Jocassee Gorges at Sunset

Flora & Fauna

Fish And Wildlife

Wildlife populations in the Jocassee Gorges region are diverse and contain many rare elements. An overview of a few major components would include one of the most abundant black bear populations in the Southeast, based on Clemson University and DNR studies. No, you will not often see a bear, but a white-tailed deer is a common sight, and the mixest forested communities around Jocassee support a healthy and sustainable population.

Lake Jocassee, managed as a put-grow-take trout fishery, supports trophy-sized rainbow and brown trout, and a self-sustaining population of smallmouth bass, besides other warm-water species of game fish. Brook trout, the only species of trout native to the eastern United States, continue to sustain viable populations in the headwaters of several streams within the Jocassee Gorges area.

Bald eagles can be observed over Lake Jocassee throughout the year, although to date none have been observed nesting in the regiom. Peregrine falcons have been re-established as a nesting species in South Carolina through a program conducted in the mountains in the late 1980s. Peregrines now successfully nest in the region each summer.

Common loons, large diving birds, overwinter on Lake Jocassee and remain through April when they have attained their summer plumage. At this time they can be heard giving their beautiful calls that are typically heard only in the lakes and marshes of the northern United States and Canada.

Wild turkeys inhabit the forests of the gorges, and the visitor may chance to observe a group of these wily birds gliding high overhead from one ridgetop to another - a unique and thrilling sight.

The abundance and diversity of salamanders are unique to the Jocassee Gorges area and include numerous species of "spring lizards" (the dusky salamanders) that live along stream edges, to brightly colored species that inhabit the forest floor, to uniquely adapted species, like the rare green salamander, that live in the crevices of rock faces. The wood frog, more commonly known in the Great North Woods, breeds in the Jocassee area in winter during the first mild rain. The loud, nonmusical calls can be heard in the winter woods. The pine snake is a large constrictor related to the bull snake of the western states. It can be found in the lower regions of the Jocassee escarpment area.

Bobcats are one of the largest predators of the area. Though they are seldom seen, they occur in abundance in the many forest community types around Jocassee Gorges.


The forest coves of the area contain an abundance of native wildflowers, including various species of trilliums, orchids and many species largely restricted to this area. They create a special floral show for the woodland hiker in spring months, with peak blooming from mid-April to mid-May.

Oconee bells, a beautiful area wildflower, grows only in the Jocassee area and in a few counties in the North Carolina foothills. Visitors can see the flowers in abundance at Devils Fork State Park. Its blooming period is typically mid-March to early April.

Besides the common rhododendron that occurs throughout South Carolina's mountains, the Jocassee area supports showy displays of other rhododendron species that add color to habitats ranging from drier hillsides to the banks of the area's streams. Among the great diversity of ferns and mosses that inhabit the Jocassee area are several species otherwise known only to occur in tropical habitats of Central America. Their occurrence at Jocassee is because of the abundance of rainfall and the protective shaded habitats found in the steep river gorges.

Although most of the area's timber has been harvested at some time over the decades, stands of mature and old-growth forest occur throughout the area and include hemlocks, white pine and yellow poplar trees more than four feet in diameter. Fall colors are spectacular with yellow poplar, sourwood, black gum, red maple, hickories, and oaks creating the centerpiece of the display, typically in its peak between mid-October and early November. Visitors can readily observe the colorful mountain landscape from various trails and overlooks within state parks, along roadways and by boat on Lake Jocassee.