Wild Carolina: Scuba Diving at Lake Jocassee

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SALEM, S.C. (WSPA) – When you think of scuba diving you likely think of the deep blue sea, but it’s the clean and clear water of Lake Jocassee that’s drawing in divers from everywhere.

When you take in the beautiful blues and gorgeous greens of the area you understand why many around here called Jocassee “a jewel.”

“She’s the prettiest lake in South Carolina, you know, hands down,” explained Bill Routh.

Routh owns a dive shop in the area and uses the lake to instruct others on the ins and outs of scuba diving and Jocassee’s many unique features.

“It’s just, you know, a clear mountain lake fed by clear mountain streams,” he said.

The water, Routh said, is the best quality in terms of sediment and visibility for scuba diving.

Divers love to explore and Jocassee is a treasure trove for their eyes.

On any given day, Routh has a crew of scuba students taking the plunge.

Some are ready for their first dive in open water.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” said Matt Davison.

Davison moved to the area from Florida, a paradise for scuba divers but it’s Jocassee that has piqued his interest.

“There’s a lot of history on that lake. You know how ‘Deliverance’ being filmed in that area. Going down there, you know, there’s a cemetery down there and all that,” he said.

Matt may be new but he’s correct.

There is a cemetery underwater and that’s not all.

“From 100 feet and deeper there are standing forests still on the bottom of this lake,” explained Routh.

Sounding like a scene from a fantasy novel, Routh said that landscape 300 feet below the surface is a sight to see.

“It’s like walking through the woods on a moonlit winter’s night that you can look up and you can see the canopy of trees,” he described.

Not everyone gets to go that deep but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see in the shallower parts for divers like Brandon Charlton.

“There was an old dock down there. Some big metal rods. Some big metal fan looking thing called lollipops. I saw a lot of cool things down there,” said Charlton.

Routh added to Charlton’s list of sights to see.

“A cemetery, a summer camp for girls, a hotel sits at the bottom of the lake,” said Routh.

It’s like a playground for some divers but Routh said it’s not for everyone.

“It’s a hazard as well. You’ve got to be very cautious and aware of fishing line and other things that get entangled,” he warned.

A buddy system and hand signals help keep divers safe and free to swim and take in what’s described as a feeling of weightlessness.

“As you get down and lower it just gets very comfortable. You breathe. You relax and it’s like you’re floating in space,” said Davison.

Routh said you should be forewarned that these waters may have you diving for days.

“It’s highly addictive,” he said.

Routh said scuba diving at Jocassee has gotten so popular in the summer months that if you don’t get there early, you’re out of luck because the parking spots at Devil’s Fork State Park fill up fast.

Routh owns Jocassee Dive Shop on Dive Buddy Lane in Salem where he trains divers as young as 10.

He added that all anyone needs is 2 to 3 days of scuba class to become a certified diver.

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