I really wanted to get out on my new boat. With the entire day available for paddling, I decided to head up to Lake Jocassee. I had paddled Jocassee many times, but our excursions were always rather limited. I was stoked to get out on a boat that could actually get me somewhere and see parts of the lake I had not seen before. This turned into a review of a paddling destination as much as a review of the new boat.
It seems that I’m always starting off in a fog. That’s been more physical than metaphysical lately, with a foggy start to last week’s Edisto trip, and now with fog blanketing the Upstate. Most of it had burned off by the time I arrived at the upper boat ramp at Devil’s Fork State Park.When I arrive another group was gathering. Several had already arrived, and more boats were unloading. This group meets on a regular basis to paddle Jocassee. They were expecting about twelve for their expedition.
There was quite a breeze when I set out. There were actually whitecaps out on the water, and quite a chop. As I paddled out, waves splashed over the bow and into the cockpit. I could see where a spray skirt would really come in handy.
Lake Jocassee consists of a large open section and two main fingers leading back to the Whitewater and Toxaway Rivers. These then split, leading to the Horse Pasture and Thompson Rivers. On the open section, I quickly discovered a problem with the new boat, I’m used to my other kayaks spinning every time I stop paddling. Tracking straight made it more difficult to see how far I had come and what’s around.
I made it across the main body and paused at the first point. Behind it was a nice little sheltered cove. I sat and enjoyed the view for awhile.
As much as I wanted to explore every little cove, I had a goal. There are five waterfalls that cascade into the lake. Laurel Fork Falls is the most dramatic, but was a bit out of my range for the day. I planned to make it to Wright Creek Falls, then see where I got from there.
The water is very green and very clear. It reminds me a bit of the glacial lakes in Washington State. The lake levels are up from last summer, but still down overall. The eroded banks make for some interesting geological formations and colors.
I had points of interest programmed into my GPS. I turned unto the cove where I thought Wright Creek Falls was going to be. I heard falling water, and found a small creek flowing into the lake.
I paddled around a corner and spotted the falls behind a sandy ridge.
As I pulled up to the beach, a motorboat pulled in behind. They were polite and hung back a bit as I set up my tripod and took several shots of the falls. I took some photos of them cavorting in the falls, too.
Since I had reached my main goal early, I decided to see if I could make it to the Whitewater River. I was on the Horse Pasture arm, so I paddled on back around to that arm.
On this section one finds the Bad Creek Hydroelectric Project. There is another reservoir higher up on the hill, and the water is channeled through turbines and released into Jocassee. Apparently the water releases can be extreme, as the signs attested. I paddled by cautiously.
Just past Bad Creek the channel narrows, then abruptly ends. Here the Whitewater River tumbles into the lake from a series of cascades. Further up the river one finds the dramatic Whitewater Falls, highest east of the Mississippi. I pulled my kayak onto a little beach and decided this was a good spot for lunch. I had it all to myself. I guess there was no one else crazy enough to paddle past the Bad Creek floodgates.
Soon I was joinged by a family in a small boat. They explored the area and had lunch, too. Two young boys went in for a swim, and I decided to join them. The water was incredibly refreshing, and felt marvelous on the warm day.
I headed on back toward the main body of the lake. By this time I had been paddling enough to discover some things about my new kayak. It has excellent storage. I had enough space for all of my gear, and could have carried camping supplies if I needed. The boat tracks straight, but is still easy to maneuver. I found it easier to turn than the Wilderness Systems Pungo and Pamlico I had paddled earlier.
Most importantly, though, this has got to be one of the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had in a kayak. I paddled an Eddyline touring boat in Washington State and a long trip which felt like I was sitting in an easy chair. This comes a close second. The seat has adjustable lumbar supports, and hits my back just right.
Boat traffic was really starting to pick up. There were lots of skiers out and about. Fortunately, there also seemed to be lots of kayakers. I tried staying closer to the shoreline as I paddled back. I also ducked into many more coves, taking more time to rest and swim to cool down.
I had one more stop. I had visited two waterfalls, two were on the Horse Pasture/ Toxaway arm and were out of reach, so I decided to go for the last one, which was sort of on my way back. It’s the only one I had visited previously.
On my way there I encountered another kayaker collecting driftwood for some sort of art project. She paddles the lake every week, and told me about several other places to explore along the shore. She also thought I was crazy for paddling past Bad Creek.
It was also here that I found out about my boat’s performance in comparison with a touring kayak. She basically took off and left me in the dust. Oh well. I knew this boat wouldn’t be a speed demon. Still, I hadn’t been disappointed in its performance.
I was disappointed, however, in my last waterfall. A pontoon boat had parked right at the base of the falls, and showed no intention of leaving. I couldn’t get a shot without it in the way. I decided it was time to paddle back to the boat ramp. The weather had been spectacular. However, thunderclouds looked like they might be building, so I didn’t want to get caught out.
As I returned, I noticed that more and more of the coves were filling up with groups of people staking out a space for and afternoon/evening party. Some were in motor boats, and some were there on collections of kayaks and canoes.
I made it back to the ramp by about 4:00. I had been on the water since 9:00. It was a long day, and I was tired and sunburned. However, I was happy, both with my boat and with all of the great scenery. On my way out a sign said “Boat Ramps Full – No Parking.” I’m glad I started early, and it was time to go. I’ll be back, though.