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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.