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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

March 16, 2012

Jocassee Gorges roads in Oconee County to open late due to prescribed burning

The roads in the Musterground area of the Jocassee Gorges in Oconee County will open later than usual this spring due to planned prescribed burns.

The Musterground area in Oconee County, accessible from Duke Energy’s Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station, is normally open from March 20 until May 10 and Sept. 15 thru Jan 15 of each year for public vehicular access. This spring the opening of the Oconee County Jocassee Gorges roads will be delayed until around March 30 to allow safe conditions for prescribed burning.

This delay in road opening only applies to the Oconee County side of Jocassee Gorges. The Pickens County side, locally known as the Horsepasture, will open to vehicles as scheduled on Tuesday, March 20. All roads on Jocassee Gorges are open year round to foot travel, horseback riders and non-motorized mountain bikes unless otherwise posted.

"We hope to burn about 1,000 acres this spring to enhance wildlife habitat," said Mark Hall, Jocassee Gorges manager for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "It would be difficult to safely burn the area with vehicles on the roads that are being used as firebreaks."

Fire played a historical role in the development of the vegetation in the mountain region, especially in the Jocassee Gorges. The Cherokees and early settlers used fire regularly to keep the woodlands open, provide wildlife habitat and forage for livestock. DNR started applying controlled burns in the woodlands of Jocassee in 2006 to help restore the plant communities that once flourished across the landscape.

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