A tour of Lake Jocassee provides beauty, history and a unique experience


Alyza LeBlanc

Lake Jocassee, created by Duke Power in 1973 for the purpose of generating hydroelectric power, is known for far more than the cold, clean water fed by rivers flowing down from the Appalachian Mountains. The lake is used for training divers, both for pleasure, as well as our Navy and Army military. It provides an abundance of flowers and trees unique to the area. The lake area hosts 90% of the world’s rare and beautiful Oconee Bells. For bird watchers, there is no shortage of spectating opportunities. During my recent visit, we admired a junior bald eagle, a multitude of loons and the belted kingfisher.

The lake has 75 miles of shoreline, all of it wild, forested, and protected. I believe there are somewhere around 23 waterfalls on the lake, many of which can only be viewed by boat. The highest falls east of the Mississippi is White Water Falls at the northeast end, which starts in North Carolina and lands on Jocassee Lake in South Carolina. Wright Creek Falls, accessed only by boat, is a great destination for an invigorating dip.

One of the premiere dive sites is an underwater playground about 50 feet down, which includes a basketball hoop, monument, sunken ski boats, “pirates’ cove”, and an underwater fort. There’s a sunken Chinese junket sail boat that divers can enter and explore at about 60 feet. More experienced divers can explore the Carmel cemetery 130 feet down, while the highly skilled can check out the old lodge, post office and former Jocassee girl's camp at 300 feet down.

The Jocassee area receives up to 100 inches of rainfall each year, which technically makes this a rain forest. It's the only temperate rain forest in the US east of the Cascades in Washington state. South Carolina's largest population of black bear stalks the woods around the lake, as well as many wildlife species including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, beavers, muskrats, foxes, coyotes, feral hogs, river otters and mink.

The best access point to Lake Jocassee is through the Devils Fork State Park, which offers hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking. I highly recommend one of the boat tours offered by Jocassee Lake Tours, offered year round. These tours are captained by a naturalist who is an absolute wealth of information about the area, horticulture, history, animals and environment. I have been on three tours and each has been unique, capturing different areas and aspects of the lake, different birds based on the season, even the waterfalls take on a new look dependent on rainfall and time of the year.

Susann Mitton

*This nonfiction piece is based on observation and research. I do not claim to be an expert in areas of public health, academia, mental health, or science, nor am I providing professional medical or legal advice. Opinions shared are expressly drawn from personal experience.

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