The Jocassee Gorges, located in the far northwestern corner of South Carolina, is one of the most beautiful and remote places on the entire East Coast, accessible through Devils Fork State Park. Here are some fun facts about one of South Carolina’s greatest hidden gems.
1. The first part of the name “Jocassee Gorges” comes from a Cherokee legend of tragic, star-crossed lovers. Jocassee was a beautiful Cherokee girl who fell in love with a boy from an enemy tribe, the Eastatoees, known as the Green Birds, who lived on the other side of the river that separated them. Legend says she found the boy, named Nagoochee, injured in the woods and healed him of his injuries. While she took care of him, they fell in love. Later, however, Jocassee’s brother killed Nagoochee in battle and brought his head to her. Legend says she walked into the river in shock, but did not sink or drown. Instead, she walked on the water to meet his ghost.
2. Jocassee literally means “Place of the Lost One” in Cherokee. Makes you want to let out a long sigh, doesn’t it?
3. The second part of the name “Jocassee Gorges” refers to the geologic formations that make the area so remarkable. Streams and rivers coursing down the steep, half-mooned shaped escarpment that forms the base of the Blue Ridge mountains in northern South Carolina carved deep gashes in the rock that rises up suddenly from the piedmont. These are the gorges of Jocassee Gorges.
4. The rivers and streams that gush through the gorges tumble into Lake Jocassee as spectacular waterfalls. And these dozens of waterfalls are, for many people, the reason to visit.
5. The Jocassee Gorges region receives an extraordinary amount of rainfall—up to 100 inches of rain every year. This technically makes the area a rain forest. It’s the only temperate rain forest in the US east of the Cascades in Washington state.
6. The Eastatoees, or Green Birds tribe of the legend of Jocassee, are very likely named after the Carolina parakeet. The only parrot native to North America, the Carolina parakeet became extinct in 1904. The last known sighting was in the Jocassee Gorges.
7. The Gorges are home to the Oconee Bells, a rare and lovely flower found only in this remote area. Because of its unique geography and heavy rainfall, the area is home to many rare plant species.
8. Lake Jocassee, the gorgeous blue heart of the Jocassee Gorges, is actually a man-made lake. It was created when the Jocassee Dam was built in 1973.
9. Before the lake was created, the area was called Jocassee Valley. When Duke Energy flooded the valley to create the lake, dozens of homes, hotels, camps and towns were lost.
10. Attakulla Lodge, an old hotel, is still standing at the bottom of Lake Jocassee, under 300 feet of water. So is the Mount Carmel Cemetery, made famous before it was flooded in the movie "Deliverance."