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Lake Jocassee - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Weekend Trip Report
Trip Dates: Mar. 2003
Nearest City: Lake Jocassee, SC
Difficulty: Moderate
Submitted by: Tom Vukovinsky

Description:

This is a report of a kayak and camping trip to Devils Fork State Park, South Carolina in late March 2003.

Devils Fork State Park is located on the south end of Lake Jocassee in the northwestern part of South Carolina. There is not much development on the lake, which is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Day One – Tom and Tim made the 4-hour drive from Hartsville, SC to Devils Fork on the afternoon of March 25th. Arriving at about 6 pm, we checked in at the park headquarters. There were very few people camping at this time of year. For 15 dollars we rented one of 5 tent sites on a hill overlooking the lake. Although these sites are close to numerous RV sites, there was enough separation to provide adequate privacy even if all were in use. It was of course nice to have the place to ourselves. There was another area not too far away with 20 more tent sites. There are paved trails leading to the tent sites and each site had a tent pad and a fire pit with metal walls and a hinged grill, which made cooking easier. We brought some firewood with us because we didn’t know what would be available. As it turned out, there was plenty of dead wood available but this probably won’t be true as the camping season picks up. We picked the tent site closest to the parking area and had about a 500-foot walk. We made several trips carrying our supplies, a cooler, firewood and both our kayaks to Tent Site 21. We had the kayaks at the tent site because we needed to pack them for the next day. We set up the tent, got a fire going and then started to prepare dinner. We feasted on steaks with cooked onions, green peppers, squash, zucchini and potatoes. We cooked and ate by lantern/flashlight. After washing the dishes, we relaxed in our folding chairs near the fire. It was getting cool but with sweats we were comfortable. The sky was clear and the stars were brilliant. It would have been a good night to have a telescope but even without it, the view in the sky was amazing.

Day Two – Up at 6 am, we got the fire going once again and cooked a breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes and onions. We spent a couple of hours packing everything into our kayaks and cleaning up the campsite. Tony drove up from Hartsville to join us on Wednesday morning. He got an early start and arrived at about 10 am. Carrying our loaded kayaks from the tent site to the parking lot, we started to wonder if they would still float when we got in them. The three of us went to the Park Headquarters and registered to spend the night at the primitive campground, which is located across the lake about 1.5 miles away. The cost was 3 dollars per person. The ranger warned us of the possibility of thunderstorms around 1 pm. We bought some maps of the lake at the park store and headed for the northern most boat ramp. At the boat ramp we readied the kayaks and launched at about 11 am.

We headed north up the lake planning to kayak most of the day before setting up camp at the Double Springs primitive campground. We paddled for several hours exploring the northwestern fingers of the lake and seeing 4 waterfalls of various size. An important lesson was learned regarding packing a lot of equipment in a kayak. Due to uneven loading, one kayak tended to continually turn to the left while of course our path was generally to the right for most of the day. We ate lunch at a small island and then continued our paddle southward toward our campsite, arriving there about 4 pm. During the day the sky was dark at times and we felt a few drops rain drops but we were fortunate that the forecasted thunderstorms never came. Double Springs is described in the park literature as a “boat-in” campground. There were at least 10 campsites but all are located up a rather steep embankment (wooden steps provided). We could only find one spot where we could get out of our kayaks and pull them on shore at the bottom of the bank. It looks like the “boat-in” is expected to be power boats that remain tied up near the shoreline. We carried our gear up to a campsite that had 3 tent pads and a fire pit. We pitched 2 tents and then started searching for firewood. Again we didn’t have a problem finding enough wood but wouldn’t count on this later in the year. We got the fire going and even had time to threaten the Lake Jocasse fish population with a couple of new telescoping fishing poles. We decided to give the fish a break on this trip but next time we may not be so nice. Dinner was hamburgers we had packed in a small soft-side cooler with some ice, along with boxed mac and cheese. There was a lack of comfortable seating and the decision was made to move folding camp seats high on the list of “needed” camping supplies to be purchased. After dark we tried to pop some Jiffy-Pop over the fire. We must have got a dud because it took forever to start popping and ended up burned. There is of course no way it was the fault of the cook or his advisors. The smores that followed were much better although they did result in a philosophical discussion about whether the marshmallows should be charred black before you eat them.

Day Three – Up at about 6 am, we stoked the coals remaining in the fire pit from the night before. Both nights had been cool but not uncomfortably cold, probably in the mid to high 40’s. Breakfast was bacon, scrambled eggs and a can of fried Spam (none of us had eaten Spam in many years). The bacon and eggs had been packed in a small soft-side cooler with some ice … it worked well. We cleaned the dishes and broke camp, carrying everything down to the kayaks and repacking. With two nights of sleeping on the ground, a day of paddling, and several hours of sitting on the ground around the fire the night before; we were feeling the soreness in our backs, necks, shoulders and arms. We launched from Double Springs about 8:30 am and headed east up the Toxaway River branch of the lake. Within minutes we were pulling up to a small beach area to change the batteries in our GPS units (this check needs to be added to the pre-launch checklist). We paddled for a couple of hours and then decided to head back across the lake to the boat landing. We loaded up the kayaks at about 1 pm and went back to the Park Headquarters to change clothes and shop at the Park Store. There was no requirement or expectation to check-out with the rangers.

Summary – Lake Jocassee is an outstanding location for paddling. Devils Fork State Park, clear cool water, surrounding mountains, little development and a lot of river inlets to explore, make for a great combination. It would be nice if we lived closer so that day trips would be feasible, but a couple day camping and paddling trip is well worth the time and effort. There are also numerous hiking trails available in the park.

Lessons Learned

  • Forget the primitive campground. Set up at a tent site in the main area of the Devils Fork and return there each day after paddling the lake. It will not add much paddling distance and has the following advantages:
  • Kayak is much lighter and easier to paddle, even loading not a concern.
  • A comfort station will be available for toilet and shower facilities.
  • A lot of time saved setting up and breaking down camp.
  • If you are packing your kayak full to go camping, pay attention to weight distribution so that it will paddle true.
  • If you don’t have a GPS, buy one. They are cool and with map software provide some pretty amazing detail of your paddling area. We used Garmin Rino 120’s which also have a radio feature built in. This came in handy when we were out of each others sight scouting for a landing area at Double Springs. Also, each time you communicate, it sends your position to other users, plotting your position on their map.
  • South Carolina fishing licenses all run from July 1st to June 30th. So if you buy a license you pay 10 dollars for an “annual” license that may be valid for anywhere from 1 day to 365 days … just something to be aware of.

Accommodations:

Number of sites with electricity and water: 59 sites rent for $18/site/night. Number Designated tent sites: 25 tent sites rent for $13.50/site/night

Outfitting:

Tom: Pygmy Osprey Standard (Wood-15'8")
Tony: Necky Zoar (Fiberglass-14')
Tim: Chesapeake 17 (Wood-17')

Fees:

Other than the camp fees, none that the Park Ranger stated.

Contact:

Devils Fork Web Info:

161 Holcombe CIR
Salem,SC 29676
Phone: (864) 944-2639


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