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The Keowee-Toxaway Project

Keowee-Toxaway Hydroelectric Project Description

Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC (Duke Energy) owns and operates the Keowee-Toxaway Hydroelectric Project (Project), located on the Keowee and Little rivers in the Savannah River Basin. The Project was developed by Duke Power, now Duke Energy, to generate electricity. The Project consists of two hydroelectric developments: Keowee Hydro Facility with Lake Keowee and Jocassee Pumped Storage Facility with Lake Jocassee. The Project provides 868 megawatts (MW) of clean, economical power.

Duke Energy operates the Project in accordance with a license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 1966. In addition to its role in providing electricity for the region, the Project reservoirs also provide numerous recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors, a reliable supply of cooling water for Oconee Nuclear Station, public water supplies and significant wildlife habitat. The current FERC operating license for the Project expires in 2016.

The Project is located in the region commonly referred to as the Piedmont Foothills. Water released from the Project at Keowee Hydro flows into Lake Hartwell, a hydroelectric reservoir operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean at Savannah Harbor.

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 8 to 10 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.

Lake Jocassee and Jocassee Pumped Storage Facility

The four-unit Jocassee Pumped Storage Facility is a 710-megawatt generating facility located in Pickens County, S.C. The commercial operation of units 1 and 2 began in 1973. Commercial operation of units 3 and 4 began in 1975.

The average annual generation from the Jocassee Development is 811,000 megawatt-hours and the pumping energy requirement is 988,000 megawatt-hours. When generating electricity, the facility works as a conventional hydroelectric station. However, the Jocassee Pumped Storage Facility can also reverse its turbines and pump back previously used water from Lake Keowee into Lake Jocassee. This allows Duke Energy to reuse the water to generate electricity at a later time. For more information, read How Do Pumped-Storage Hydro Plants Work?

Lake Jocassee’s full pond elevation is 1,100 feet above mean sea level (MSL) with a maximum licensed drawdown of 30 feet. At full pond, the surface area is approximately 7,980 acres with approximately 92 miles of shoreline. The Jocassee Dam is a zoned earth and rockfill structure approximately 385 feet high and 1,800 feet in length. The dam includes two circular structures with eight openings that direct water to the generating units.

Lake Jocassee also serves as the lower reservoir for the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility. When electricity is being generated at the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility, water stored in the upper Bad Creek reservoir is released into Lake Jocassee through an underwater opening or discharge portal. The portal is located on the Whitewater River arm of Lake Jocassee. During the refilling of the upper Bad Creek reservoir, the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility turbines are reversed to pump water back from Lake Jocassee into the upper Bad Creek reservoir. Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility began operating in 1991; its FERC license expires in 2027.

Lake Keowee and Keowee Hydro

The 2-unit Keowee Hydro s a 157.5-megawatt conventional hydro generating plant located in Pickens County, S.C. Keowee Hydro began operating in 1971. The average annual generation from the Keowee Hydro is approximately 70,000 megawatt-hours. Lake Keowee’s full pond elevation is 800 feet above MSL. At full pond, the surface area of Lake Keowee is approximately 17,700 acres with approximately 388 miles of shoreline.

Lake Keowee was formed by constructing dams across the Keowee River and the Little River, creating a reservoir with two distinct halves. The Keowee Dam is a homogenous earthfill structure 170 feet high and 3,500 feet in length. The Little River Dam is a homogenous earthfill structure 150 feet high and 1,800 feet in length. The four saddle dikes (designated as A, B, C and D) range in height from 4 to 100 feet and are located on the Little River segment of the reservoir. The Little River portion of Lake Keowee is connected to the Keowee River side of Lake Keowee by an excavated canal.

In addition to providing hydroelectric power, Lake Keowee provides a crucial source for cooling water for Oconee Nuclear Station (ONS), a 2,538-MW nuclear power generating facility located adjacent to Keowee Hydro. Since Keowee Hydro also serves as one of the emergency power sources for ONS, it is operated by operators at ONS. This ensures that Keowee Hydro is fully available for emergencies at ONS.

Project Recreation

The Keowee-Toxaway Project provides many recreational opportunities for you to enjoy. Duke Energy has built numerous public access areas along the shorelines of both Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee, opening the lakes to boating, camping – both primitive and RV  swimming and tournament-caliber fishing. Several state trout records have been set at Lake Jocassee.

Numerous recreational opportunities also abound outside of the water-based recreation at the Project reservoirs. The Project lies at the heart of 167,000 acres of state parks, game lands and national forests. Visitors can hunt the thousands of acres managed for public hunting and fishing, hike for days in pristine wilderness along the 76-mile long Foothills Trail, and view breathtaking vistas – including a view of Whitewater Falls, one of the highest cascades in eastern America.

In December 2008, Duke Energy filed a Recreation Management Plan (RMP) for the Project with FERC. Upon approval of the RMP by FERC, construction of the following additional recreational enhancements can begin:

  • Additional parking and restrooms
  • Courtesy docks
  • Additional picnic areas, some of which will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible
  • Additional bank fishing, some of which will be ADA accessible
  • Walking trails

Shoreline Management Plan

Duke Energy has developed a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for both Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee. Shoreline management planning is essential to protect and enhance the scenic, recreational, cultural and environmental values of the reservoirs. The SMP is a tool to guide responsible pier and marina construction, shoreline stabilization, excavation and other construction activities within the lake boundary. The purpose of the SMP is to provide continued public and private access while protecting the lake’s natural resources. The Shoreline Management Guidelines (SMG) is another tool used in combination with shoreline management plan maps to guide responsible use of the lakes. The SMG provides specific criteria for conducting many construction, stabilization and excavation activities within the lake boundary.


Keowee-Toxaway Overview Map (PDF, 4.4 MB)
Lake Keowee Map (PDF, 2.8 MB)
Lake Jocassee Map (PDF, 2.8 MB)


Cherokee People Presentation (PDF, 6.1 KB)
Building Hydro at Keowee-Toxaway (PDF, 5.5 KB)