Jocassee Gorges, owned and managed by the South Carolina Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, is located along the Blue Ridge Escarpment of the Southern Appalachain Mountains in northern Oconee and Pickens counties along the North Carolina border. Similar to the surrounding regions of the southern Appalachains, the accessible portions of the property have been subjected to a variety of forest management activities beginning in the late 1800's and early 1900's. An estimated 72% of the property has been clearcut or selectively harvested since 1964 with some remnant stands remaining in inaccessible areas. Temperatures in the region are moderate, generally lacking extremes of heat and drought. Annual precipitation (rainfall) is high ranging between 62 inches and 134 inches per year. The region is characterized by a high diversity of flora and fauna as a result of its location at the interface between the mountains and piedmont.
The habitat types are primarily deciduous woods and Appalachain Mixed Hardwood Forest and secondariarly coniferous woods and riparian. Both mountain and piedmont plant communities are represented in the area creating a transitional zone from lower rolling hills to higher elevation mountains. Jocassee Gorges is characterized by complex relief with steep ravines and narrow valleys created by the many first order streams flowing through the area. Temperatures range form 8-22 degrees Celcius. Five ecosystem types have been distinguished from analysis of soils, landform and vegetation including: (1) xeric oak-blueberry; (2) xeric Chestnut Oak-Mountain Laurel; (3) submesic oak-mixed flora; (4) mesic hardwood-bloodroot; and (5) mesic hemlock-rhododendron.

Ornithological Summary

Jocassee Gorges is ornithologically significant because Swainson's Warbler, a WatchListed species, nests here. As many as 50 are counted during breeding season. SWWA are associated with the cove forest habitat, which is found in Jocassee Gorges. A significant proportion of the SC population of SWWA and Worm-Eating Warblers (as many as 100 per breeding season) are found here.
Research conducted on the site shows a close affinity between SWWA and young Easten hemlock trees. Other research shows that cove forests have high conservation value for both songbirds and native plants.
Lanham, J. Drew. "Monotypic Nest Site Selection of Swainson's Warabler in the Mountains of SC." SE Naturalist, 1995.
Camp, Julia. "Use of a Landscape Ecosystem Classification Model to Determine Avian Habitat Relationships in the Mountains of SC." 2004

Conservation Issues

Natural pests and tree diseases are serious threats. The proliferation of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid should be closely monitoredd as it has the potential to dramatically affect havitat structure and composition (e.g. Swwamin's Warabler). Introduced plants/animals, including feral hogs, Chinese privet, and microstegium are minor threats at this point. Potential threats are: Excessive soil erosion,degradation with vehicle and ATV use on/off road; recreational development/overuse; and air pollution.

Ownership

Jocassee Gorges is owned and managed by SC Department of Natural Resources.

Habitat

Jocassee Gorges is primarily deciduous woods and Appalachain Mixed Hardwood Forest. Secondarily it is coniferous woods and riparian.
Both mountain and piedmont plant communities are represented in the area creating a transitional zone from lower rolling hills to higher elevation mountains. Jocassee Gorges is characterized by complex relief with steep ravines and narrow valleys created by the many first order streams flowing through the area. Temperatures range from 8-22 degrees C. Rainfall ranges between 62-134"/year. Five ecosystem types have been distinguished from analysis of soils, landforms and vegetation including: (1) xeric oak-blueberry; (2) xeric Chestnut Oak-Mountain Laurel; (3) submesic oak-mixed flora; (4) mesic hardwood-bloodroot; and (5) mesic hemlock-rhododendron.

Land Use

Primary land uses are hunting and wildlife conservation/natural area land trust. Owned by SC Department of Natural Resources, Jocassee Gorges' secondary usage is forestry.

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