The abundance of waterfalls in the Jocassee Gorge region can be attributed to several factors including the hardness of the rock in the area. Another factor is the presence of a plateau area in between the highest part of the mountain range and the rapid decrease in elevation – the Blue Ridge Escarpment – around the South Carolina border. The plateau area allows the rivers to gain volume from the numerous creeks and streams that feed into them. This brings us to another factor, the unusually high rainfall in the area – 80 inches per year – which feeds the creeks and streams which feed the rivers and so on and so forth. There are many waterfalls to explore either by hiking or by boat.
Laurel Fork Falls
The creme de la creme of Lake Jocassee waterfalls — the one that’s more singled out than others in guide books and on maps — is Laurel Fork Falls. This 80-foot beauty has three sections. A small pool makes a nice swimming hole at the base of the middle section, if you’re willing to climb up the rocks to reach it. The lower section tumbles into the lake at the end of a long, finger-like cove and can be reached by boat if the the water’s high enough; otherwise, you’ll have to hoof it along the dry portions of the lake bed and shoreline. The best way to see the upper falls is to tie your boat off at the mouth of the cove and take a section of the Foothills Trail to the overlook — about a mile round trip, and highly recommended.
Many of the falls on Lake Jocassee are unnamed — or unofficially named — smaller falls, found at the end of coves on the northern half of the lake. Two of the more spectacular waterfalls with official names are Wrights Creek Falls and Mills Creek Falls. Wrights Creek Falls has two sections, the lower of which plunges directly into the lake at high water levels. At lower water levels, you can tie off your boat and walk behind the falls. Mills Creek Falls cascades over a sheer rock face, allowing you to pull your boat right up to the splashing water. If you have a pontoon, your kids will love this waterfall: they can play in the waterfall from the front of the boat!
You can rent a boat for a waterfall tour from a local outfitter, or you can take a guided tour from someone who knows where to go. Be sure to get a map of waterfall locations if you decide to go it alone; otherwise, you’ll be wasting a lot of gas seeking out waterfalls because Lake Jocassee spreads out in all directions from its wide main body. If you’re willing to spend a little extra, a guided tour will take you directly to the falls. The guide will meet you at the boat ramp, so all you have to do is show up and hop on. Stephanie Couch at Jocessee Keowee Rentals , near the entrance to Devils Fork State Park, rents pontoons and conducts guided waterfall tours of the lake. Give her a call at (864)-704-0004 if interested: she has over 20 years experience on these waters and would love to give your family a memorable waterfall experience!
At the extreme northwest corner of the lake where the Whitewater River flows in, you can’t see the whole of Whitewater Falls from your boat, only its final tumbling rapids. It’s impossible to take in all of Whitewater Falls from one vantage point, but this waterfall is worth mentioning because it’s said to be the highest series of falls east of the Mississippi. The first major section, Upper Whitewater Falls, begins at the top of the Blue Ridge Escarpment in North Carolina; the second, Lower Whitewater Falls, ends at the bottom of the escarpment in South Carolina. Two overlooks, inaccessible from the lake, are worth the drive and the short hike to take a gander at these impressive falls.
- Horsepasture River Falls
- Twin Falls (20 Minutes from Lake Jocassee)
- White Owl
- High Falls
- Big Falls
- Whitewater Falls- a 411 foot drop!
- Laurel Fork Falls- reachable only by boat
And many many more for you to discover!