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Jocassee Gorges WMA

September 23, 2017 @ 10:30 am - 5:00 pm

Jocassee Gorges WMA
Pickens County, SC
Latitude/Longitude (WGS84) is 34.95848N 82.85298W
Regional Director: Katherine Boyle

On Saturday September 23 we will meet at 10:30 AM at one of the ‘angler access’ points on Eastatoe Creek, Jocassee Gorges WMA. Named for the steep-walled coves that  characterize the landscape north and east of Lake Jocassee, the Jocassee Gorges tracts were purchased from Duke Power by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in 1998. The acquisition has protected an area of outstanding biodiversity, as well as opened up special recreational opportunities such as trout fishing and bear hunting. Equally  ignificant is the simple fact that these tracts together constitute such a large, scenic, and remote property.

The highest mean annual rainfall in the eastern half of the United States makes for an abundance of cold swift creeks such as the Eastatoe. We visited Eastatoe Creek back in July 2015 on Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve; now our visit will take us to a section of the creek several miles downstream. This is the southernmost of the Jocassee Gorges tracts, encompassing 770 acres of characteristically mountain forest though at a lower elevation (~1000 feet) than most of South Carolina’s mountain region (2000-plus feet), allowing relatively easy access and not-too-strenuous walking.

We’ll start out at a fishing pier adjacent to the parking area and explore both upstream and downstream along Eastatoe Creek, following informal but well-worn creekside paths. About 70 yards downstream the creek becomes shallow (knee high at most) and sandy-bottomed, and here we can easily cross. On the far side is the mouth of a tributary and, just above, a small waterfall.

Plentiful stream habitat means we’ll have a good chance of finding salamanders, such as Desmognathus spp. Jocassee Gorges is regarded by SCDNR biologists as exceptional for both abundance and diversity of salamanders.

A great diversity of plants has also been documented by SCDNR in Jocassee Gorges. Heritage Trust lists over a hundred endangered, threatened, or ‘watch-list’ plant species for Pickens County, most based on observations in the mountain region. And according to the Heritage observation database, the rare Asplenium trichomanes has been reported from the immediate vicinity of our visit. Let’s keep an eye on rock outcrops for this fern!

Another plant that deserves our attention is the water hemlock Cicuta maculata. Considered the most poisonous plant in the North American flora, it is often found along creeks. I photographed this plant just downstream from the fishing pier.

How to get there:
From the junction of US-178 (Ann Street) and SC-183 (Main Street) in Pickens, go 8.5 miles north on US-178 and turn left onto SC-11 (Cherokee Foothills Scenic Hwy). Go 4.9 miles southwest on SC-11 and turn right onto Roy F Jones Rd. Go 1.2 miles west on Roy F Jones Rd; on your right you’ll see a turn-off with an SCDNR / Duke Energy sign that says “Angler Access Area: Dug Mountain.” Turn here and park in the parking area.

Latitude/longitude (WGS84) is 34.95848N 82.85298W.

Looking at the map, it does seem that E Preston McDaniel or Shady Grove Roads would be the more direct routes, but US-178 is the route I took.

Where to eat:
Fiesta Mexican Restaurant
Address: 712 West Main Street, Pickens SC 29671
One-half mile west of the junction of of US-178 (Ann Street) and SC-183 (Main Street) in Pickens.
Phone: (864) 878-8255