Custom Search
   boat plans
   gift certificates
Join Duckworks
Get free newsletter
on this site
by Scott Widmeir - Kennesaw, Georgia - USA

In July my family camped at Devil’s Fork State Park on Lake Jocasee in South Carolina.  This state park offers the only public access to this 7,500 acre mountain lake situated 2 hours 30 minutes away from our house in Kennesaw.  We brought some kayaks and did some exploring of the lake finding the clarity of the water incredible and enjoying its cool temperatures despite the 99 degree day.  However, we were disappointed that the more mountainous parts of the lake, complete with beautiful waterfalls falling directly into the lake, were too far away to paddle to or even for the small electric trolling motor I had along.  I vowed to make it back to the lake with my 14’ homebuilt sailboat for an overnight cruise.

The opportunity came this Labor Day weekend.  I managed to talk my wife (she said she agreed just to get me to stop whining) into coming on the “Journey to Lake Jocassee” with me despite her reservations about sharing such a small boat with me.  The sub-standard sanitary arrangements were also a detraction (a negative of buying a boat with an enclosed head on Lake Allatoona … increased expectations).  She would only agree to one night on the boat both because of concerns over size and due to commitments with the kids.  It was a good thing too as I had a lot of deferred projects on this relatively new boat which kept me busy all of Saturday including missing out on our club’s Labor Day picnic.

We left early Sunday morning for an uneventful drive to Devils Fork State Park where we payed $8 for launching and two days parking.  We loaded up the boat and got the old reliable Envirude 4hp started.  Our first destination was the boat-in camping sites at the crux of the main fork in the lake.  I wanted to see these sites for future considerations though Laura said her days of tent camping are over now that we own our Runaway camper.  The tent sites were all located along the shoreline of a nicely protected cove.  Some were private while others were located fairly close to each other.  There were two types of campers, those who made it over with powerboats loaded down with all manner of camping gear and those who made it over in kayaks mostly with just a tent.  I appreciated the latter more than the former.

We next headed down the longer Northeasterly fork of the lake to see Laurel Fork Falls and Mill Creek Falls.  The beauty of the lake did not disappoint despite being dominated by powerboats and prime shore spots being covered with easy-up day camps.  You are not allowed to shore camp except for the boat-in campsite though sleeping on your boat is allowed.  Still, for a holiday weekend the lake was relatively uncrowded especially compared to Hartwell which we passed on our drive to Jocassee.  Despite being tucked in an unremarkable cove, Laurel Creek Falls was easy to find by watching the boat traffic.  When we arrived there were a couple of boats around the cove and quite a few swimmers to avoid.  I turned off the outboard and grabbled the canoe paddle which worked well on such a small boat.  I was able to paddle our boat back into the very small grotto to get the full view of this beautiful waterfall.

We next motored to Mill Creek Falls.  Despite my wish to raise sails, the light contrary winds just weren’t going to get us anywhere anytime soon.  Along the way we passed what had to be one of the nicest peninsulas with a lovely sandy beach.  It was protected from the waves but low enough to give a great view of the lake.  It was also occupied.  Just past it was a large boulder being used for cliff diving by passengers from several powerboats floating nearby.  Again, we just followed the boat traffic to find the two-stepping Mill Creek Falls.  This waterfall was easier to view from the cove in front of it though we did employ the paddle to get through the swimmers for a good picture angle.

On the way to Mill Creek Falls I noticed a promising deep cove that I decided to explore for a good stopping place for an afternoon swim.  I found a wonderfully sloping rock perfect for my shallow draft boat complete with a stone place for stepping off the boat dry footed.  My wife found a “spa bench” at a perfect height in the water for a relaxing soak.  The high bank above my impromptu boat slip had some man-made steps leading to a flat topped peninsula with signs of a campfire and, sadly, some bits of food trash.  Evidently, some stealth camping goes on especially at such a secluded spot out of view of the rest of the lake.  We were so relaxed that we decided to just stay the night in this secluded spot so cleaned it up a bit and relaxed.  About sunset we witnessed a parade of boats heading back down the lake to the state park then the lake got really quiet except for the sounds of nature around us.  If there hadn’t been some light clouds in the sky, I am sure we would have been treated to a wonderful tapestry of stars.  Dinner consisted of reheating some pre-made chili and as the night cooled we got situated for our first night sharing the small cabin on this fourteen foot boat.  Before turning it, I noticed the boat was becoming rather hard aground and at an angle so, with my wife’s help, I backed her down the slope a bit but kept a good portion of the bow grounded.  The night passed swiftly with both of us being surprisingly comfortable in the small confines probably due to the cabin splitting centerboard trunk.

