Keowee-Toxaway State Park (10-9-13)
The oddly named Keowee-Toxaway State Park is located along the eastern arm of Lake Keowee in Pickens County of upstate South Carolina. It gets its name from the lake it sits on and the river which once ran through it, that is now buried beneath its waves. The park drew my attention partly by the numerous times I had driven by it but also because it marks one of the boundaries for the Jocassee Gorges region that straddles the Blue Ridge Escarpment of North & South Carolina in this area. At the time of this hike I was/am employed at the upper end of this area at North Carolina's Gorges State Park where many of the streams cutting through this area form and begin their tumultuous journey down to the flatlands below. Lake Keowee, where Keowee-Toxaway State Park is located, marks the opposite lower end of this journey of water. So I figured a visit might give me a more complete look at the nature of this unique area.
Unfortunately, the centerpiece of the park is completely fake. By this I refer to Lake Keowee itself. Prior to the lake this area consisted of steep valleys containing rushing mountain streams making their way the last few miles south to the plains of the Savannah River. Now however these streams, the thousands of acres of woodland surrounding them, as well as all the natural and cultural treasures that laid along them are buried under the unnaturally blue-green waters of Lake Keowee and Jocassee (just to the north). Things are how they are, however, and I was still intrigued enough to have a visit. Making a figure-8 through the park are two trails, named Natural Bridge and Raven Rock. Together they make a 5-ish mile loop over hills, ravines, cascades, and along the fake lake itself. Come along and take a look with me...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 34.932750, -82.885394
Hike Length: 5.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:15
Trailhead Temp: 70'F
Min. Elevation: 800' Max. Elevation: 1,065'
Total Vertical Gain: 500' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 100'