I met Rick Morris last year on our hike to the Lower NC Wall and the Sphinx in the Linville Gorge. We had a great time, and have kept in touch some since that hike. In May 2014, Rick went on a grand hiking, camping, kayaking, and waterfall adventure on Lake Jocassee, putting out from Devil’s Fork State Park. I loved seeing the photos, and I had freshly started focusing more on exploring Upstate SC. This was a unique way to see the area, and Rick was kind to write up a trip report, sharing his thoughts and experiences, to be shared here. Make sure you visit the link to his pictures at the end of this post. A huge thank you to Rick for taking the time to share your travels! So without further delay…
I have always heard stories about Lake Jocassee and the waterfalls the fall into the Lake. So when I heard that Piedmont Environmental Center out of High Point North Carolina was talking a Kayak Trip there, I immediately signed up. We left early on a rainy Thursday morning headed down I-85 towards South Carolina. Just after getting into South Carolina we turned off on HWY 11 or better known as the Cherokee Foothills Parkway. A beautifully designed two lane Scenic Road that travels the Upstate. It lies in the Piedmont Section just South of the Blue Ridge Escarpment with the Foothills Hiking Trail very close by. Cowpens National Battlefield is along HWY 11 that had a decisive win for the Contenental Army against the British in the Revolutionary War.
What caught my eyes 30 minutes after traveling west was how steep the Mountains just to our north were. The further west we got, the Ruggedness was getting into South Carolina. First Ceasars Head then Table Rock where The Foothills Trail starts. It is an 80 mile Trail with many other connector trails that travels along the Northern Part of Lake Jocassee and ends at Oconee State Park in Northwestern South Carolina bordering Georgia. I did not realize till now how rugged this part of the State is!
Upon Arrival at Devils Fork State Park the skies had darkened again. We went to the Visitors Center which seemed to be relatively new. Very nice facilities with a camp store inside. There is a Boat Launch just north of the visitors center and 3 other ones in the State Park. There are Cabins, RV sites and Primitive sites. The sites we were going to required over a 1 mile paddle to. These sites are boat in only and all the sites are right along the lake. It made them very quiet. The first night there were only 2 other People staying at the Campsites. However by Friday night the sites were full.
It soon cleared up and the views were incredible. We had a beautiful Sunset! The next Morning I woke up before sunrise and walked a quarter of a mile to the other side of the Peninsula to take Sunrise Photos. I enjoy the Splendor of a Sunrise because it is so quiet and it is easier for me to take in the views that God has given us to enjoy! There were Carolina Rhododendron blooming all over the place. After an hour of this peaceful time I decided to go on a hike before breakfast. There are trails behind the campsite and I climbed the first Mountain in a mile and 900 Vertical feet. The trail continued on but I needed to be back to get ready to Kayak that day.
After breakfast we got in our Kayaks and headed West on a peaceful Lake Jocassee. This is a deep lake with quite a few structures that are still on the Lake bottom and are favorites of Scuba Divers. We headed up to where the Whitewater River flowed into the Lake. The first Waterfall we went to was Lower Whitewater Falls a beautiful Cascade that drops directly into the Lake. The Upper Whitewater Falls are the Highest Waterfalls on the East Coast of the USA that are a few miles upstream. There was another small fall to the left of the Pumping Station that Pumps water into the Bad Creek Lake. We then backtracked a mile and headed up the Thompson River finger of the lake to take a view of the Wright Creek Falls. This is a 3 tiered falls that the last section drops directly into the lake. If it is warm enough for you, you can get your kayak under the last section. As we were at this beautiful Falls the weather turned Sour. The wind Picked up and the rain started. At this time we decided we would head back to camp and live another day. The water was rough on the way back with lots of Whitecaps. We stayed as close to shore as possible. Paddling back we noticed another Waterfall up on the side of a mountain falling at least 100 feet. Total mileage for the day was 9 miles. Soon after we got back to camp and it was very nice to be on dry land after the wind we had been paddling with. It finally cleared up and just in time to have a wonderful dinner.
After a good nights sleep except to be awakened by some raccoons, it was time to get ready for day 2 of our kayaking. This was going to be our tougher day of paddling. We were headed up the Horsepasture and Toxaway river fingers east from the campsite then turning north. The day started off relatively calm and that fact would change soon enough. The first Falls we came to was Devils Hole Creek Waterfall. A beautiful fall but somewhat obstructed by some tree branches. We headed further up the lake and came to Laurel Creek Waterfalls. This is a multi-tiered waterfall that you have to move around to see all the falls. Total height is maybe 150 feet if you add all sections. The last part drops directly into the lake with a wonderful place for picture opportunities. There are some cliffs here also which we watched some younger folks jumping into the lake @ 25 feet. Nearby we ate lunch where the Foothills Trail makes its way down to the lake. There is a small creek that has some small cascades that drops into the lake here. After lunch it started to rain. The wind was blowing from the south. The way we were headed. It looked like we were going to have a headwind all the way back. I made a side trip after leaving our lunch spot and caught my last waterfall of the day. It was a lot better when I got up close than I thought it may be. After that we paddled into a headwind through Whitecaps most of the way back to our campsite. 12 miles total this day on the lake. After getting back we had a heavy rainstorm and I got in my hammock and took a nap listening to the rain bouncing off my tarp. It cleared off, we had a great dinner and there was a beautiful Sunset.
The next Morning we had to paddle back to our kayak trailers a little over a mile and pack up for our trip home. I feel very fortunate to have been on this trip and from the sights I saw I plan on spending more time in the Upstate of South Carolina. I encourage anyone else who hasn’t to put this on your destination bucket list.