Lake Keowee is an 18,372-acre, pristine reservoir located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The lake’s 300 miles of shoreline cover an area 26 miles long, 3 miles wide and up to 800 feet deep, averaging 54 feet. The purity of its water and its scenic beauty have made Lake Keowee a recreational destination for camping, fishing, boating, swimming, sailing, kayaking and other water sports. Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee set the standard for freshwater lake purity levels in the U.S. As evidence of their cleanliness, they are the only freshwater lakes to attract migrating loons.
The name Keowee is Cherokee in origin, roughly translated as "place of the mulberries”.
Lake Keowee was constructed by Duke Energy over the period 1965 – 1973 to supply hydroelectric power. Duke En ergy undertook a massive demolition and building project which included clearing huge swaths of forest by bulldozing, downing and selling timber, and through controlled burns. Areas were bulldozed and dug deeper to increase the lake’s water volume. Duke Energy constructed the Keowee Dam and Little River Dam to collect water from the the Keowee River and the Little River, and also dammed the Jocassee river to created Lake Jocassee. Water outflows collect below these dams form the Seneca and Savannah rivers. Lake Keowee’s water levels, regulated by the Lake Jocassee Hydro Station, help to cool Duke Energy's three nuclear reactors located at the Oconee Nuclear Generating Station. The station has generated more electricity than any other site in the nation with an estimated capacity of 2.6 million kilowatts of power - enough for 1.9 million homes. Lake Keowee also supplies drinking water to the Greenville, Seneca and surrounding areas.
Duke Energy has management responsibility for not just for Lake Keowee, but for shoreline management up to elevation 805’, including docks. An advocacy group named the Friends of Lake Keowee Society (FOLKS) was established in 1993 to represent the interests of lake residents in terms of environmental and recreational issues. It has led initiatives such as monitoring the lake's water quality and watershed.
Located just above Lake Keowee, Lake Jocassee is a 7,500-acre, 300-foot deep reservoir which was created in 1973 by the state of South Carolina, in partnership with Duke Power. The lake is known for its clean and cold waters fed by Appalachian Mountain rivers.
The Jocassee Dam, which formed the lake, is 385 feet high and 1,750 feet long. The Jocassee Hydro Station, located in the southeast corner of Lake Jocassee, separates it from Lake Keowee. The only public access to Lake Jocassee is within Devil’s Fork State Park.
The name “Jocassee” comes from a legend about a Cherokee maiden, who is said to have walked across its waters to reunite with the ghost of her lost love. It means “Place of the Lost Ones”. The Jocassee Gorges area was once home to the part of the Cherokee Nation. It now lies 300 feet beneath the surface of the lake, near the confluence of the Whitewater and Toxaway rivers.
As one of North America’s two rainforests and a largely undeveloped, unspoiled area, Lake Jocassee has become known for its unique topography - which includes numerous waterfalls - and for its extremely diverse wildlife habitat. The area contains number of rare, threatened and endangered species, such as the wildflower Oconee Bell. As a result, the Eastatoee Gorge Heritage Preserve is managed by of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Wildlife management efforts in the Jocassee Gorges area began as early as the 1930s when the Chief Game Warden managed the stocking of trout from local fish hatcheries. This led to the investigation and improvement of fish populations in the area. People hiking, hunting, fishing, or nature watching benefit from the fish stocking and law enforcement of the Game Management Program.
Due to the land’s secluded nature, Lake Jocassee was chosen as the setting for several popular films. Prior its to flooding, the site’s Mount Carmel Baptist Church Cemetery was filmed for a scene in the movie Deliverance, starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, Lake Jocassee was also the setting for scenes in the 2012 movie The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence.