First paddle on Lake Jocassee

Lake Jocassee rainbow
I've long wanted to visit Lake Jocassee and its many waterfalls for quite a while now. I've been reading my outdoor adventure seeking friend Tom Taylor's visits to Lake Jocassee with considerable interest and a smidge of envy. With my recent purchase of a recreational kayak, the Intex Challenger K1, I now have a means to begin visiting these waterfalls I've been reading about for so long. I had intended to visit Lake Jocassee back in July, but my trip to Lake Oolenoy convinced me that I still can't and won't handle the heat, and to wait for cooler weather. Now that the cooler weather has arrived, I'm ready for a visit.

Lake Jocassee is located in the northern part of South Carolina in the mountainous part of Pickens and Oconee counties. The lake is impounded by a hydroelectric dam, in the southeast corner of the lake, built in 1973 by Duke Power. Four rivers flow into the lake: Whitewater River, Thompson River, Horsepasture River, and Toxaway River. A number of creeks also feed into the lake, some as waterfalls.

Lake Jocassee is mostly free from development along the lake, unlike Lake Summit in Tuxedo, NC I visited earlier in the month.

I paid a visit Lake Jocassee yesterday by way of Devils Fork State Park ($5 for a day pass), on a day whose weather forecast promised a likely chance of late afternoon thunderstorms. I had planned to be back well before then, however. I parked at the northern most boat ramp in the park to save some paddling time.

I brought along the Android phone I use as a media player and GPS device to guide me in my travels.
Start of paddle screenshot
I forgot to remove a map marker in from my Union trip, but no big deal. According to this app, it's about 2.7 miles from the boat ramp to Wright Creek Falls, assuming a straight line.

The Intex Challenger K1 is not a fast boat (I estimate my moving average even with the improved paddle is 2.5mph), and the included aluminum breakdown paddle fatigued me during my recent visit to Lake Summit.earlier in the month.

I fixed the paddle fatigue issue with a carbon fiber shaft two-piece paddle. The kayak still needs to be replaced with something better, but I hope to upgrade to a much better inflatable kayak in about a month or so. Until then, my slow cramped kayak will have to do.

The view from the boat ramp is outstanding with those mountains in the distance.
View from the boat ramp - 2
Then I headed for the Thompson River arm of the lake that would take me toward Wright Creek Falls. When I got close to the waterfall, however, my map revealed another waterfall I had forgotten about when planning this trip, Double Spring Mountain Falls.

Double Spring Mountain Falls is a waterfall in an cove whose presence is given away only by the sound of rushing water.
Double Spring Mountain Falls - 1
The stream itself is unnamed, but the waterfall is named after the mountain it flows down, Double Springs Mountain.

Before heading to the waterfall, a short rest to let my feet recover from being in a cramped space.
Break time
When I stepped out of the kayak, I was in for a bit of a surprise. My foot hit the muck, and kept going!
In the muck
That muck also stank of sulphur. Pew! Anyway, the waterfall is a short distance upstream.
Double Spring Mountain Falls - 2
I took a short video of the waterfall in action:
I spotted two steep paths that lead upward to the upper portion of the waterfall, but I didn't feel taking a chance on hurting myself or worse that day so I skipped that option. In 2010, the writer of the blog Adventures of SCJack, Jack Thyan, visited this same waterfall and climbed this path to the upper section and made it out alive and uninjured.
One path to top of waterfall Another path to top of waterfall
A short distance away, one cove to the north, is Wright Creek Falls, a popular destination for visitors to the lake. The lake level is rather low because of the area drought, and it shows here.
Wright Creek Falls - 1
However, it had rained the day before, especially upstream in the mountains of North Carolina, so at least the water flow was decent.
Wright Creek Falls - 4
You can walk behind the waterfall now with the waterfall so low. I didn't do take advantage of that opportunity this time, but at least now I have a reason to come back again. But back in the early 2010s when the water level was higher, kayakers could paddle behind the waterfall.

Youtube user Reliable Ron posted this video of him paddling to Wright Creek Falls, and in this segment he paddles behind the waterfall:
Flickr photographer Tom Taylor took this 2010 photo of Alan Russell doing the same thing:
Alan behind Wright Creek Falls
I would love to do that!

I would have liked to stay longer, but some loud obnoxious folks with an even louder obnoxious dog showed up in a pontoon boat, and I didn't feel like putting up with them, so I headed out.

I had skipped over exploring another stream in yet another cove in case I had to make a quick exit because of thunderstorms. I went back to check it out, but this one had no waterfall, just more stinky muck.
Stream Mading in muck!
I had already began heading back to the boat ramp...
Exploring stream screenshot
... when I noticed the dark clouds off to the south.
Storm clouds - 1
This was a bit troubling, because I expected to be off the water by the time thunderstorms started moving in. I expected this one to miss me to the east, and that's what ended up happening (thank goodness).

Storm clouds - 2 Storm clouds - 3 Storm clouds - 4
I had to fight a head wind at times on the way back, and it slowed me in my high profile kayak more than I liked. Thankfully for me, thunderstorms stayed on the other side of the lake.
Storm clouds - 5 Storm clouds - 6 Lake Jocassee rainbow
If those thunderstorms had just tracked a few miles west, I'd have been in an interesting situation.

As I was pulling my kayak out of the water and back to the car, sprinkles began to fall even though the sun was out. Those sprinkles didn't last long though, not even long enough to wet the ground.

I made a map of my journey, and I also marked the locations of the two waterfalls:
A number of tempting historical POIs were along the way to Lake Jocassee, and I had to resist stopping to photograph them because of time. I did stop at this old school behind Boone's Creek Baptist Church, ...
Boone's Creek Baptist Church - 2
... once known as Boone's Creek School:
Boone's Creek School
The old schoolhouse was renovated in 1980 for use as the church's social hall.

On the way back, I saw more rainbows along the way than I've seen in many years. If I weren't busy zipping along hilly rural highways, I would have snapped some photos.

I had a great time today. I look forward to coming back again, this time with a faster kayak and no chance of thunderstorms.

All photos from this trip are in an album on Flickr and an album on Google Photos.

Update: Tom visited Lake Jocassee the very next day, also visiting Wright Creek Falls. An interesting almost coincidence!


Comments

  1. Between your blog and Tom Taylors I have more than a bit of interest and envy! I would love to get up to some of these spots, but three kids and a kayak don't mix... it'll be a few more years until I get to these falls. In the meantime, thanks for the virtual tour!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Speaking of Tom, he went to Lake Jocassee the day after I did. I would think his blog post about his trip should be up in the next day or two.

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    2. Just now catching up on my blog reading. Thanks for the shout-out. That post is up.

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    3. I've updated the blog with the link. I find it interesting the coincidence that almost was.

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  2. Sounds like you had a good first experience on Jocasse. It's one of my favorites. The weather can be really tricky, and I've learned not to rely on forecasts.

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  3. I did have a good time, thanks! I plan to be back sometime after I get the faster kayak.

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