Devil’s Fork State Park and Lake Jocassee

By: Dan Gibbs

Lake Jocassee in Devil’s Fork State Park is a 7500-acre man-made lake that covers parts of Oconee and Pickens counties near Salem, South Carolina. It was formed in 1973 when Duke Power flooded the Jocassee Valley. Devil’s Fork State Park was created in 1991 and is the only access points to Lake Jocassee. 

As is with most places in western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina, Jocassee involves a Cherokee indian legend about two lovers from rival tribes. The tribes were the Cherokee and the Eastatoee Indians also known as the Green Birds. The Eastatoee’s derived their nickname from the Carolina parakeet that was believed to have become extinct in 1904. The word Jocassee means “the place of the lost one” in the Cherokee language.

When Duke Power flooded the Jocassee Valley in 1973, several buildings were covered up including the Mount Carmel Cemetery. The Cemetery was made famous by the 1972 movie Deliverance. Some of the graves still rest at the bottom of the lake and can be seen in a 1:31 video on Youtube “Mount Carmel Cemetery Dive 12/20/14.” 

At the bottom of the lake is the Attakulla Lodge and the Whitewater Inn. There is an 11:25 video on Youtube entitled “Attakulla Lodge Dive 7/14/18” in which scuba divers go to the bottom and explore the three-story hotel that is perfectly preserved under the water. 

Lake Jocassee is a place of great scenic beauty, the ecosystem contains several species of rare plants including the Oconee Bell, and has many waterfall and rivers that feed into the lake. Lake Jocassee is classified as a rain forest because it averages 100 inches of rainfall a year and it is the only area in the United States east of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state that has this designation. 

There are several excellent website references on Lake Jocassee. Kerry Egan has an excellent article on Robin Jarvis also has an excellent article on covers the history of the area dating back to when it was first discovered by European explorers in the 1500’s. There are also several excellent articles on the Carolina parakeet if you are a “birder.” 

I recently paid a visit to Devil’s Fork State Park and Lake Jocassee and it is only 50 miles from Hendersonville. It’s a scenic drive down the mountain on Highway 25 and into South Carolina onto Highway 11.  There is an admission to get into the Park but you have boat ramp access for those that like to fish, there are lake tours you can purchase, and the scenery is amazing no matter what time of year you go. Spring brings out the blooms of the Oconee Bell, there are waterfalls, and Autumn brings out the best of the fall leaf colors.