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For our Upstate Master Naturalist Meeting, we met at the Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station in Oconee, SC. We met in the Foothills Trail parking area where we were introduced to the men who organized this program for us and would take us on our tour. We had to carpool because places where we would stop didn’t have a lot of parking area. Marcus Pitts (Duke Energy employee) led us on a tour of the facility.
First we traveled across the top of one of the dams (there are three of them) which is an earthen dam. It was an amazing sight to see. The station took 10 years to build starting in 1981 and finishing in 1991. The Bad Creek Reservoir is the upper reservoir and Lake Jocasee is the lower one. After that, we drove into the access tunnel which they used to bring in equipment and personnel. We were able to walk around in the Powerhouse (which was actually lower in elevation than Lake Jocasee). The huge room we stood in was 74 feet wide, 160 feet high, and 433 feet long. The generators weigh over 425 tons and there were cranes that lifted the generators when they needed to be worked on. We saw the smaller generator which actually reverses and brings water back into the upper reservoir. The 30 foot power tunnel allows over six million gallons of water per minute to pass through the turbine. This was truly amazing to see and how no one would actually know that all of this took place so far underground just by looking at the lakes and the land in between.
After leaving there, we went to the outdoor classroom which was a wonderful science lab available to teachers of all grades. Available was a shelter with tables for the class to sit for talks and lunch. There was also a food plot, butterfly garden, and trail with stations. There were plywood boards with rope on them so that the class could lift it up and see what kind of insects live under there. Teachers have the flexibility to use this outdoor classroom in any way they need to in order to meet their curriculum standards. If teachers are interested in something special, they can contact the education specialist there and talk to them about specific needs. I liked that teachers of any grade level could bring their class to this if they thought it could be used for hands on learning experiences. There is no program, guide, or instructor for this classroom so each teacher would be responsible for teaching their own lessons. Duke Energy is just making their facility available to the teacher and class. After going through an orientation, teachers may use this outdoor classroom the way they thing it would best enhance their lessons. All Duke Energy asks is that they reserve the site (so more than one class isn’t there at the same time) and check in when they arrive and leave.
I was surprised that this fantastic free opportunity is available but not many schools use this. I hope as some teachers read this they may be interested in using this facility. The only cost would be the bus and bus driver. If anyone is interested in using this facility, contact me and I will give you the contact info for the Outdoor Classroom.
I thought this was an awesome day (and great way to celebrate my birthday)! In fact, coming back home from Myrtle Beach to attend this meeting was part of my birthday present from my hubby. If any teacher lives close enough to bring their class to Bad Creek, I would highly recommend it!
Original Photos by Pat Hensley