IX. Outdoor Recreation

Recreation is secondary to the primary management objective of maintaining the natural character of the Jocassee Gorges property. Decisions concerning authorizing recreational activities must be made in regard to their impact on the primary objective. Many recreational activities are compatible. Each activity will be managed to minimize impact on the resources, meet recreational demand and reduce visitor conflicts.

Visitor carrying capacity of the site and the social carrying capacity are major elements in planning for the recreation component of the overall management plan. Data on human carrying capacity are not currently available for use in planning the recreation component. Because of the lack of this information, great care and a conservative approach must be taken in making the area available for recreation. Throughout the years, the property has been used for a variety of outdoor recreational activities. The acquisition by the state will increase public knowledge and interest in the property.

Request for access from a wide variety of interest groups will increase. Each case will be evaluated based upon the impact on the natural characteristics of the site and its relationship with other user groups.

The Jocassee Gorges property does not meet the strict definition of a wilderness (an area essentially undisturbed by human activity), but visitors' perception of the area influences their expectations. The expectation of visitors varies depending on their specific interest, but in general, they want a primitive or backcountry experience. This was reflected in the public meeting held in Pickens. Maintaining this experience will be a major factor in planning for the recreational objective.

The backcountry experience cannot be sustained with intensive development or a large volume of visitors on the site at any given time. This premise will be considered as access sites are developed and time provided for certain activities.

Recreation is a "quality of life" issue and is important to local residents and state residents who will be visiting the property. Recreation on the property will not be measured solely by the amount or variety of recreation provided. It will primarily be measured by the quality of the experience made possible by interacting with the natural resource.

A. Hunting

The Jocassee Gorges property, including the DPC property under conservation easement, will remain in the WMA Program and will continue to be available for public hunting. The opportunity to hunt in remote rugged terrain is rare in South Carolina. Traditionally, this area has been a favorite destination for hunters who consider the rugged, picturesque terrain an advantage rather than a hindrance. Existing partnerships with hunter groups will be continued and possibly expanded. Jocassee Gorges properties will continue to be marked with WMA signs, and a WMA permit will be required on the property. Hunters should consult the DNR's rules and regulations publication for regulations, seasons and bag limits. Safety zones will be established around designated campgrounds.

WMA regulation 6.1 (SCDNR, 1997-98) affords paraplegics and single or double amputees of the legs the opportunity to hunt from a stationary motor vehicle on WMA lands. Additional provisions for improved access for physically challenged hunters will be considered on Jocassee Gorges property.

B. Fishing

Fishing opportunities will continue to be provided on Jocassee Gorge streams and Lake Jocassee. Reasonable access will be afforded to anglers as terrain, funding, and environmental considerations will allow. SCDNR will continue to work cooperatively with DPC to assure reasonable boating access is provided to Lake Jocassee anglers. Anglers should consult the DNR's rules and regulations publication for regulations and creel and size limits. A publication entitled "Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout in South Carolina" is available from the SCDNR, Clemson Office. This publication details trout fishing opportunities on Jocassee Gorges property.

C. Hiking

The Foothills Trail

Hiking trails are a major form of access into the Jocassee Gorges with the Foothills Trail being the primary trail system. Constructed in the late 1970s, The Foothills Trail is a major recreational feature and access corridor to Jocassee Gorges. The 80-mile-long main stem of the Foothills Trail extends from Table Rock State Park in Pickens County to Oconee State Park in Oconee County. While the trail provides some outstanding day hikes, its major reputation is for its backpacking experience. Access to the trail is provided at a number of parking facilities along its route, and boat access is available at designated points along the shores of Lake Jocassee. Travel on the trail is restricted to foot traffic only.

For safety reasons, hikers in the Jocassee Gorges are encouraged to wear brightly colored clothing (florescent orange hat or vest) while hiking during designated hunting seasons (Oct. through December and April).

Approximately 24.5 miles of the Foothills Trail main stem is within the newly protected South Carolina portions of the Jocassee Gorges. Trail access sites and parking areas are presented in Appendix B-2.

Description of Spur Trails

A number of spur trails and trails interconnecting with other trail systems are associated with the Foothills Trail. Within the newly protected Jocassee Gorges lands in South Carolina are four notable spur trails in the present system of the Foothills Trail. These include a 2.6 mile trail accessing Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve, a 1.7-mile trail accessing Lower Whitewater Falls, a 1-mile trail accessing Coon Branch Natural Area on Whitewater River, and a 0.5-mile spur trail at Bad Creek Hydroelectric Site.

Numerous hiking opportunities also exist on forest access roads on Jocassee Gorges property. All access roads (open and closed) on Jocassee Gorges are available for hiking.

Trail Maintenance

Maintenance of the Foothills Trail and its spurs is an ongoing process that involves the landowners and volunteer hiking groups. Maintenance work ranges from simple periodic "brushing out" of the trail corridor to ensure it remains within its specifications, to major and extensive clearing work, bridge replacements, and trail reconstruction following wind storms, ice storms, floods, or the passage of time. Overall coordination of the trail's management and maintenance among the various landowners, educational programs, and the development and sale of the book Guide To The Foothills Trail, have been through the Foothills Trail Conference (FTC), a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 to promote and support the development, maintenance, and use of the Foothills Trail.

Major trail maintenance work is also coordinated by the landowners or other entities that have accepted responsibility for the trail. Among the South Carolina segments of the trail discussed above, the following are major coordinators and implementers of trail maintenance: DPC, SCPRT, USFS and SCDNR.

