Devil's Fork State Park, located in Upstate South Carolina along the southern shore of Lake Jocassee, is 622 acres of parkland that both infuriates me and mesmerizes me at the same time. Created in 1990 the parks year-round centerpiece is Lake Jocassee...and therein lies the problem. Lake Jocassee is man-made, created by Duke Power in 1973. Beneath its clear 7,500 acres of water lie the remains of numerous historic homesteads, ancient Native American villages, and the most favored real estate of one of the mountains rarest and most beautiful wildflowers. By this I refer to the Oconee Bell, Shortia galacifolia if you prefer, whose blooms appear weeks before any other plant has awakened and is endemic to only this tiny corner of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. So while the lake certainly looks beautiful, with the Blue Ridge Escarpment forming a dramatic back drop and its myriad of aquatic recreational benefits, I can't help but see it through the filter of what was lost upon its creation.
I therefore approached this inaugural visit to Devils Fork with mixed feelings. The highlight would certainly be trying to 'discover' my first Oconee Bell but I decided I would also take a hike along the lakeshore, despite my feelings regarding it. So, come on along and enjoy an early spring day with me on the hunt for one of the southeast's rarest natural treasures...
Bear Cove Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 34.953595, -82.949786
Oconee Bells Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 34.952142, -82.945169
Hike Length: ~4.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:30
Trailhead Temp: 55'F
Min. Elevation: 1,000' Max. Elevation: 1,250'
Total Vertical Gain: 500' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 125'