Brooks and Kay Wade: Our lakes, rivers, & streams make the Upstate beautiful

May 12th, 2020

This is an excerpt from the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of the Upstate Advocate, Upstate Forever’s twice yearly publication sponsored by Pacolet Milliken Enterprises. To read the entire newsletter, click here. If you’d like to be added to our mailing list to receive future issues, please email

Brooks and Kay Wade own Jocassee Lake Tours. They (along with Official Ship's Dog Mica) offer year-round tours of Lake Jocassee, a 9,000-acre, 385-foot deep reservoir located in Oconee and Pickens Counties.

Brooks: I remember our first sight of Lake Jocassee like it was yesterday. Kay and I came camping at Devils Fork State Park ten years ago. We were escaping yet another Florida hurricane, since we lived for many years on a barrier island in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Our first morning here I got up early, walked down to the shore of Lake Jocassee at sunrise, and literally fell to my knees. I had never seen anything, any place so beautiful in my entire life. We were living here six months later.

Kay: We found our ‘forever place’ at Lake Jocassee. First-time visitors consistently remark on how clear the water is, and it isn’t just clear… the water is also some of the cleanest in the eastern United States, fed by rivers and streams that originate in springs and travel through land largely undeveloped. When water leaves Lake Jocassee to make hydroelectric power on its way to Lake Keowee, it is about as clean as water can be. 

Brooks: Thanks to the protection the Jocassee Gorges receives, the quality of Lake Jocassee water remains excellent, and with the help of Friends of Jocassee, SC Adopt-a-Stream and organizations like Upstate Forever, we are working to keep it that way.

Kay: The Jocassee Gorges is part of the upper Savannah watershed. Somewhere between the headwaters of Jocassee and the Atlantic Ocean, the Savannah River becomes the fourth most polluted river in the country. It insults us to the core that we treat the most valuable asset on Earth like a toilet, flushing industrial pollutants downstream to become someone else’s problem. It’s outrageous. We need more protection for our water, not less.

Brooks: The practical value of water is obvious. For drinking, for irrigation, for recreation. The list is endless. It is the aesthetic qualities, the ethereal qualities, that draw me most to water. And water does not stand alone. To be magical, it requires light, and in this part of the world, the surrounding arms of mountains. My favorite part of sharing Lake Jocassee with visitors is their reactions. Joy. Wonder. Sometimes the sharing is wordless, like watching sunrise at the Grand Canyon. Lake Jocassee is our Grand Canyon, our Yosemite Valley

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