Wet and Wonderful!
Exploring the Best Places to Swim
The name Oconee is a Native American word meaning “Land beside the water,” and that’s exactly what you’ll find when you visit Oconee County! The area is known for picturesque lakes, rivers, and swimming holes that provide the perfect escape from the summer heat. Oconee County’s parks provide a wealth of opportunities for swimming and relaxation amidst the natural beauty of South Carolina. Whether you choose to swim in one of our lakes or in our free-flowing rivers, you’ll find a diverse range of swimming experiences to suit your preferences.
Grab your towel, put on your sunscreen, and embark on a memorable aquatic adventure at Oconee County’s splendid swimming spots!
Let’s start with one of the most popular spots for swimming in Oconee County—Lake Keowee. With its crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain backdrop, Lake Keowee is a true paradise for water enthusiasts. Whether you prefer a day of leisurely swimming or engaging in water sports like boating and jet skiing, Lake Keowee offers it all. Numerous public access points, including parks and boat ramps, allow visitors to dive into the refreshing waters and enjoy a day of fun under the sun.
- South Cove County Park is a great place for the public to access Lake Keowee. The park is located in Seneca and hugs the shores of Lake Keowee. It offers a wide range of recreational activities, including swimming. The park boasts a sandy beach area with clear, inviting waters where you can swim, splash, and bask in the sun. Lifeguards are often present during peak times, ensuring a safe swimming experience for visitors of all ages. South Cove County Park also features picnic areas, playgrounds, and boat ramps, making it a perfect destination for a day of family fun. Park admission: $3 per car to enter the park and $5 per boat trailer.
- High Falls County Park is also located in Seneca along the shore of Lake Keowee. It’s another waterfront gem in Oconee County. This park offers a sandy beach near picnic areas and is refreshing and picturesque for swimming. The park also provides fishing piers, boat ramps, camping and recreation buildings. Park admission: $3 per car to enter the park and $5 per boat trailer.
Nestled within the Jocassee Gorges, Lake Jocassee offers a secluded and tranquil swimming experience. Surrounded by undeveloped forests and breathtaking waterfalls, this 7,500-acre lake boasts incredibly clear waters and a sense of serenity that will rejuvenate your soul. There’s a sandy beach area, not far from the parking lot, that is family-friendly and nice for spending an afternoon lakeside. If you’re in a boat, you can explore the numerous coves and beaches at different places far and wide. It’s also fun to be on a kayak or standup paddleboard where you can make your way to sites along the shoreline. Any way you choose to enjoy the lake, being able to splash around in the cool water makes for an enjoyable and peaceful experience!
Situated on the shores of Lake Jocassee, Devil’s Fork State Park is the only place where the public can access Lake Jocassee. Within the park, visitors can swim in clear water, relax on sandy beaches, and enjoy breathtaking views. Take a plunge into the refreshing lake and revel in the serenity of this secluded paradise. With numerous swimming areas and boat rentals available, Devils Fork State Park ensures an unforgettable day of swimming, sunbathing, and exploring the stunning surroundings. Additionally, the park offers camping facilities, hiking trails, and nature programs, making it an ideal spot for a weekend getaway. Park Admission: $8 adults; $5/ SC seniors (age 65 & older); $4 children ages 6-15; ages five and under, free. Admission to the park is free on Tuesdays.
Lake Hartwell State Park is just off Highway I-85 at the South Carolina-Georgia border. Within the park, swimming is permitted in Lake Hartwell, but there is no designated swimming area, nor is there a lifeguard on duty. Admission: $3 adults; $1.50 SC seniors; $1 children age 6-15; age 5 & younger free
Oconee State Park
The park is located in the northern part of the county near the North Carolina border. There’s a small lake where swimming is permitted beginning Memorial Day Weekend. There is no lifeguard on duty; swim at your own risk. There’s a grassy lawn for sunbathing and a bathhouse nearby with restrooms and changing rooms. The lake is close to a shady playground which is great for young kids. Oconee State Park is perfect for a family getaway with nostalgic activities, including mini golf and Friday night square dances. Admission: $5/adult; $3.25/S.C. seniors; $3/child ages 6-15; ages 5 & under free.
