Lake Keowee

Since 1971, Lake Keowee’s 18,500 acres of water and 300 miles of shoreline have been a valuable source of energy and recreation in the Upstate of South Carolina. Keowee was the first lake developed as part of Duke Energy’s Keowee-Toxaway Project. The Project includes the Oconee Nuclear Station and the Keowee, Jocassee and Bad Creek hydroelectric stations.

The lake was formed by the impoundment of the Keowee River and Little River and their tributaries in the early 1970s. Two main dams were constructed and the two river valleys were joined by a canal constructed at the location of the present power station.

In historic times, the Keowee River valley was home to the capital of the “Eastern” or “Lower” Cherokee nation and was visited the Spanish explorer DeSota in 1539. Keowee is a Cherokee word meaning “place of the mulberry”.

Land acquisition for what would eventually become the Keowee-Toxaway Project was quietly undertaken by the South Carolina Land & Timber Company, a Duke subsidiary, commencing in 1963. In 1965 Duke publically announced its intention to obtain the necessary licenses and permits to construct the Keowee-Toxaway Project at an initial estimated cost of $700,000,000. The land acquisition company was renamed Crescent Land & Timber Company in 1966.

Land clearing in both the future Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee basins began in 1967. Construction continued on at both Project sites for the next three years. Water began accumulating in Lake Keowee in 1969. Duke closed the gates on the Lake Keowee dam in April, 1970 to permit the final impoundment of the lake to a depth of 150 feet. Commercial hydroelectric power generation began on Lake Keowee in April 1971.

Upstream, Lake Jocassee commenced filling in 1971. It’s hydroelectric station began commercial power generation in December 1973.

The three-reactor Oconee Nuclear Station was completed in 1973 Since that time, it has generated more electricity than any other nuclear station in the US.

In addition to providing energy and hosting recreational facilities, the lake is a dependable water supply for Greenville and Seneca, South Carolina. The Project received a new license for an additional thirty years effective September 1, 2016.

You can read the License Order which licensed the Keowee-Toxaway Project for an additional thirty years:
Keowee-Toxaway 2016 License Order

When full (“Full Pond”), the surface of Lake Keowee is 800 feet above mean sea level. You can check the level of Lake Keowee: Lake Keowee Level

Duke Energy produced a nine minute video overview of the history of the Keowee-Toxaway Project some years ago. It includes many interesting and historic photographs of the Project. More recently Friends of Lake Keowee Society (“FOLKS”), a local group concerned with the Lake Keowee environment, produced a short video describing efforts of FOLKS, Duke Energy and Kroeger Marine to preserve a Colonial Blue Heron rookery on an island in Lake Keowee.

History of Lake Keowee – About 9 1/2 minutes Saving the Rookery – About 4 1/2 minutes

Lake Keowee Access Map