Jocassee Gorges at Sunset


The Jocassee Gorges tract is a large and rugged forested area characterized by various forest community types, swift mountain streams, waterfall settings, rare plant habitats, dry rocky ridges and moist dripping rock faces that combine to give the area its unique biological character and scenic beauty. Much of this area is wild and has limited access for the casual visitor. Surrounding the core of the Jocassee Gorges, however, are managed areas - "Gateways" if you will - where the visitor can readily experience the major natural features found within the Gorges, including the scenic qualities, forest communities, rare plant species and many stream settings.

These Gorges Gateways include a series of South Carolina state parks and other established locations with facilities to accommodate day use and overnight visitors. From the Gateways, visitors can obtain information on the Gorges, establish their base of operations for a day or a week's stay and readily experience firsthand many of the natural wonders and outdoor recreational opportunities of the Jocassee Gorges and adjoining areas.

Keowee-Toxaway State Park

The history of the Cherokee Indians who once lived in this area is depicted in the park museum and four outdoor kiosks. This 1,000-acre park features outstanding rock outcroppings and views of the Foothills and Blue Ridge mountains. Rhododendron, mountain laurel and other mountain vegetation can be found along the streams in the park. A large rental cabin in a wooded area features an upper deck porch overlooking Lake Keowee and a private floating courtesy dock.

Hiking opportunities abound at Keowee-Toxaway State Park. Hikers can choose from Raven Rock Trail, a strenuous four-mile loop; Natural Bridge Trail, a moderately strenuous one-mile loop; or the Cherokee Interpretive Trail, an easy quarter-mile loop. Trailside camping is allowed at designated sites on Raven Rock Trail.

Enjoy bank fishing in Lake Keowee for bass, bream, crappie, catfish and carp. Boat access to Lake Keowee is only five miles from the park.

Keowee-Toxaway State Park, open year-round, is 15 miles northwest of Pickens at the intersection of SC 133 and SC 11 at Lake Keowee. Park hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. April - October. During November - March, park hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday - Thursday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. Office telephone: (864) 868-2605. Address: Keowee-Toxaway State Park, 108 Residence Drive, Sunset, SC 29685.

Devils Fork State Park

Nestled along the shore of Lake Jocassee against a picturesque Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop, Devils Fork State Park lies in the heart of the Jocassee Gorges. Designed in harmony with the environment of this scenic area, the park was developed in cooperation with Duke Energy. Twenty contemporary mountain villas make this park a popular vacation destination at what many consider the most beautiful lake in the state.

Besides mountain villas, Devils Fork offers 59 campsites, 25 walk-in tent sites and boat-in primitive camping. Anglers may enjoy fishing in Lake Jocassee for brown and rainbow trout, largemouth, smallmouth and white bass, bream and catfish. Four boat ramps are available for private boat access on Lake Jocassee. A park store/tackle shop offers limited grocery items, snacks, souvenirs, firewood and bait.

Hikers can take advantage of the Oconee Bell Trail, a moderate one-and-a-half-mile loop, or a moderate three-and-a-half-mile loop hiking trail. Within easy driving distance of the park are waterfalls, the Chattooga River, other hiking trails and many other state parks on or near SC 11.

Devils Fork State Park, open year-round, is 5 miles north of Salem off SC 11 and 15 miles northwest of Pickens. Daily park hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. April - October. During November - March, daily park hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 944-2639. Address: Devils Fork State Park, 161 Holcombe Circle, Salem, SC 29676.

Table Rock State Park

Table Rock Mountain provides an impressive backdrop for an upcountry retreat. Some of the most challenging hiking trails in the state system, a nature center and year-round programs are among the many attractions awaiting each park visitor. The restaurant offers diners a panoramic view of nearby Table Rock and Pinnacle mountains. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built Table Rock State Park in the 1930s, and many of the park's structures display the CCC's unique rustic style of architecture and stonework. The entire park, including the mountain, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Table Rock State Park offers 14 cabins, 100 campsites, a family style restaurant, park store and Nature Center. Seasonal swimming and canoe rentals are available. Anglers can enjoy fishing for bass, bream and catfish in 36-acre Pinnacle Lake or 67-acre Lake Oolenoy, which features a barrier-free fishing pier. Trout from the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery are stocked at Pinnacle Lake in the spring for fishing. Hiking trails include access to the eastern terminus of the Foothills Trail; Carrick Creek Trail, a moderate 2-mile loop; Table Rock Trail, a moderately strenuous 3.5 mile one-way trip; and Pinnacle Mountain Trail, a moderately strenuous 3.4-mile one-way trip.