Oconee Station State Historic Site
While not primarily known for swimming, the Oconee Station State Historic Site offers a unique opportunity to combine history and recreation. This former trading post turned state park features a picturesque pond that welcomes visitors to cool off and swim. Surrounded by lush greenery and historical structures, the pond provides a tranquil setting for a refreshing swim. After your swim, take a stroll through the site’s historical buildings, including the Oconee Station and the William Richards House, to learn about the area’s rich history. You could also hike to Station Cove Falls before or after dipping into the pond. Admission: Free!
River Safety Considerations
There are wonderful places to swim and enjoy the Chattooga River, but it is a free-flowing river that fluctuates depending on rainfall upstream. The river’s currents can be deceptively strong, particularly during periods of high water flow. Visitors should exercise caution and be mindful of their swimming abilities. Swim with a partner, wear appropriate swim safety gear, and be aware of underwater hazards such as submerged logs or rocks that can lead to foot entrapment.
The Wild and Scenic Chattooga River forms the border of Georgia and South Carolina. This river flows through Long Creek and Mountain Rest, two communities in northwestern Oconee County, SC. The river is popular for whitewater rafting and kayaking, fishing, and swimming. The river is free to enjoy, and there are numerous sites where people enjoy swimming. Something to note about the Chattooga: Since the river is designated Wild and Scenic, there is a 1/4 mile boundary along its banks where no development is allowed. This means there are no roads directly to the river. You have to walk at least a 1/4 mile to get to the river. Admission: No cost; the river is free to enjoy!
- The Highway 76 Chattooga River Access point is a convenient place to park and walk to the river. From the parking lot, it’s a short 1/4 mile walk to Bull Sluice, a popular place to swim and view rafting trips running the Class V rapid. Follow the trail downhill to where it forks. Go right along the gravel trail to reach a viewing area. Depending on your mobility, it’s possible to climb down large boulders to a swimming spot below the rapid–Do not swim above the rapid. If you take the left fork from the trail, it’ll take you to a sandy beach that’s great for young families or those looking for a place to wade into the water.
- Woodall Shoals is on the Chattooga River downstream of Bull Sluice. It’s a place with impressive rocky outcrops, and there are some good places to swim. From the parking area, follow the trail about 1/4 mile down to the river. There’s a sandy beach next to a lagoon. You can also walk to the right of the lagoon and climb along the massive rocks, where you can view the river. People swim in pools near the shore–above the Woodall Shoals rapid–be sure not to swim out into the river’s current. Woodall Shoals Rapid has a dangerous hydraulic and is not something to swim into.
- Earls Ford is located along the Chattooga River. It’s a 1/4 walk down to the river from the parking area. Once there, it’s a serene spot where people enjoy a refreshing plunge. The water here is generally calm, making it nice for families and those looking for a relaxed swimming experience.
- Sandy Ford, also situated along the Chattooga River, is another favored swimming spot, particularly among locals and outdoor enthusiasts. There’s a sandy riverbank popular for sunbathing and picnicking. The river is a mix of shallow areas and deeper pools which makes it nice for wading and swimming. Note: the water flow and depth can vary depending on the time of year and rainfall, so exercise caution and be mindful of changing river conditions.
Located in Westminster, on the banks of the Chauga River, Chau Ram County Park combines natural beauty with recreational opportunities. Wade into the river’s gentle currents and relax in the swimming hole while taking in the surrounding scenic views. Chau Ram County Park also features hiking trails, picnic areas, and camping facilities, making it an ideal destination for a full day of outdoor adventure. There’s a Life Jacket Station with various sizes of life vests that are free to use. So anyone can feel comfortable floating in the shallow river. Park Admission: $3 per car to enter the park.
Many of the waterfalls in Oconee County offer wonderful wading areas at the base of the falls. These spots are shallow and easy to access–making them a great way to reward yourself after hiking to reach them! Admission: No cost; these waterfalls are free to enjoy!
Note: We do not encourage walking, wading, or swimming at the top of any of our waterfalls. Rocks are slippery, and water flows quickly, making it very dangerous for people and pets to play above waterfalls.
Waterfalls with pools below:
- Brasstown Falls (upper and lower falls, but not middle falls)
- King Creek Falls
- Long Creek Falls
- Pigpen and Licklog Falls
- Opossum Creek Falls
- Riley Moore Falls
- Station Cove Falls
- Yellow Branch Falls
Leave No Trace
Oconee County, South Carolina, is a haven for swimming enthusiasts, offering a variety of breathtaking spots to beat the heat and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s important to respect the natural environment, and please be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles. “Pack it in/Pack it out” and take all trash with you, avoid damage to vegetation, and leave wildlife alone.