Planning for the Trail's Future

The Foothills Trail Conference will coordinate a meeting during 1999 of a core team from the landowners and major volunteer groups associated with the trail. This team, through the FTC, will make any needed recommendations regarding changes in trail maintenance, changes in spurs, and information provided to the public about the trail and its resources. The team will also suggest steps for implementing any recommended changes.

Table Rock and Keowee-Toxaway state parks can serve as access points for additional trail access into Jocassee Gorges property. A trail system linking these two parks is possible and will be considered. Consideration will also be given to developing additional trail access. Short loop trails may be developed from primary access areas (highways, parks) that will allow the general public and those with limited mobility to experience the property.

D. Camping

Primitive camping opportunities will be made available to meet remote camping needs of visitors. Primitive-type camping and necessary access trails or roads should be developed at strategically located sites. Facilities should be minimal and should not include significantly more than campsite site areas (pads), pump water source, and perhaps a "sweet smell"-type toilet in certain locations. Recreational Vehicle-type (RV) camping facilities (travel trailers, motor homes) will generally not be provided on the property. Numerous state parks already in the immediate area, such as Table Rock State Park, Devil's Fork State Park, and Oconee State Park, can meet the needs of RV campers. Additionally, private land camping may be developed in the area, which will help the local economy. Development and maintenance regulations for primitive camp areas on the property will be developed. Primitive camp areas will be strategically located to meet the needs of overnight users. All user groups including hunters, fishermen, hikers, horseback riders, and other visitors will be given consideration in the development of camping areas. The existing camp area in Laurel Fork Creek will be maintained to meet walk-in camping needs. Drive-in access and use as a hunt camp is questionable because of the poor condition and location of the access road following recent flooding. The creek ford areas on Laurel Fork Creek need much upgrading and perhaps relocation if the Laurel Fork/Jackies Ridge access road is to be offered as public access. This situation is currently being evaluated to determine future actions.

Erecting permanent structures by campers in camp areas will be prohibited and any such structures will be removed by SCDNR. Reserving camp areas will not be allowed. Camp areas will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration and user fees may be considered in the future to help maintain camp areas. Pole tents must be removed upon departure.

E. Horseback Riding

Horseback riding in the mountains of Jocassee Gorges is a traditional use of the property. Utilizing well-established forest access roads, with a firm base for trails, will help prevent erosion problems. Seasonal public access roads will be open for horseback riding initially. Horseback riding will be permitted on designated roads on a year-round basis. Horseback riders are encouraged to ride during months when gates are closed and on Sundays when gates are open to avoid conflicts with other user groups (ex. ATV's, OHV's). For safety reasons. horseback riders are encouraged to wear brightly colored clothing (ex. florescent orange hat or vest) while riding during designated hunting seasons (Oct. through December and April).

Development of additional horseback riding trails, camp area(s), and staging areas will be considered and evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Consideration will be given to provide a year-round horse trail(s) on or near the property.

SCDNR will continue to work cooperatively with state-wide and local horseback riding association representatives to develop additional horseback riding opportunities.

F. Mountain Bike Riding (Non-Motorised)

Mountain bike riding will be permitted in designated areas. Initially, mountain bikes will be allowed on all established logging roads and access roads on a year-round basis. For safety reasons, bikers in the Jocassee Gorges are encouraged to wear brightly colored clothing (ex. florescent orange hat or vest) while riding during designated hunting seasons (Oct. through December and April). Mountain bikes will not be permitted on designated hiking trails or transmission (power) line rights of way. If resource damage occurs in certain areas or roads, these areas will be declared off limits to mountain bikes. Signs will be placed in areas unavailable to mountain bike travel. A cooperative mountain bike trail is currently being considered and specific plans may be developed in the near future.

G. Off-Highway Vehicle / All Terrain Vehicle Access

Off-highway vehicles (OHV) and all terrain vehicles (ATV) will be permitted on seasonally open public access roads during the time roads are open (see road schedule). Mufflers will be required on OHVs to minimize conflicts with other user groups. This is the same access opportunity available under past management.

H. Rock Climbing and Rappelling

Rock climbing and rappelling at Jumping Off Rock, the Drawbar Cliffs, and the rock cliffs at Doug Mountain Bridge on the Eastatoee River will not be allowed. In addition, structured and permitted rock climbing opportunities are currently available at Table Rock State Park. Peregrine falcons, an endangered bird, are known to use some rock cliff areas of Jocassee Gorges. The only breeding pair of falcons is found in a similar adjacent area on Greenville Water System property. Rock climbing and rappelling may discourage peregrine use.

I. Miscellaneous Activities

Two traditional uses are sometimes a part of visitation in the area. Cutting "ivy" or mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) branches for sale to florists has been a traditional historic use of the mountain region. The USFS issues permits for such activity on the adjacent Andrew Pickens District (78,000 acres) of the Sumter National Forest. Mountain laurel is in great abundance on Jocassee Gorges property. Mountain laurel forms dense thickets in the mountains, and it has been suggested that it is more abundant now than it ever was due to "high grading" timber stands and exclusion of fire. Mountain laurel collecting on the property will be allowed for individual use. Commercial ivy collecting will not be allowed.

Blackberry and blueberry picking are traditional uses on the property. Berry picking will be allowed on Jocassee Gorges property. It is doubtful that wild berry picking will reduce the number of berries available to wildlife since most persons restrict their activities to roadsides and edges, leaving the entire interior patches untouched. Additionally, during the summer berry season, access roads will be closed to vehicles. This will substantially limit access to interior areas.

Collecting of all other plants, including wildflowers, will be strictly prohibited.