Life in Lake Hartwell Country is unique to the eastern seaboard, and perhaps, the world. Sure, we have a distinctly southern Appalachian culture, culinary similarities to our fellow southerners, and even the fact that there are rivers and lakes is no unique feature. But it is the amount of water that makes us different. Lake Hartwell Country is a region of mountains and lakes, waterfalls, creeks, rivers, hills and farms. And when we say lakes, we mean lakes! The big 3 obviously reign, with Lake Hartwell, Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee literally covering the counties of Anderson, Oconee and Pickens. They are large lakes, but not the largest in the world. What they are varies, and sets us apart. Lake Hartwell is one of the finest recreation and fishing lakes (particularly bass) on the planet. Lake Keowee has beautiful water fed by innumerable streams, creeks and tributaries, with the Blue Ridge rising in the distance. Lake Jocassee is a gem, an almost primeval secret, pristine and extremely deep, fed by four mountain rivers: Whitewater, Thompson, Horsepasture, and Toxaway. It is surrounded by untouched mountainside, adjacent to the Jocassee Gorges, named one of “50 of the World’s Last Great Places” by National Geographic.
To call it a land of water is to sell it short. It is a land of beautiful water, everywhere. We have hundreds of waterfalls. In addition to the Big 3, there are lakes Cherokee, Cheohee, Tugaloo, Yonah, Mountain Rest, Becky, Chattooga and Crystal, to name a few. The creeks and streams are in the thousands, and there are rivers too. A standout is the Chattooga, famous among whitewater rafters, adventure seekers, and fly fishermen. It is a designated Wild and Scenic River, which are few and far between in the U.S. It is completely surrounded by thousands of acres of National Forest, so there is no settlement, no housing, no human structures anywhere. Just free flowing mountain water, with some of the best rapids in the Eastern U.S. Wildwater will take you down it in a raft, and you will have the time of your life. Or just choose a quiet spot on the upper section of the river, near Mountain Rest (whose name suits it perfectly), and float, fish, or both.
Lake Hartwell Country is a hidden gem, the mountain lakes with the beauty to match any in the southern Blue Ridge, without the crowds, without the condos and high-rises. Just pure mountain water covering thousands of acres, surrounded by thousands of acres of forest. Hiking trails dot the region, from Yellow Branch Falls Trail and Stumphouse Tunnel in Walhalla, to the Foothills trail of Oconee and Pickens mountains, there are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails to enjoy. Stroll through downtown Anderson and have some of Summa Joe’s homemade pimento cheese, or stop in at the Steak House Cafeteria in Walhalla and have some of Abed’s ‘Arabian Rooster’ fried chicken. Nothing better. Then head up to Oconee State Park, or Whitewater Falls (the tallest falls in the Eastern US), or Lake Jocassee, or sit a spell on the porch of one of our fabulous B&B’s, like Sunrise Farm Bed and Breakfast in Salem. If you’re adventurous, journey into the Jocassee Gorges in search of the rare Oconee Bell (shortia galacifolia), found only here, the only place on Earth. Take a heart pumping ride down the Chattooga, or Sunset Lake Jocassee tour courtesy of Brooks and Kay Wade. Walk the rim of the Blue Ridge Escarpment on the Foothills Trail, or enjoy an orchard fresh meal at Chatooga Belle Farm. Or do both.
Antique stores in Walhalla, the Appalachian Ale House in Pickens, and farm to table dining in Anderson. There is so much to do, you could spend a lifetime. Pack your fishing gear, your kayak, your bass boat or just a cooler full of Upstate SC beer, and come see what it’s like to live among South Carolina’s mountain lakes, in Lake Hartwell Country.