Lake Keowee, in the upstate of South Carolina, offers a unique and beautiful combination of glistening, clean-water Lake living and long-range views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Residents of Lake Keowee enjoy four distinct seasons, water recreation including boating, skiing, & fishing, golf, and all that an upstate South Carolina location has to offer. Minutes from shopping and entertainment, Lake Keowee is extremely close to Clemson University and an easy drive to the always exciting Greenville, Atlanta, and Asheville.
With over 300 miles of shoreline, Lake Keowee is a man-made lake originally created to generate power for Duke Energy. The power plant is still up and running with great success, but Lake Keowee has also become home to thousands of residents who enjoy the quiet, relaxing, and fun lake living offers. Lake Keowee is around 800 feet above sea level and the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains draws those who love both the water and the mountains.
Lake Keowee began in 1971 as an impressively large building project, including the construction of two large dams, the Keowee and Little River Dams. Lake Keowee collects waters from the Keowee and Little Rivers and the outflows from the respective dams join to form the Seneca River, which feeds into the Savannah River. The Lake Keowee water helps to cool Duke Energy’s nuclear reactors within the Oconee Nuclear Generating Station, as well as helps to generate hydroelectric power.
The name “Keowee” is a Cherokee name roughly translated as “the place of the mulberries.” Before North America was settled by Europeans, the Native American nation of the Cherokee lived in the area and had a settlement called “Keowee Town” along what they called the Keowee River. It is believed “Keowee Town” may have been the capital of the Eastern or Lower Cherokees at one time. In 1753, white settlers built Fort Prince George across the river from “Keowee Town.” When the United States was formed, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced the Cherokee to depart from the region.
Beginning around 1963 and continuing into subsequent years, a company called the South Carolina Land & Timber firm, which later became known as the “Crescent Land & Timber” company and is now “Crescent Resources,” began purchasing land along the Keowee River for the purpose of “acquiring, holding, and developing land and timber properties.” Then, Duke Power Company bought 83,400 acres from the Singer Corporation and other private landowners. In the middle 1960’s, Duke Executives consulted with state and federal authorities, searching for a way to supply the growing southeastern region of the United States with greater electricity. Various methods were explored to purchase inexpensive land, create man-made lakes, and use the powers of the water to create electricity. The project was modeled in part on successes stemming from the Tennessee Valley Authority. On January 2, 1965, Duke Energy president W.B. McGuire held a press conference at Clemson University and announced Duke’s plans to build a large complex to generate power, called the Keowee-Toxaway project, which would cost an estimated $700 million dollars. Two days following the press conference, Duke Energy filed for license to begin the first phase of construction.
Since the project would require flooding a large area, Duke Energy worked with archaeologists from the University of South Carolina to excavate many sites in the area including the fort and the former, “Keowee Town.” During the excavation of the Cherokee settlement, thousands of artifacts were discovered including pottery beads as well as human and animal remains.
So the massive demolition and building project began. It involved clearing huge areas of forest land by removing and selling lumber and selected wooded areas were set afire to enable bulldozing operations. Some sections were dug deeper to create the future depth of the lake and give it sufficient volume for its cooling purposes. Duke hired the Jeff Hunt Machinery Company to clean the basins for the Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee sites; at the time, it was one of the largest orders for land clearing ever to have been given in the states of North and South Carolina. In 1967, the firms of Blythe Brothers and Clement Brothers were hired to begin earth-moving operations. During this first phase of construction, dams were built on the Keowee and Little Rivers to create Lake Keowee. Simultaneously, a dam blocking the Jocassee River created Lake Jocassee, which feeds into Lake Keowee. In the end three dams were built, of which Lake Keowee dam was the longest at 3,500 feet in length and 800 feet wide at its base. The initial transfer of water began in December 1973 and commercial operation on December 19, 1973.
Lake Keowee’s geography and climate is unique. Located predominantly in the South Carolina county of Oconee, which is located in the northwestern section of the state, Lake Keowee is situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. Lake Keowee’s waters cover approximately 18,500 acres and there is over 300 miles of shoreline. The full water elevation of Lake Keowee is about 800 feet above sea level and it is 23 miles long and 3 miles wide at its widest point. Lake Keowee has a reputation for having excellent water quality.
The area has attracted real estate developers, many of them working with the founders of Lake Keowee Real Estate then and now, who have built a wide range of facilities for the short and long term residents of the lake. There has been phenomenal growth since the 1970’s and over 100 communities have been built around the lake. Lake Keowee Real Estate’s founders played a significant role, along with Crescent Resources, in the development of over 60 communities built around Lake Keowee. The area has become increasingly appealing for retirees, families, and weekenders alike. Homes in the Lake Keowee area have been constructed and bought by those seeking retirement as well as those who love lake-related outdoor activities. Many residents own boats and summer weekends are full of activities to enjoy or simply watch from your very own dock. Come see why Lake Keowee is where so many people want to call home.