We decided to go for a one-night canoe/camping trip at Devils Fork State Park in upstate SC. The park has a boat-in only campground (Double Springs Campground) on the lake about 1.25 miles from the boat launch area.
This was very enticing to us, as we wanted the seclusion of a backcountry campground, but didnt necessary want to work (e.g.hike) to get there (at least not this time).
From Matthews, it took us approximately 3.5 hours to get to the park. Of course, it takes us almost 45 min just to get to I-85 from our house, but its at least one hour past Greenville, SC. See detailed directions below. Once you arrive, register at the park office. They also have a well-stocked camp store, where we purchased our firewood. It cost us $13 for one night at Double Springs campground. The primary boat launch is near the park office, but there are two other launches farther up the road in the park, which are recommended if staying at Double Springs, since it shaves off approx 0.5 miles from your paddle. Its your typical boat launch, with plenty of parking.
Once we got underway, we immediately saw how beautiful this place is. Mountains surround the main part of the lake, and the water is relatively calm for such a large body of water. A major factor here was the lack of motorboats, which was great for us in the canoe. The water is incredibly clear, such that you can see 6-7 feet down.
Once we shoved off, it took us approximately 35-40 minutes to get across the lake to the campground (going at a comfortable pace). We could have taken longer just to sit in the middle of the lake and take-in the incredible scenery, but we wanted to go ahead and pick out a site.
The campground, which is marked by an easy-to-spot sign, is tucked-away in a cove. There are 13 sites, many of which are all in a row and conducive to group camping. However, sites, 1, 7, 12, and 13 are set apart from the other sites and offer more privacy. Site 1, which is on a point, was occupied, so we took site 7. Its set on a hill overlooking the cove. Almost all of the sites have a relatively easy landing area, although some are steeper than others. However, most kayaks/canoes shouldnt have much of a problem unloading.
Once we pulled our canoe up onto the shore, we checked out the site. It had been left in not the best condition by the previous campers, as there was some trash around the site, but nothing that we couldnt pick up in a couple of minutes. The site layout provided a very large, gravel-covered tent pad, fire ring/grill, and plenty of trees surrounding the site (good if you have a hammock). Since the site is set on a point, you get a wonderful view of the cove and surrounding mountains.
There are several waterfalls around the perimeter of the lake, as well as access to the Foothills Trail. We didnt get a chance to explore these due to lack of time, but theres definitely plenty to do here. In fact, we wished we had two nights to camp and take it all in.
In summary, Id definitely recommend this park and lake for canoe/kayak camping, as you get a secluded campground thats not too terribly difficult to access, plenty of lake terrain to explore, and lots of incredible scenery. We will definitely be returning.
Boat-in only campground in middle of lake (primitive camping; pit toilets only)
Old Town 14' canoe
Total cost for one night = $13
From Pickens, SC, take US 178 northward until you intersect SC 11. Turn left onto Hwy 11, go approx 5-10 miles, and turn right onto Jocassee Lake Rd (just follow signs to Devil's Fork State Park).
Johnny Molloy's "Best in Tent Camping: Carolinas" has a good write-up of this state park.