Popular Jocassee Gorges Trail Reconstruction
July 31, 2006
The trail at Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve in
northern Pickens County, damaged by a tropical storm nearly two
years ago, has been reconstructed and is now open to hiking.
The popular trail at Eastatoee (also spelled Eastatoe) Creek
Heritage Preserve—part of the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area
at Jocassee Gorges and managed by the S.C. Department of Natural
Resources (DNR)—has been closed since September 2004 due to major
damage from Hurricane Ivan. Numerous trees were toppled during the
storm, and several slid down the mountain, taking the trail with it
in several places.
Trail re-construction was accomplished in a variety of ways: by
volunteer help from Boy Scouts and the Foothills Trail Conference,
by DNR staff and by a commercial trail construction outfit that was
contracted to build about .7 of a mile of new trail. Trail design
expert Dr. Walt Cook, retired University of Georgia forestry
professor, planned the new trail route. The new trail initially
follows the original trail route, but then it dramatically diverges
from the original trail and eventually links hikers back to the
designated primitive camping area alongside Eastatoee Creek.
Visitors are reminded to use only dead and downed wood for campfires
and to camp at least 50 feet away from the creek.
Mary Bunch, Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve manager and DNR
wildlife biologist, said: “The new section of trail includes a much
more gradual descent to the creek, and it’s a vast improvement over
the original trail and should reduce trail maintenance
considerably.” The length of the trail, from the gate at
Horsepasture Road, was increased in the reconstruction from the
original 2.25 miles to its current 2.54 miles.
The Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve Trail is a spur of the 76-mile
Foothills Trail, which follows the Blue Ridge Escarpment in South
Carolina and North Carolina between Table Rock State Park to the
east and Oconee State Park to the west. About two-thirds of the
Foothills Trail is within Jocassee Gorges, and the trail crosses all
four major rivers that flow into Lake Jocassee—Toxaway, Horsepasture,
Thompson and Whitewater, along with numerous other waterways
including Laurel Fork Creek.
Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve, a steep mountain gorge of 374
acres, features some old growth forest, a rainbow trout stream,
dramatic rock cliffs and rare ferns that are maintained by the
creek’s moist spray. Within the preserve, three streams—Laurel
Branch, Side of Mountain Creek, and Rocky Bottom Creek—flow into
Eastatoee Creek. The Eastatoee falls 600 feet in elevation to tumble
across large rocks and boulders before roaring through a series of
narrow channels aptly called “The Narrows.” This turbulent water
system generates a fine spray, which helps maintain high humidity
along the Eastatoee. This high humidity enables three species of
rare ferns to thrive. One of these, the Tunbridge fern, exists
nowhere else in North America. Cove and upland hardwoods, including
white, red, and chestnut oaks, hickories, magnolia, red maples,
cucumber tree and black locusts, comprise the dominant forest type
at the preserve. Spring wildflowers, such as bloodroot, are abundant
at this preserve.
The Heritage Trust Advisory Board, which guides the DNR’s Heritage
Trust Program, approved funding from the Heritage Land Trust Fund to
reconstruct the Eastatoee Creek trail. Funds from the Heritage Land
Trust Fund are derived from a portion of the real estate documentary
stamp tax, which is paid each time a real estate transaction is
made. The fund is used only for the acquisition and management of
significant natural and cultural resources in South Carolina. For
more information on hiking in Jocassee Gorges, call the Clemson DNR
office at (864) 654-1671, extension 22.