Lake Jocassee

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Lake Jocassee
Lake Jocassee is located in South Carolina
Lake Jocassee
Lake Jocassee
LocationOconee / Pickens counties, South Carolina, United States
Coordinates34°57′36″N 82°55′10″W / 34.96000°N 82.91944°W / 34.96000; -82.91944Coordinates: 34°57′36″N 82°55′10″W / 34.96000°N 82.91944°W / 34.96000; -82.91944
Primary inflowsHorsepasture, Toxaway, Whitewater, Thompson Rivers
Primary outflowsKeowee River
Basin countriesUnited States
Surface area7,500 acres (30 km2)
Average depth158 ft (48 m) [1]
Max. depth326 ft (99 m) [1]
Shore length175 mi (121 km)
Surface elevation1,100 ft (340 m)
IslandsDozen small islets
SettlementsClemson, Pickens, Salem, and Seneca
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Jocassee (/əˈkæsi/, /ˈkæsi/) is a 7,500-acre (30 km2), 300-foot (91 m) deep reservoir located in northwest South Carolina created by the state in partnership with Duke Power in 1973.[2] The lake is commonly known for the clean and cold Appalachian mountain rivers that feed the lake to keep its waters cool and clear year-round. The Jocassee Dam, which forms the lake, is 385 feet (117 m) high and 1,750 feet (530 m) long. The lake is within Devils Fork State Park.

Although most manmade structures were demolished before the creation of the lake, divers recently discovered the remains of a lodge which was left intact until the lake rose; it is now below 300 feet of water. Mount Carmel Baptist Church Cemetery was a setting for a scene in the film Deliverance (1972), starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, produced before the lake was flooded. The site is now covered by 130 feet of water in the lake.[3][4][5]

Several Waterfalls flow directly into the lake, including Laurel Fork Falls, Mill Creek Falls, Wright Fork Falls, and Moondance Falls.[6][7]


Lake Jocassee and the surrounding bodies of water.

A confluence of four rivers supplies Lake Jocassee's water. The farthest west of the rivers, the Whitewater River, flows southeast until it meets the northwest corner of Lake Jocassee. The Thompson River flows due south until it too reaches the lake in the northwest corner. The Horsepasture River feeds the lake from the northeast corner, along with the Toxaway River, which is directly east of the Horsepasture River.

The Jocassee Hydro Station, located in the southeast corner of Lake Jocassee, separates it from the beginning of Lake Keowee, also known as the Keowee River. Lake Keowee's furthest extent to the south brings it close to the city of Seneca, with the old mill town of Newry actually on it. Unlike Lake Jocassee, Keowee is heavily settled, primarily because most of the land adjacent to Lake Jocassee is owned by Duke Power and the State of South Carolina.

Natural history[edit]

Devils Fork State Park portion of Lake Jocassee

A rare wildflower, the Oconee Bell (Shortia galacifolia), native to only a few counties in the Blue Ridge area, was discovered in the area in 1788 by French botanist André Michaux. The creation of Lake Jocassee is said to have caused the destruction of the heart of the species' range.[8] More recently, biologists have documented the occurrence of a number of rare, threatened and endangered species. The Eastatoee Gorge Heritage Preserve was transferred from Duke Power Company to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in 1979 due to the extremely diverse flora occurring there.

Wildlife management efforts in the Jocassee Gorges area began as early as the 1930s when the Chief Game Warden managed the stocking of trout from the Cleveland State Fish Hatchery, Table Rock State Hatchery, and the Walhalla National Fish Hatchery. This led to the investigation and improvement of fish populations in the area. People hiking, hunting, fishing, or nature watching benefit from the fish stocking and law enforcement of the Game Management Program (now WMA).[2]


The name Jocassee comes from the legend of a Cherokee maiden. An Oconee tribe, the "Brown Vipers" led by Chief Attakulla, inhabited the west side of the Whitewater river, while a rival tribe, "The Green Birds", lived on the east. Legend says that a young Green Bird warrior,

Lake Jocassee from the Bad Creek entrance to the lake.

Nagoochee was not afraid to enter Brown Viper hunting grounds. On one occasion, he fell and broke his leg and was convinced he was going to die. Then he heard Jocassee, Attakulla's daughter, who brought him back to her father's lodge and nursed him back to health. Jocassee eventually fell in love with him, but in a later battle, Cheochee, Jocassee's brother, killed and brought Nagoochee's head back on his belt. Legend has it that Jocassee went into the water and did not sink but walked across the water to meet the ghost of Nagoochee. The name Jocassee means "Place of the Lost One.[2]"

The Jocassee Gorges area was once home to the part of the Cherokee Nation; it now lies 300 feet (91 m) beneath the surface of the lake, near the Toxaway River. Nearby Keowee Town was a major hub in the Cherokee Path that connected Cherokee towns and villages throughout the area. Early 18th Century traders delivered as many as 200,000 deerskins annually to Charleston, South Carolina and local Indians became well supplied with European firearms, ammunition, tools and clothing as a result. However, mounting discord between Europeans and Cherokees led to war in 1759. In 1785, General Andrew Pickens hosted a large gathering of Indian chiefs leading to a treaty that gave all of the Jocassee gorges area, with the exception of northern Oconee County, to the United States; the Oconee mountains were not ceded until 1815. European settlers, mostly of Scottish and Irish descent, came from Virginia and Pennsylvania as well as from Charleston. Land grants in the Jocassee area go back to 1791.


Lake Jocassee holds state records for 5 species of fish, including three in the sunfish family (Centrarchidae). In 2001 a 5 lb 2.5 oz (2.34 kg) Redeye bass and a 9 lb 7 oz (4.3 kg) Smallmouth bass were caught. An 8 lb 2 oz (3.7 kg) Spotted bass was caught in 1996. The last two came from the salmon family (Salmonidae). A 17 lb 9.5 oz (7.98 kg) Brown trout was caught in 1987 and an 11 lb 5 oz (5.1 kg) Rainbow trout was caught in 1993.[9]


The Jocassee Hydro Station, owned by Duke Energy, in between Lake Jocassee and Lake Keowee, is a 610 megawatt pumped storage facility. Also, just off the Whitewater River, Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station is a 1,065 megawatt pumped-storage facility that started generating electricity in 1991 and is also owned by Duke Power.[10] Both facilities provide jobs for the surrounding area.

Nearby cities and towns[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "".
  2. ^ a b c "Jocassee History". Retrieved 2007-10-29.
  3. ^ Simon, Anna (2009-02-20). "Cable network to detail history of Lake Jocassee". The Greenville News. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
  4. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (2009-11-05). "Body double plays banjo". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  5. ^ "Divers find hotel 300 ft. down", February 25, 2009; accessed February 25, 2009.
  6. ^ Copyright Eclectic Sun LLC - Paddle Sports, https://eclecticsun com. "Kayak, Lake Jocassee, Paddle Board, Canoe, Waterfall, Boat Rental, Pontoon Boat, Lake Keowee, Eclectic Sun LLC, Devils Fork State Park, Salem, South Carolina". Eclectic Sun Paddlesports @ Lake Jocassee. Retrieved 2020-08-23.
  7. ^ "Lower Whitewater Falls and Moondance Falls - Oconee County, South Carolina". Retrieved 2020-08-23.
  8. ^ Porcher, D.W.; Rayner, D.A. (2001). A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-438-9.
  9. ^ Freshwater Fish Records for South Carolina
  10. ^ "Jocassee- Duke Energy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2007-10-29.