Experience the enchantment of Lake Jocassee, one of the world's last pristine hidden gems. Explore guided waterfall tours, capture stunning photographs, and dive into the cool, deep waters to discover submerged remnants of towns. Learn about the rare Oconee Bell wildflower and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Devils Fork State Park. Create lifelong memories in this pristine and biodiverse destination, located right here in our Upstate region!
Rare Species. Rocky Vistas.
Hailed by National Geographic as one of "50 of the World's Last Great Places—Destinations of a Lifetime," Lake Jocassee is a breathtaking reservoir nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just north of Lake Keowee. Widely regarded as the state’s most scenic and pristine, this 7,500-acre lake offers a recreational paradise for visitors, from swimming and jetskiing to stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. Its deep, blue waters are also popular with boaters and divers alike; scuba divers can explore now-submerged towns, as featured in the movie Deliverance before the lake was created in the early 1970s. Guided boat tours are also available for those seeking a curated experience.
Surrounded almost entirely by public property, Lake Jocassee remains largely untouched and undiscovered, despite its popularity. Its 75 miles of shoreline and 43,000 acres of surrounding forest showcase dense foliage, abundant wildlife, and towering waterfalls. The Eastern Continental Divide running through the Jocassee Gorges creates a unique temperate rainforest climate, supporting a diverse range of wildlife and plant species found nowhere else along the Divide. Here you'll find the rare and delicate Oconee Bells wildflower, which draws admirers from around the world.
Discover the magic of Lake Jocassee, immerse yourself in its natural wonders, and create unforgettable memories in this remarkable destination that truly lives up to its designation as one of the world's last great places.
NOTE: Due to its pristine nature, NO restaurants can be reached via the lake. Plan on bringing a picnic lunch with you for the day!
Before you start packing your scuba gear,
here’s everything you need to know about things to do + our insider tips.
If anyone asks you, “Water you doing at the lake later?”, we’ve got you covered.
Table of Contents
As Far as the Eye Canyon See
Touted as offering the “hallmark” view of Lake Jocassee, this scenic overlook provides panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains from 2,000 feet of elevation; it is also a popular spot for sunset watching. If you plan to go, make sure you have an SUV, Jeep, or truck for the rugged terrain; the twisty, bumpy jaunt is about 9.5 miles on Horse Pasture Road. Along the way to this extraordinary, unobstructed view of the lake, you'll encounter smaller waterfalls and several captivating overlooks that will ensure an enjoyable journey from start to finish!
Wade Into Adventure
Prepare to discover the best and most popular of Lake Jocassee waterfalls: the iconic Laurel Fork Falls. Tucked away in a secluded spot, this 80-foot waterfall can primarily only be accessed by boat, adding an extra element of adventure to your journey. As you approach, you'll see its three distinct sections, each offering its own unique charm. The lower section gracefully tumbles into the lake, creating a picturesque sight at the end of a thin cove. The middle section presents a tempting swimming hole, where a small pool awaits at the base for those willing to conquer the rocky ascent. To explore the upper section, secure your boat at the cove's mouth and embark on a rewarding mile-long round-trip adventure along a section of the Foothills Trail.
Be sure to make time to visit Lower Whitewater Falls. After a moderate two-mile hike (one-way) to the overlook (also on the Foothills Trail), you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the falls plummeting 200 feet and emptying into the northwest corner of Lake Jocassee.
Plenty of smaller waterfalls dot the shores of Lake Jocassee, some without official names or simply known by local nicknames. These charming cascades can be found nestled at the ends of coves on the northern side of the lake. Two others with official titles that you can boat to are Wright Creek Falls and Mill Creek Falls.
It's A-Boat Time We Got on the Lake
Rent a boat (or whatever type of watercraft *floats your boat*) from these area outfitters to explore Lake Jocassee’s picturesque waters.
Looking for company on your adventure? Look no further! Most outfitters also offer guided waterfall tours, which are, by far, the best way to see the lake. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, photography lover, or seeking an unforgettable adventure, these tours promise lifelong memories. Join expert guides, explore the stunning scenery, and make the most of your journey.
📍 Jocassee Lake Tours
Kayaks (Single & Tandem)
📍 Jocassee Outdoor Center
516 Jocassee Lake Rd., Salem; 864.944.9016
Ski Boats, Pontoons, Tritoons & Water Toys (Tubes, Water Skis, Wakeboards & Kneeboards)
*Pontoons are pet-friendly
📍 Eclectic Sun
238 Buckeye Dr., Salem; 864.944.1191
Pontoons, Kayaks (Single & Tandem), Canoes & Stand-Up Paddleboards
📍 Jocassee Keowee Rentals
259 Jocassee Lake Rd., Salem; 864.704.0004
Pontoons, Tritoon Boats, Kayaks & Canoes
Works Well Under Pressure
Lake Jocassee’s cool, clear waters reach depths of over 300 feet, attracting scuba enthusiasts from all over the country. Divers have the opportunity to explore the submerged remnants of towns, cemeteries, and more, creating an underwater "Atlantis" experience. When the valley was flooded and the lake was filled, entire towns were suspended in time and water; school gymnasiums and street signs are just a few of the things that divers will discover.
The Oconee Bell is a shiny-leafed herbaceous perennial that blooms in early spring with solitary white and pink bell-shaped flowers that perch on leafless stalks. Shortia galacifolia (its scientific name) is one of the world’s most threatened species, and 90 percent of the world’s Shortia is found in the Upstate’s Jocassee Gorges. It grows along the banks of streams and on the banks of Lake Jocassee, and this elusive plant remains a draw for photographers and botany lovers near and far.
Keepin' it Reel
This South Carolina State Park occupies 622 acres along Lake Jocassee’s southern shoreline and offers the only public access point to the lake. Devils Fork has 59 campsites available for RV or tent camping along with 20 lakeside villas, fishing and birdwatching opportunities, scenic lake views, and a 1-mile loop Oconee Bell Nature Trail, where you'll find the rare and delicate Oconee Bells wildflower blooming in the spring.
Created in 1973 through a state partnership with Duke Power (now Duke Energy), this 300-foot-deep, man-made lake is a 7,500-acre playground—an absolute gem nestled into an undeveloped mountainous environment. Four mountain streams and several waterfalls feed into the lake, making it cooler than Lake Keowee and Lake Hartwell to its south.
Located in the Jocassee Gorges near the cities of Salem and Sunset, the lake and its surrounding areas were once home to part of the Cherokee Nation. The name Jocassee means “Place of the Lost One.” Its special temperate rainforest climate, created by the Eastern Continental Divide, contributes to the area’s biodiversity—bobcats, black bears, wild turkeys, deer, river otters, hawks, and even bald eagles live and thrive here. Threatened mosses, wildflowers, and rare orchids also make their home in the Jocassee basin, in addition to the Oconee Bell.