Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Devils Fork

A large portion of Lake Jocassee is remote and hard to access as the land around the 7,500-acre lake remains mostly undeveloped. Even the popular Jumping Off Rock involves about 20 miles of unpaved roads – definitely worth it this time of year, but the reason why a trip to Jocassee takes up pretty much the whole day. It might be about another month before the leaves around Jocassee hit their peak color, and while you’re contemplating that day-trip to Jumping Off Rock I want to share a place on the opposite side of the reservoir – Devils Fork State Park.


From the SC/GA state line east to Jones Gap SP a series of steep-sided gorges carrying mountain streams down to the Piedmont have cut into the face of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. The series of canyons are known as the Jocassee Gorges, and Devil’s Fork is in the middle of this rugged country. Located on the eastern edge of the Sumter National Forest, the 622-acre State Park hugs the shore of the lake providing the only public access point to the its waters. An hour’s drive from Greenville, it is located near Salem which is only three miles off scenic Highway 11. The Park offers overnight stays in villas and campgrounds (including several paddle-in primitive sites), a swimming area, hiking trails, canoeing and kayaking access. Popular with fisherman, the lake is home to rainbow and brown trout, largemouth, smallmouth & white bass, crappie, bream and catfish.


I wrote in more detail about Lake Jocassee in my Jumping Off Rock post, but with little development around its waters, the high elevations, and four mountain streams and several waterfalls feeding the lake (accessible only by boat), Lake Jocassee is unusually clear and cool, making it a great SC trout fishing spot as well as a haven for scuba divers and swimmers. For the divers there is a walk-in ramp, and with 30-foot visibility it is an adventure to explore the roads, houses and other signs that still remain from before the lake’s creation such. Locations of churches and hotels such as the Attakulla Lodge are closely guarded secrets, while other spots like Mount Carmel cemetery are rather famous among divers (you might have seen it pre-Jocassee in the movie "Deliverance".


During the spring months, the park is a popular destination for hikers in search of a glimpse of the endangered Oconee Bell, a wildflower indigenous to the Carolinas. More than 90% of the population grow within park boundaries. The Oconee Bell Nature Walk is held each year in March for those interested in seeing this rare white flower.


Devils Fork also has a park store/gift shop, a playground, picnic shelters, equipment rental and geocaching. However, our main goal when visiting during the summer is to go swimming as the waters are among the cleanest in the Upstate. There is no roped-off swimming area and there are no lifeguards, but the sandy beach has a very gradual slope perfect for little swimmers to enjoy. Just remember to bring your sunscreen as there is little shade to be found along the portion of the shore best suited for swimming, and don’t forget to explore the rest of the park, another unique treasure of the Upstate!


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