Table Rock State Park, open year-round, is 12 miles north of Pickens on SC 11. Daily park hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 878-9813. Address: Table Rock State Park, 246 Table Rock State Park Road, Pickens, SC 29671.

Oconee State Park

This popular mountain park sits on a plateau in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Oconee State Park's mountain lakes provide opportunities for swimming and fishing. Visitors can enjoy the year-round solitude of rustic cabins and spacious picnic areas at the western terminus of the Foothills Trail. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), many of the structures on the park today display the CCC's rustic style of architecture and stonework.

Many visitors use the park as a base while visiting area attractions, hiking on the Foothills Trail or rafting on the nearby Chattooga River, a National Wild and Scenic River.

Nineteen rustic cabins are available for rent at Oconee State Park. The large campground includes 140 RV campsites, 10 walk-in tent sites and a primitive camping area for organized groups. A park museum includes antiques, CCC tools and a trout-fishing display, and a park store offers limited grocery items, souvenirs, camping supplies and firewood. Hikers may choose from many different trails: Oconee Trail, an easy two-mile loop; Old Waterwheel Trail, moderate 1.5-mile loop; Lake Trail, easy one-mile loop; Hidden Falls Trail, moderate to difficult 2.5-mile loop; or the 80-mile Foothills Trail.

A program sponsored by the DNR allows visitors to check out fishing equipment free at Oconee State Park. Park guests can enjoy fishing in the 20-acre and 12-acre lakes for bass, bream, and catfish. Trout from Walhalla State Fish Hatchery are stocked for fishing in spring. Seasonal lake swimming and rental pedal boats are also offered.

Oconee State Park, open year-round, is 12 miles northwest of Walhalla on SC 107. Peak hours November - March are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. From April - October, daily park hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 638-5353. Address: Oconee State Park, 624 State Park Road, Mountain Rest, SC 29664.

Caesars Head State Park

Caesars Head is an excellent park for nature enthusiasts and photographers. This park joins Jones Gap State Park and other natural areas to compose the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Recreation Area. At 3,266 feet above sea level, Caesars Head provides a panoramic view of nearby valleys, Table Rock and Pinnacle mountains, and other distant peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Raven Cliff Falls, situated along one of the park's many hiking trails, is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States. Wildflowers bloom in profusion throughout the park, offering the visitor an ever-changing palette of colors in all seasons.

Trailside camping is allowed at 23 designated trail sites. Caesars Head is an access point to the Foothills Trail and to 50 miles of Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Recreation Area hiking trails. The Raven Cliff Falls suspension bridge is about 3.5 miles from Raven Cliff Falls parking lot. Registration is required for use of Mountain Bridge trails.

Anglers may enjoy fishing in the Middle Saluda, Matthews and Julian creeks for trout. In some areas, only artificial lures are permitted. Day-use facilities include a visitors' information center, picnic shelters, park store and gift shop.

Caesar's Head State Park, open year-round, is on US 276, 37 miles northwest of Greenville near the S.C./N.C. border, and 5 miles off SC 11. Daily park hours April - October are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and November - March, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 836-6115. Address: Caesar's Head State Park, 8155 Geer Highway, Cleveland, SC 29635.

Jones Gap State Park

Trailside camping in one of South Carolina's most pristine mountain wilderness areas can be enjoyed at this 3,346-acre park. Located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Recreation Area, this park encompasses the Middle Saluda River, designated as the state's first scenic river. The park is also an access point to the Foothills Trail. More than 400 species of flora, including rare and endangered plants and state record trees, can be found here. The park's Environmental Education Center offers nature exhibits and a lab area. Portions of the old Cleveland Fish Hatchery have been restored and are stocked with trout for observation only.

Hikers have access to the Foothills Trail and to 50 miles of Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Recreation Area trails. Registration is required for Mountain Bridge trails. Trailside camping is allowed at 23 designated trail sites. A heated restroom facility with hot showers is available for campers.

Flyfishing is popular in the Middle Saluda and Matthews Creek for trout, artificial lures/flies only.

Jones Gap State Park, open year round, is 25 miles northwest of Greenville off SC 11 and 11 miles northwest of Marietta. Daily park hours April - October are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and November - March 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 836-3647. Address: Jones Gap State Park, 303 Jones Gap Road, Marietta, SC 29661.

Walhalla State Fish Hatchery

Owned and operated by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery is one of seven in South Carolina serving a vital role in the management of our state's fishery resources. The Walhalla State Fish Hatchery is the only state hatchery involved in the culture of trout, a cold-water fish. The DNR produces trout here in support of recreational fishing. When trout reach an appropriate size, the trout are stocked in select cold-water habitat in South Carolina.

Visitors are welcome to tour the hatchery, to fish in the East Fork of the Chattooga River, which runs through hatchery grounds, or to picnic in areas provided for the public. The best time of year to visit the hatchery is in the fall. At this time, you can see more stages in the trout's life cycle.

Next to the hatchery is the Chattooga Picnic Area, operatde by the U.S. Forest Service, impressive site of towering white pines and hemlocks. Also, in the picnic area is a barrier-free fishing pier on the East Fork. The Ellicot Rock Wilderness is nearby. Hikers may opt for trails to Ellicott Rock (where Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina meet), to the main branch of the Chattooga River, or to Burrell's Ford primitive campground on nearby U.S. Forest Service land.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed the hatchery buildings with help from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Construction was completed and the hatchery went into service in 1935. The state of South Carolina acquired the hatchery from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1996.

Open year-round, the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery is about 15 miles north of Walhalla on SC 107. Daily hatchery hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except Christmas day, when the hatchery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Office telephone: (864) 638-2866. Address: Walhalla State Fish Hatchery, PO Box 9, Walhalla, SC 29691.

Bad Creek Pumped Storage Station

Bad Creek is the site of the largest hydroelectric station operated by Duke Power, a Duke Energy company. Its major operational features include 7,500-acre Lake Jocassee (elevation 1,110 feet); a 375-acre upper reservoir (elevation 2,130 feet); an underground powerhouse containing four pump turbines; and a one-mile long, 30-foot-diameter tunnel bored through the mountain bedrock connecting the reservoirs and powerhouse. Water is "pumped" from the lower reservoir (Lake Jocassee) during times when appropriate power is available from the Duke system and "stored" in the upper reservoir until Duke needs it to produce power. In periods of high power demand, Duke then releases the water from the upper reservoir through the same tunnel system and generates electric power as it spins the turbines.

Besides providing an important source of power generation, the Bad Creek site is adjacent to many important natural resources. Duke Power keeps the site open to the public year-round to provide access to these natural resource areas.

The Bad Creek site provides a trailhead for the 80-mile long Foothills Trail. Duke provides a parking area, with public phone and portajons, and a half-mile spur trail takes the hiker to the Foothills Trail. This spur will also take the visitor to a one-mile long (non-loop) trail through the Coon Branch Natural Area. This unique place features stands of old-growth timber and showy springtime wildflower displays.

Anglers can park in the trailhead parking lot for the Foothills Trail and follow the half-mile spur trail to the Whitewater River, one of South Carolina's finest wild trout streams. Regulations here include use of artificial lures only. During the major portions of hunting seasons, hunters are allowed to pass through the area en route to Wildlife Management Area lands around Musterground Mountain.

A spur off the Foothills Trail takes the visitor to the Lower Whitewater Falls overlook platform. This is one of South Carolina's largest and most scenic water-surrounding mountains of the Jocassee Gorges area (open in daytime only).

Bad Creek visitor regulations are posted at the electronic gate that opens to allow visitors to enter the site. NOTE: Visitors may enter in daylight hours only, but visitors may exit the site anytime.

Andrew Pickens Ranger District -- Sumter National Forest

The Andrew Pickens Ranger District, named for the Revolutionary War General Andrew Pickens, is in the "golden triangle" where South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia meet. This district of more than 80,000 acres boasts many recreational opportunities: fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and whitewater rafting. You can do it all here!

The Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, one of the Southeast's largest free-flowing mountain rivers, can provide a challenging whitewater rafting experience or a rewarding fishing excursion angling for rainbow and brown trout and redeye bass. The Chauga River is also popular with anglers. Good access and parking are available next to Cassidy Bridge on Oconee County Road 290. Anglers can catch trout in many of the smaller streams. Other species of choice include largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish, usually found in warmer reaches of both rivers. If you prefer hunting, this area provides some of the most challenging hunting experiences in South Carolina.

Bird-watching (or othre wildlife-viewing) opportunities abound for those willing to meet the rigors of mountainous terrain. Key locations include old field conditions found on SC 28 at the South Carolina/Georgia border and along Tamassee Creek off Forest Service Road 715-A. Viewing near Walhalla State Fish Hatchery can also be productive where one might encounter wildlife normally found at higher elevations.

For more information, access the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests' Web site or write: Andrew Pickens Ranger District, 112 Andrew Pickens Circle, Mountain Road, SC 29664; or call (864) 638-9568.

To learn more about the parks and the services they offer, please visit the South Carolina State Parks website.