Jones Gap State Park, 303 Jones Gap
Road, Marietta, SC 29661.
Walhalla State Fish Hatchery
Owned and operated by the S.C. Department of Natural
Resources, the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery is one of seven in South
Carolina serving a vital role in the management of our state's fishery
resources. The Walhalla State Fish Hatchery is the only state hatchery
involved in the culture of trout, a cold-water fish. The DNR produces
trout here in support of recreational fishing. When trout reach an
appropriate size, the trout are stocked in select cold-water habitat in
Visitors are welcome to tour the hatchery, to fish in the East Fork of the
Chattooga River, which runs through hatchery grounds, or to picnic in
areas provided for the public. The best time of year to visit the hatchery
is in the fall. At this time, you can see more stages in the trout's life
Next to the hatchery is the Chattooga Picnic Area, operatde by the U.S.
Forest Service, impressive site of towering white pines and hemlocks.
Also, in the picnic area is a barrier-free fishing pier on the East Fork.
The Ellicot Rock Wilderness is nearby. Hikers may opt for trails to
Ellicott Rock (where Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina meet), to
the main branch of the Chattooga River, or to Burrell's Ford primitive
campground on nearby U.S. Forest Service land.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed the hatchery buildings
with help from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Construction was
completed and the hatchery went into service in 1935. The state of South
Carolina acquired the hatchery from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in
Open year-round, the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery is about 15 miles north
of Walhalla on SC 107. Daily hatchery hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except
Christmas day, when the hatchery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Office
telephone: (864) 638-2866. Address: Walhalla State Fish Hatchery, PO Box
9, Walhalla, SC 29691.
Bad Creek Pumped Storage Station
Bad Creek is the site of the largest hydroelectric
station operated by Duke Power, a Duke Energy company. Its major
operational features include 7,500-acre Lake Jocassee (elevation 1,110
feet); a 375-acre upper reservoir (elevation 2,130 feet); an underground
powerhouse containing four pump turbines; and a one-mile long,
30-foot-diameter tunnel bored through the mountain bedrock connecting the
reservoirs and powerhouse. Water is "pumped" from the lower
reservoir (Lake Jocassee) during times when appropriate power is available
from the Duke system and "stored" in the upper reservoir until
Duke needs it to produce power. In periods of high power demand, Duke then
releases the water from the upper reservoir through the same tunnel system
and generates electric power as it spins the turbines.
Besides providing an important source of power generation, the Bad Creek
site is adjacent to many important natural resources. Duke Power keeps the
site open to the public year-round to provide access to these natural
The Bad Creek site provides a trailhead for the 80-mile long Foothills
Trail. Duke provides a parking area, with public phone and portajons, and
a half-mile spur trail takes the hiker to the Foothills Trail. This spur
will also take the visitor to a one-mile long (non-loop) trail through the
Coon Branch Natural Area. This unique place features stands of old-growth
timber and showy springtime wildflower displays.
Anglers can park in the trailhead parking lot for the Foothills Trail and
follow the half-mile spur trail to the Whitewater River, one of South
Carolina's finest wild trout streams. Regulations here include use of
artificial lures only. During the major portions of hunting seasons,
hunters are allowed to pass through the area en route to Wildlife
Management Area lands around Musterground Mountain.
A spur off the Foothills Trail takes the visitor to the Lower Whitewater
Falls overlook platform. This is one of South Carolina's largest and most
scenic water-surrounding mountains of the Jocassee Gorges area (open in
Bad Creek visitor regulations are posted at the electronic gate that opens
to allow visitors to enter the site. NOTE: Visitors may enter in daylight
hours only, but visitors may exit the site anytime.
Andrew Pickens Ranger District -- Sumter National Forest
The Andrew Pickens Ranger District, named for the
Revolutionary War General Andrew Pickens, is in the "golden
triangle" where South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia meet. This
district of more than 80,000 acres boasts many recreational opportunities:
fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and whitewater rafting. You can do it
The Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, one of the Southeast's largest
free-flowing mountain rivers, can provide a challenging whitewater rafting
experience or a rewarding fishing excursion angling for rainbow and brown
trout and redeye bass. The Chauga River is also popular with anglers. Good
access and parking are available next to Cassidy Bridge on Oconee County
Road 290. Anglers can catch trout in many of the smaller streams. Other
species of choice include largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish, usually
found in warmer reaches of both rivers. If you prefer hunting, this area
provides some of the most challenging hunting experiences in South
Bird-watching (or othre wildlife-viewing) opportunities abound for those
willing to meet the rigors of mountainous terrain. Key locations include
old field conditions found on SC 28 at the South Carolina/Georgia border
and along Tamassee Creek off Forest Service Road 715-A. Viewing near
Walhalla State Fish Hatchery can also be productive where one might
encounter wildlife normally found at higher elevations.
For more information, access the
Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests' Web site or write: Andrew
Pickens Ranger District, 112 Andrew Pickens Circle, Mountain Road, SC
29664; or call (864) 638-9568.
To learn more about the parks and the services they offer, please visit the
South Carolina State Parks website.