Lake Jocassee – Lost and Found

The peace and serenity of a lake can calm a soul.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are full of hidden lakes ideal for recreation and relaxing.  After enjoying the spectacular views at Whitewater Falls, my mom and I drove south across the border into northwestern South Carolina to explore Lake Jocassee.

Crystal clear rivers and streams cut through the neighboring high country, emptying into the gorges of Lake Jocassee. A gorge is a narrow valley with steep walls.  The area of southwestern NC and northwestern SC is part of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  This lush area spanning NC, SC and GA is the only temperate rain forest east of the Rockies.

National Geographic named the gorges region of Lake Jocassee one of the world’s last great places. Founded as a joint project between Duke Energy and the State of South Carolina in 1973, the lake is one of the most pristine areas in the Blue Ridge.

Lake Jocassee is over 7500 acres and is over 300 feet deep and remains mostly undeveloped.  The only public access point is at Devils Fork State Park.  There is nothing devilish about the park – it is beautiful and carved by the hands of God.  The park has one of the highest concentration of waterfalls in the eastern US – several emptying into Lake Jocassee.

My mom and I arrived at DF State Park just after lunch.  The park is recreational hub for camping, swimming, hiking and trout fishing.  The cold waters and temperate climate of Lake Jocassee make the area prime habitat for a variety of wildlife and rare plant species.

The Oconee Bell is a rare wildflower of the Southern Appalachians found in area.  Park visitors can search for the graceful white and yellow blossom with red tinged leaves along the Oconee Bell (1 mile) trail in DF State Park.  y1ep7ct4b4

I had hoped to go on a hike, but the Lake was jam packed with people.  Given the dangers of COVID-19 and lack of masks and social distancing, we enjoyed the view from our car and a quick stroll to the water.  I hope to return post COVID to truly enjoy the wonder and grace of Lake Jocassee.

A little bit of history…I am a history buff and love to connect with the history of the places I visit.

The name Jocassee is of Cherokee origin and means the ‘Place of the Lost One.’  According to legend, Chief Attakulla and his Oconee tribe, known and the “Brown Vipers” and rival Eastaoees tribe called the “Green Birds”…a young Green Bird warrior Nagoochee entered the Brown Viper hunting grounds. Nagoochee feel and broke his leg.  Resigned to death in the wilderness he heard the singing of Chief Attakulla’s daughter, Jocassee.  She took Nagoochee back to her father’s lodge and nursed him back to heath.  They fell in love and Nagoochee stayed with Oconee tribe.  Later during a fight between the tribes, Jocassee’s brother, Cheochee, killed Nagoochee. When Cheochee returned from battle with Nagoochee’s head, Jocassee silently slipped into a canoe and onto the water.  Legend claims that she did not sink but walked across the water to meet the ghost of Nagoochee.

Before the formation of Lake Jocassee in 1973, the area was home to several settlements.  The valley was used to the cult film Deliverance…While many of the buildings were razed before the hundreds of gallons of water stormed the valley, but several ghostly buildings including a lodge can be found underneath the lake – making this a popular spot for scuba divers.

For more about the area:

https://www.conservationfund.org/projects/jocassee-gorges

https://southcarolinaparks.com/devils-fork

Stay tuned…more mountain adventures ahead…

 

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