Sunday, August 8, 2010

Trip Report - Lake Jocasse Kayaking

Lake Jocassee Kayak Trip

Devils Fork State Park, SC
Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Photos are posted here:

I knew I wanted to get out one day this weekend and had originally planned to go hiking somewhere. However, when my buddy Johnny mentioned a Kayak Trip on Lake Jocassee to a couple of waterfalls, I quickly changed plans and jumped at the opportunity.

I met Johnny at his house and rode with him. We grabbed some breakfast at the Spinx station on Hwy 11 in Gowensville, SC while we waited for his friends Shannon and Cathy. Once they arrived we continued on to Devils Fork State Park, SC to launch the Kayaks.

Johnny Kayaking on Lake Jocassee

It was a beautiful day to be on the lake. A "cold" front had moved through overnight dropping the summertime temps from near 100 to a much more comfortable mid 80s. Still warm, but there would be plenty of opportunities to cool off in the lake!

We started out with a long paddle across the lake until we hit the east bank of the Thompson River Fork. From here we hugged the shoreline to get some shade and made our first stop at a hidden cove at the base of Double Spring Mountain.

Not many people know about this waterfall. It is located on an un-named stream that flows down Double Spring Mountain and empties into this hidden cove. A short distance upstream from the lake is a really nice waterfall. I don't know if it has a name, so I call this one Double Spring Mountain Falls.

Double Spring Mountain Falls

While I was photographing the lower falls, Johnny started scrambling up to the Upper Falls which is much more difficult to get to! I only had my water shoes, which are not the type of footwear for scrambling up steep banks and bushwhacking. Since that never stopped me before, I followed Johnny!

Johnny Bushwhacking to the Upper Falls

Johnny bushwhacking to the Upper Falls
If you look closely, you can see Johnny in the center of the photo

The bushwhack to the Upper Falls is definitely not easy! Following Johnny was not the wise choice, but we eventually arrived at a view of the upper falls. Pretty impressive, but not very photogenic, especially since I elected not to bring the wide angle lens.

Upper Double Spring Mountain Falls

Rather than return the way we came, we decided to just follow the stream down. This required the use of the butt slide maneuver on several occasions. However, it definitely proved to be the easier way to go until the end when we had to find a way down from the top of the lower falls.

Shannon and Cathy were watching us from below, laughing as we struggled to scramble down the steep bank.

While Johnny decided to get some photos of the lower falls, I was more intrigued by a pair of butterflies that seemed unusually content to let me photograph them. They stayed still for about 50 shots. Since it was very shady in this spot, most came out blurry, but I did get a couple of winners!

Butterfly at Double Spring Mountain Falls

After a nice break, we got back in our Kayaks and continued up the Thompson River Fork of Lake Jocassee to Wright Creek Falls. The cove that Wright Creek Falls plunges into proved to be much more popular and there were several boats full of people. While I would have preferred to have the place to ourselves, I never complain about having to fest my eyes on bikini babes!

Bikini Babes at Wright Creek Falls

Since the lower falls was swarming with people, we decided to scramble to the Upper section of Wright Creek Falls. This one is a beauty! Unfortunately, it is difficult to get a shot without waterfall spray getting all over your lens. The only good shots I got were from the side, and even those would have been better if I brought by wide angle lens.

Upper Wright Creek Falls

Back at the lower falls, I struggled to find a spot to set up my tri-pod. The last time I visited Wright Creek Falls was about a year ago (August 28th, 2009). That was during a period of extreme drought and the lake was about 20-feet lower than it is now. The areas where we had set up our tripods then, are now under water. I did find one spot to set up and get some shots from the side.

Lower Wright Creek Falls

Before we got ready to head back, I went for a swim in the awesome swimming hole below the falls. The sandy beach we were walking around on last year is now 10+ feet underwater. However, I did find a large, study, relatively flat rock about 2-feet below the surface which offered an excellent viewpoint of the lower falls.

I figured this would be a good spot to take some photos without getting my camera wet. However, there was not enough room on the underwater rock to set up my tri-pod, so I could not get any long exposure shots. Instead I had to settle for some hand held shots of Johnny and Shannon as they Kayaked under the falls.

Johnny Kayaking Under Wright Creek Falls

Shannon Kayaking Under Wright Creek Falls

We eventually decided to start heading back to the boat launching area. However, there was one more cove we wanted to check out. Shannon and Cathy decided to skip this one since Cathy was wearing down.

Johnny and I got to the end of the cove were a small stream trickles into the lake. We could definitely see falling water upstream and started another bushwhack.

Johnny trying to bushwhack to another waterfall

There was way too much deadfall and the waterfall was only a trickle, so neither of us bothered to take any shots. Getting to a better viewpoint would require a lot of effort and it probably would not have been worthwhile, so we decided to head back.

Back in our Yaks, we soon caught up with Shannon and Cathy and began the grueling final paddle to the boat ramp. There was no escaping the sun and while the light breeze felt good, it was pushing against us making the paddling more difficult. We made several stops along the way to catch our breath and take a refreshing dip in the lake!

Taking a break on the Lake Jocassee Shoreline

Cathy was really wearing down at this point and for the final stretch, Shannon tied her Kayak to the back of his and towed her back. I was struggling myself! The paddle back seemed much more difficult. Turns out the Kayak I borrowed from Johnny has a small leak, and after about six hours in the water, the hull was filled with several gallons.

I don't do a whole lot of Kayaking, and most of my Kayak trips in the past have been downstream runs, where you really only need to paddle in order to steer in the right direction. This trip definitely used some muscles that I am not used to using.

A day later my arms and shoulders are still sore, my legs are all scraped up from the bushwhacking, and I have a mild case of sunburn. However, it was still a very enjoyable day on the water and I am looking forward to doing it again!

Thanks Johnny for the opportunity!

My full set of photos is posted here:


HemlockMan said...

Nice. One of these days I'll join Johnny C. on the lake for one of those kayaking trips.

steve said...

Great article, fantastic photo's, looks like a memorable place to go kayaking. I am always looking for places like this too. Keep up the great work.
best regards Steve