Jocassee Gorges at Sunset

Things To Do

Hunting in the Jocassee Gorges

The Jocassee Gorges contains populations of many wildlife species including black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, mourning doves, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, bobcats, various waterfowl species, beavers, muskrats, foxes, opossums, skunks, coyotes, groundhogs, feral hogs, river otters and mink. Smaller populations of woodcock, ruffed grouse and bobwhite quail are also present.

White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, black bears, raccoons and feral hogs are the wildlife species that receive the most attention from hunters. The Jocassee Gorges represents most of the black bear habitat in the state. Good populations of white-tailed deer and wild turkeys are also found on sections of the property.

Almost all of the Jocassee Gorge properties are in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Program and are available for public hunting. Traditionally, this area has been a favorite destination for hunters who consider the rugged, picturesque terrain an advantage rather than a hindrance. Hunters are required to have a WMA permit, and hunters should consult the S.C. Department of Natural Resources "Rules & Regulations" publication for specifics. Generally, big-game season is open from October 1 - January 1 , turkey season from April 1 to May 1; and small-game season varies by species with no small game hunting before September 1 or after March 1.

Fishing in the Jocassee Gorges

The Jocassee Gorges offers fishing opportunities for those who enjoy fishing trout streams and those who prefer reservoir fiishing (Lake Jocassee) for trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and sunfish. The more popular trout streams are Eastatoe River, Laurel Fork Creek, Corbin Creek, Howard Creek and the Whitewater and Thompson rivers.

For fishing regulations, consult the current S.C. Department of Natural Resources "Rules & Regulations" publication available at license dealers, and the "Jocassee Gorges Management Plan: Fisheries Resources of the Jocassee Gorges," which can be viewed on the DNR web site.

Bird-watching in the Jocassee Gorges

The Southern Appalachians provide unique opportunities for bird-watching. Although the mountains in South Carolina rarely exceed 3,000 feet, they harbor bird populations unique to the state and add an important component to regional biodiversity. This is especially true of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, where the mountains abruptly greet the foothills. Here, a mixture of mountain and lower-elevation species can be found.

Although the mystique of many of the hidden coves and darkened stream courses in the area is what attracts many serious birders, equally good birding can be had along some of the more passable roads and trails. In particular, access to the designated Nature Viewing area (look for the binocular sign) from US 178 north of Rocky Bottom (just after the Eastatoe Creek Bridge) provides a variety of habitats and birds. Hiking along the Foothills Trail also provides easier access to more remote coves and stream courses. Hikers can frequently see great blue herons keeping solitary vigil over a clear, cool mountain stream, hunting for frogs and fish.

Higher, drier habitats and moister coves provide a unique juxtaposition of habitats that may harbor different species of birds. During the breeding season, the persistent song of the red-eyed vireo can be heard from ridgetop to deep cove. As with most species in this forest, more will be seen than heard. Species that may be seen or heard on the drier slopes and ridges include ovenbirds, summer tanagers, solitary vireos, pinewarblers, black and white warblers, worm-eating warblers and Eastern towhees. In the numerous coves, black-throated green warblers, scarlet tanagers, hooded warblers, yellow-throated vireos, Northern parula warblers, and American redstarts are some of the more colorful members of the songbird community that may be observed.

Juncos winter here in abundance but do not generally nest. However, several nests have been recorded along the highest peaks including Sassafras and Table Rock mountains. Ravens are typically found in the highest North Carolina mountains, 4,000 feet and higher but are sometimes seen and heard over the Jocassee area.

Hiking - Foothills Trail

The Foothills Trail is an 80-mile footpath extending from Table Rock State Park at its eastern terminus to Oconee State Park in the west. Its route takes the hiker through the heart of the Jocassee Gorges tract, to mountain crests with scenic views, to shady gorges and coves with special botanical features. Along its route the Foothills Trail crosses or follows most of the major streams and rivers of the Jocassee Gorges and adjacent conservation lands including Eastatoe Creek, Laurel Fork Creek, Toxaway River, Horsepasture River, Bearcamp Creek, Thompson River, Whitewater River, East Fork Creek, and Chattooga River, among others.

Activities associated with the Foothills Trail are coordinated by the Foothills Trail Conference. For information about the trail, purchasing a guide book, and/or membership in the Conference, write to The Foothills Trail Conference, PO Box 3041, Greenville, SC 29602, or call the Conference office at (864) 467-9537.

Camping In and Around Jocassee Gorges

The question is, what kind of camping would you like to do? The state parks surrounding the Jocassee Gorges offer everything from pull-in RV sites for the weekend camper to rugged backcountry camping for the avid backpacker. Jones Gap, Oconee, Table Rock, Keowee-Toxaway, Devils Fork and Caesars Head state parks all offer camping at designated sites.

Many state park camping areas include individual water and electrical hookups, except for overflow and tent camping; picnic tables; comfort stations with toilet facilities and hot showers (winterized comfort stations are available in most parks); and dump stations for RVs. Primitive camping is available at designated sites at Jones Gap and Caesars Head state parks.

For information about a specific park's camp sites and reservations, call 1-888-88-PARKS or visit the South Carolina State Parks Web Site.

Primitive camping opportunities are available at Jones Gap and Caesars Head state parks and along the 80-mile Foothills Trail, which intersects the interior of the Jocassee Gorges tract. This trail and its spurs link Oconee, Table Rock, Caesars Head and Jones Gap state parks along with DNR-owned Laurel Fork Heritage Preserve and Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve. Access points are along SC 11, SC 107, US 178 and SC 130. For additional information about the Foothills Trail, contact the Foothills Trail Conference at (864) 467-9537.

Surrounding national forest lands provide a wide range of camping opportunities, from developed campgrounds to primitive camping opportunities. To find out what's available, call the Andrew Pickens Ranger District at (864) 638-9568.