Cultural and Natural History
The names Keowee and Toxaway are both of Cherokee Native American origin. Keowee, meaning place of the mulberry, and Toxaway, meaning place of thunder, are reflective of the rich Native American culture that flourished in the Project area. Prior to settlement by European Americans, Native Americans hunted the area, built their towns along the rivers of the Project area, and named the streams that flowed down from the mountains. Keowee Village, located on the banks of the Keowee River, was the capitol of the Lower Cherokee Towns and dated back to at least 1539. Keowee Village, also called Keowee Town, was a large settlement, extending for eight to ten miles, surrounding the hills and terraces. Some of the local cities surrounding Lake Keowee such as Six Mile, Twelve Mile, and Ninety Six were named based on their distance from Keowee Town.
As more European Americans settled in the region, the Cherokee abandoned their Lower Towns in the Project area by 1785. The region developed into small farms which eventually gave way to the development of the textile industry.
The Project Area offers many natural attractions. In addition to beautiful Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee, there is a vast range of rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and forests. The 76-mile long Foothills trail that winds around and through the Blue Ridge Escarpment is a popular hiking spot. The trail connects Table Rock State Park and Oconee State Park. Also located in the area are Whitewater Falls, which is the highest cascade east of the Rockies and Sassafras Mountain which is the highest point in South Carolina.
The Project Area has a rich complement of plant and animal species. The reservoirs and tributaries flowing into them have numerous species of fish and are well known for their valuable sportfishing opportunities. The lands adjacent to the Project provide great habitat for a rich variety of terrestrial animals including turkey, deer and black bears. The plant life is equally abundant and diverse with an incredible variety of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. One particular plant species of note is the rare and lovely Oconee Bell. First described by the French botanist André Michaux in 1787, the Oconee Bell contains pink and white blossoms and is found only in a few locations in this portion of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.