Explore SC: Lake Jocassee – A Hidden Gem Right Here in South Carolina

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About seven years ago, my husband and I left home in the Lowcountry of South Carolina to have a short weekend getaway in the Upstate. We left our two young kids with my mother, and we made our way up I-26, towing our small Jon boat, to stay in a tiny rental house located on the banks of beautiful Lake Keowee. But Keowee wasn’t our intended destination. Instead, we planned on exploring the large, manmade lake just above Keowee and on the North and South Carolina border: the gorgeous Lake Jocassee.

JocasseeNeither of us had ever been to Lake Jocassee before — we had only seen the beautiful and utterly fascinating pictures of this mountain lake online. This lake was created in the 1970s by Duke Power in order to create hydroelectric power. The lake covers about 9,000 acres, and some parts of the lake are up to 385 feet deep. The waters of Jocassee stay cool and refreshing — even into the hot, late South Carolina summer. Fed by a few different Appalachian rivers, the water is nearly clear — you can see quite a few feet below the surface of the lake down to the sand or rocks below. The majority of the coastline of Jocassee is undeveloped, and the only public access to the lake is through Devil’s Fork State Park in Oconee County. The state park offers RV and camping sites, as well as cabin rentals. However, these sites and cabins are booked far in advance, since the beauty of Jocassee has become quite a popular attraction over the years. There are only a handful of homes on the lakefront, some of which are rentals for vacationers. Again, these homes are also booked months out and at top dollar.

My husband and I elected to stay in an affordable rental on Lake Keowee instead, and then travel the 15-minute drive from our rental to the state park — where we were able to use the park’s landing to put our boat in the lake. We also learned that the park’s boat landing is extremely popular, especially on weekends, and you must get there early in order to secure a spot. 

Many waterfalls empty into the lake, however, most are hard to find as they are hidden in the nooks and crannies of the towering mountains — and are not visible from the open lake. Luckily, we visited the Jocassee Outdoor Center (on the way to the state park) and they were able to give us a map that showed us where the different falls were located along the lakeshore. When we did come across the various falls, the beauty and magnificence of each took our breath away. Such jaw-dropping sites to see!

If you don’t have a boat or aren’t comfortable navigating the lake’s waters, you can still see the lake and the falls! Boat rentals and tour guides are available to take you out on the lake for a guided tour that includes viewing the myriad of waterfalls.

In addition to the tours, many people visit Jocassee Dive Shop, as the lake is also a popular scuba diving spot for locals and visitors. (If you aren’t certified in scuba diving, it’s also a lot of fun just to snorkel and dive in the shallows of the lake!)

JocasseeDuring our first trip to Jocassee, as we navigated our tiny boat across this amazing lake, we realized the pictures we’d previously seen that had drawn us to this hidden SC gem did not come close to doing justice to the immense views we were taking in. The awe-inspiring beauty is indescribable — green, forested mountains upon mountains; a few towering, rocky ridges and cliffs; an unending, clear blue sky above us with just a few white clouds here and there; and such gorgeous blue-green water dotted with various locals and vacationers on their boats enjoying a most perfect day!

JocasseeNow, years later, my family visits Lake Jocassee at least once a year, and sometimes more often. My husband and I don’t go on our own anymore — instead, we take our two children along so they can also enjoy the beauty of this lake and make their own lasting memories.

They are a bit older now, eight and ten years old, and they enjoy jumping off some of the rocks and “high dives” into the lake . . . while I nervously sit back on the boat watching as they jump! We also take them tubing on the lake, and we swim up to the different falls and allow the cold mountain water to take our breath away. We even enjoy feeding the small fish that we see under the clear water’s surface . . . animal crackers and cheez-its have found their way from our boat into many tiny fish bellies in Lake Jocassee!

Our family hasn’t been on many vacations over the years; we aren’t big travelers and haven’t seen very many places outside of South Carolina. But this vacation, our yearly trip to Lake Jocassee, is by far our favorite. We have hundreds of pictures, and just as many memories, from our time on this lake. I highly recommend taking your family to the upstate and making your own memories while enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of this amazing lake right here in our home state.

Jocassee

Check out some of our other Explore SC articles!

Explore SC: Tiny’s Big Adventure (Travelers Rest)
Explore SC: If You’re Not a Happy Camper, Take a Hike!
Explore SC: A Mom’s Look at the Riverbanks Zoo
Explore SC: Weekend Trip to Columbia, SC
Explore SC: Beaufort Day Trip {Off the Beaten Path Series}
Explore SC: More Than Golf in Myrtle Beach

2 COMMENTS

    • Hi Suze! Yes there are a few different species of bass in Lake Jocassee, as well as other fish such as trout, catfish and crappie! My husband and I have never fished on this lake; however, I am in a group on Facebook where people post their fishing pictures and catches from Jocassee all the time! 🙂

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