Wednesday, August 26 – Fall Creek Falls on Lake Keowee
I must be honest. I’ve never really considered Lake Keowee a great paddling venue. Sure, it’s a nice, clear lake in a lovely mountain setting, but there are also lots of exclusive housing developments all along its shores. Even worse, now the Cliffs creeps have have taken over huge portions of of the shoreline. They have swallowed up and blocked off so many wonderful places in North and South Carolina that I make it a point to give them a one-fingered salute when I pass any Cliffs property.
If I do paddle Keowee, it’s usually in the Estatoe Creek area. I have to paddle past a Cliffs golf course, but I can escape into an area where larger boats can’t venture and houses don’t line the banks.
For this trip, though, Alan and I decided to try a different part of the lake. I hadn’t thought much about waterfalls on Keowee, but I discovered that Fall Creek Falls is on the lake. We decided that we would check it out.
This time it was just the two of us. However, we weren’t alone. As we unloaded our boats four other kayakers pulled up and unloaded. Alan and I got on the water first and headed toward our primary goal.
We passed by the mansions of The Cliffs. These were much larger than I had imagined. Checking later I saw that these things go for anywhere from one to four million dollars. Doesn’t surprise me. I guess one benefit from this development is that the lake isn’t lined with trailer parks sporting Confederate flags and tRump signs, like some other nearby lakes.
We reached the Fall Creek cove sooner than I expected. In fact, we were almost past it when I realized we needed to turn. The ridges above the cove were lined with more mansions, each with a perfect view of the falls. The falls themselves were around a corner to the left.
This is a lovely set of falls with an excellent swimming area. The banks were lined with rocks and there was a large sandy shallow area, perfect for wading. There were also deeper spots if you wanted to swim. A pontoon with a family was anchored in the cove taking advantage of the cool water.
We decided to paddle as close to the falls as we could. Soon the other kayakers from the landing caught up with us. We all decided to wade into the water and enjoy it.
Honestly, I could have just spent the rest of the day hanging out here in the water. Google Maps has this spot labeled “Party Cove Falls” and I now understand why. I’ve seen some satellite shots of this area just filled with boats. Even as we were wading, more boats arrived. While the view of the falls from the mansions above may be nice during the week, I bet they look out over a zoo on summer weekends.
We took our leave of Fall Creek Falls and decided to continue southward since it was still early. The view stayed consistent, with massive mansions lining the banks. In one cove we explored we saw a boat dock with no mansion. I suspect the Cliffs builds the docks for lots that they sell, then the house comes later. All of the Cliffs docks looked the same.
We were heading toward the Keowee Town Landing, planning to stop there for lunch. I spotted a nice wide beach with no mansion looming over it, and decided that we didn’t need to go all the way down to the next landing.
This was another great place to hang out and wade. Someone had built a sand castle. The sand itself was flecked with mica, which gave the water and almost golden glow.
Boat traffic was picking up significantly. Wakes were washing over our beached kayaks, so it was time to head back. This time we had lovely views up towards the mountains. However, the paddle back was quite rocky with all of the wake. At one point we had boats pass us on the left and right creating a weird backwash. There was nothing to do but ride it out.
We made it back to our starting point at Fall Creek Landing, but I wasn’t quite done. Fall Creek has ramps on either side of a peninsula. I decided that we should paddle around the peninsula and come in at the north ramp. The peninsula wasn’t developed and had some exposed rock faces. However, the channel was narrower and the boat wake more prominent.
On the north side of the peninsula is an island with a feature labeled “Keowee Rock” on Google Maps. This is a popular, albeit dangerous spot. People jump from the rocks or try to wade out to the island from the peninsula. Some don’t make it. There have been 17 deaths in this location in recent years.
Carelessness with safety seems to translate into carelessness for the locale as well. The area was covered in graffiti and was trashed with piles of bottles and cans. Even the otherwise lovely cove just across from the island had old clothing and piles of trash along the banks.
The peninsula had a fence and gate blocking access from the road, but with a boat it was easy to get around it. Even the landing where we pulled up had trash.
Our landing seemed quiet. We were the only ones there. I was glad we hadn’t gone to the other Fall Creek Landing to the north. It was hopping.
Despite the trash and numerous boats, it was a good trip. According to my GPS we paddled 8.03 miles. However, Google Earth showed 11.2 miles. I’m not sure which is correct.
As usual, I did get a time lapse from the GoPro.
I’m seriously rethinking my opinion of Lake Keowee. It looks like there are other interesting coves, particularly the Cane Creek and Stamp Creek areas. As with Estatoe Creek it looks like you can get away from boat traffic and development in these more secluded areas. I will have to do more exploring.