The next morning we were treated to a beautifully calm lake and no motorboats or jetskis moving about.  Evidently, each morning there is a race reminiscent of the Oklahoma land rush as powerboats seek to be first down the lake in order to secure the best day camp sites.  After an early breakfast, we heard the first whining motor as the peaceful waters were divided by the first wake of the day.  During the night, the lake had risen enough to float the boat off the shelf.  This amounted to a foot or so of fluctuations which is important to note if you are in a heavier boat that you cannot push off the shore.  We cast off from our beautiful stop and headed back down the lake towards the Northwest fork to visit Wright Creek falls.  Along the way, we witnessed the land claim as boats found good beaches which their crew claimed by the strategic placement of chairs and awnings.

Today we were treated to a wonderful following wind so I raised sails for a broad reach at about the same speeds as my small motor is able to push the boat.  Nice to get a free and quieter ride from Mother Nature.  We spied a few groups of kayaks and even a stand up paddleboard.  I am still hoping someone took a picture of my boat under sail and will be posting it to “the front of my kayak” facebook page.  Occasionally, the winds were blocked by a turn in the lake requiring the help of the iron wind but we made it most of the way down the northeast fork and up the northwest fork under wind power alone.  Just a wonderful sailing day and only one other sailboat in sight briefly.

As we approached Wright Creek Falls I lowered sails and powered up the outboard.  Once again, there was a couple of powerboats and a lot of swimmers in the water enjoying the cool breeze in the shade of the falls.  These falls actually go over an overhanging ledge creating a natural rainfall shower that most people can’t resist getting under.  Taking advantage of my paddle and the cuteness of my boat, I winded my way through the boats and parked my boat close to the falls much to the delight of the photographers in the crowd.  At one point, I got out of the boat and stood on a rock as I scooted my boat, complete with worried wife onboard, towards the falls.  She was worried I was going to move the boat under the falls - she knows me too well.  Wanting to sleep on my own bed that night, I didn’t but I did take advantage of the situation to snap some photos.  Afterwards, I tied the boat off to a convenient branch and went to try out the natural shower myself.  I quickly discovered why the lake waters were so cold!  These are mountain streams and my natural shower was eye openingly cold but very refreshing.

Next, we made our way up the winding leg of the lake to Thompson River.  Beautiful arm but the falls weren’t that special compared to the others.  I did get out and hiked up the falls hoping for a view of the prettier stretches of this river purported to be out of view of the lake and reachable by a hiking trail.  However, I didn’t go far due to time constraints.  Unfortunately, it is Monday and we had to drive back to our home in order to report for work on Tuesday.  The winds were light at first but did build.  Still, I opted to give my outboard a workout partly to get an estimate on how much gas it used.  Something valuable to know for future trips.  This also allowed me to do some packing up while on the cool water rather than on the hot concrete of the boat ramp parking lot.  At the ramp, we elected to beach the boat next to the launch ramp rather than tie up to the rather nice but crowded dock.  A definite advantage of such a shoal draft boat.  The recovery went quickly and making the boat road-ready only took ten minutes thanks to the tabernacle I built for the mast.  We were soon on the road for an adventure of stop and go driving thanks to torrential downpours, traffic accidents, and heavy holiday traffic.

This will not be my last visit to Lake Jocassee.  I plan on organizing a trip for small boats to the lake though all who come will have to be able to sleep on their boats.  I am also building an EasyB strip built canoe designed by Skip Johnson and think the boat-in camping sites on this lake would be a great place to experiment with overnighting out of a small canoe.  Anyone want to join me?

To comment on Duckworks articles, please visit one of the following:

our Yahoo forum our Facebook page