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November 4, 2010

New overlook at Sassafras Mountain gives view of top of South Carolina

A partnership of state and county groups has resulted in an overlook on Sassafras Mountain, with a beautiful view of the surrounding South Carolina mountains along with neighbors North Carolina and Georgia.

Sassafras Mountain is South Carolina's highest point at an elevation of 3,560 feet, and members of several groups met at the overlook recently to admire it, including the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which constructed it. The groups included Pickens County, The Highpointers Club, Easley Chamber of Commerce, Foothills Trail Conference and Duke Energy.

"When our school children visit the highest peak in our state, the new overlook now gives them a view of which they can be proud," said Mark Hall, DNR wildlife biologist and Jocassee Gorges manager. "TheSassafras overlook long-term goal is to have an impressive structure atop the mountain, similar to Mount Mitchell in North Carolina or Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which will permit long-range views in all directions from the top of Sassafras." DNR, Pickens County and interested groups will continue to work toward improving the state's highest peak as a tourist destination.

Pickens County and the other groups recently approached DNR with some ideas to promote tourism in the area, especially for the top of Sassafras Mountain. The overlook project was recently completed, and now the public can enjoy a view of the Blue Ridge from Whiteside Mountain in North Carolina down to Lake Jocassee and Lake Keowee and then on to Lake Hartwell in the far distance. Pickens County has offered to help DNR with some improvements at the site.

In December 2004, DNR purchased the South Carolina portion of Sassafras Mountain from Duke Energy. Duke retained rights to important communications facilities located on the summit. The state line between South Carolina and North Carolina runs precisely along the ridge top of Sassafras, bisecting the top of the mountain. The North Carolina portion of the mountain is privately owned, but the state of North Carolina is currently attempting to purchase it.

"DNR is looking forward to working with Pickens County and interested individuals in making Sassafras a better place for the public to visit," said DNR Director John Frampton.

DNR staff and local contractors, Sunset Vegetation Management Inc. and Prichard Construction, developed the overlook.

Waterfalls, green salamanders, black bear, uncommon plants such as Oconee bells and many long-range vistas are just a few of the natural wonders that may be found in the 33,000-acre Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges in Pickens and Oconee counties. More information on the Jocassee Gorges may be obtained by calling the Clemson DNR office at (864) 654-1671.

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