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Article for January - February 2014

Dividing Waters
by Dennis Chastain


Eastatoe Creek - photography by Phillip JonesOne of the most intriguing features on Sassafras Mountain is located on the Caesar’s Head hiking trail, not far from the parking lot. It’s what geologists and hydrologists call a tripoint, a divide that separates three different watersheds. There is a spot on the right side of the trail as you start to descend into Sassafras Gap where you can stand in one place and throw a rock into all three of those watersheds.

When rainwater drains off the eastern side of Sassafras Mountain, it ends up in the South Saluda River, which merges with North and Middle Saluda rivers before flowing through lakes Greenwood and Murray and making its way to Columbia, where it mixes with the waters of the Broad River to form the Congaree. The Congaree joins the Wateree River downstream, forming the Santee River for about five miles and then flowing into the Santee-Cooper lakes. That runoff water from Sassafras eventually ends up in the Atlantic Ocean, either through the Santee River south of Georgetown or through Charleston harbor by way of the Cooper River. When water flows off the south side of the mountain, it drains into Eastatoe Creek, through lakes Keowee and Hartwell, down the Savannah River and into the Atlantic near Savannah, Georgia.

Water flowing off the north side and part of the western side of the mountain ends up in the French Broad River. The French Broad flows past Rosman, Brevard and Asheville in North Carolina and then to Knoxville, Tennessee, where it merges with the Holston River to form the Tennessee River, which eventually converges with the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky. From there, the Ohio River flows into the mighty Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois, and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.

Dennis Chastain is a freelance writer and outdoorsman living in Pickens County.

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