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What is Upstate?

Copyright Lawrence Yerkes. All Rights Reserved.

This site is called "Yerkes Upstate".  The "Upstate" part is because we serve the Upstate area or region of the state.  Before we tell you what that specifically means to us, let's provide you some perspective of what it means to others in South Carolina.

South Carolina Regions
Geographical Regions
[1] Geographical
State of Carolina - Regions 1-2-3
[2] State of SC Local Gov't Regions
Starts from top-left (Region 1, Upstate) to bottom-right (Region 3)
Upstate SC according to Wikipeidia and others 
[3] Upstate
according to Wikipedia and others
Upcountry - Appalachian 
[4] Upcountry (also Appalachian)
[5] Regions as per
Tourism and State Parks sites
Upcountry vs Lowcountry 
[6] Upcountry vs Lowcountry
SC DHEC Environmental Regions 
[7] SC DHEC Environmental
DNR Dept of Natural Resource region map
[8] SC Dept of Natural Resources

First of all, for practical and convenience reasons, the division of the state into various types of regions is usually done geographically and/or by county.

Geographically Speaking

If you divide South Carolina geographically, you will usually end up with five natural divisions (regions) or six [1], depending on whether or not you split the Coastal Plain into Inner and Outer Coastal Plans. (If you combine the Coastal Plain(s) and Coastal Zone into one Coastal Plain region you will then, of course, have just four major regions.)  (Anderson public school report highlighting the six regions [PDF],  here's another schoold report [PDF])

If you combine geographic elevatons with climate you will get a three region map such as found on "Best Places to Live in South Carolina Map/Climate".

See our companion article, "South Carolina Geographical Regions and Historical Background", for more information about landform, as well as water related, geographic region identification.


But What about "Upstate"?

Some may also refer to Upstate (or Upcountry) , Midlands and Lowcountry geographically as does the outdoor recreation site, Wildernet.

However, "Upstate" is one of those type of regions that is usually defined (again, out of convenience) by groupings of counties. 

If you live and/or work in the Anderson, Greenville, Spartanburg areas or their surrounding counties, you will hear the term, "upstate" continuously used and applied in one way or another.

The Key

Before proceeding, there is one key that you need to keep in mind for best understanding the regions and that is elevation

Where some people think of direction when describing regions of a state (i.e, up/down, north/south, etc.), major regions in South Carolina are identified by their relative elevation.   The highest elevation is in the northwestern part of the state (i.e., the Blue Ridge Mountains area, which is "up" in terms of elevation; hence uplands, upcountry and upstate). As you travel southeast (going down in elevation) through the Piedmont Plateau area (midlands or middle country) you eventually reach sea level and the Atlantic ocean (i.e., coastal area or zone, which is low in elevation, hence lowlands, lowcountry).

Precision Not Necessarily Required

The term "upstate", as used for an area or region in South Carolina, is not as precise as we would prefer.   

Allow us to demonstrate:

According to the official State of South Carolina's "Local Government" section of their web site:

"The Upstate of South Carolina [includes] Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Greenville, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, Union, and York Counties." 

That's eleven (11) Counties. It is officially called Region 1".  
By the way, there are three official regions, Region 1 (Upstate), Region 2 (Midlands) and Region 3 (Lowcountry).  [2]

According to Wikipedia:

"The Upstate is the region in the westernmost part of South Carolina, United States, also known as the Upcountry, which is the historical term. Although loosely defined among locals, the general definition includes the ten counties of the commerce-rich I-85 corridor in the northwest corner of South Carolina. This definition coincides with the Greenville–Spartanburg–Anderson, SC Combined Statistical Area, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget in 2015. The region's population was 1,409,582 as of 2014. Situated between Atlanta and Charlotte, the Upstate is the fastest-growing region of South Carolina. After BMW's initial investment, foreign companies, including others from Germany, have a substantial presence in the Upstate; several large corporations have established regional, national, or continental headquarters in the area. Greenville is the largest city in the region with an urban population of 400,492, and it is the base of most commercial activity. Spartanburg, followed by Anderson, are next in population."  

Note that the above quote states that Upstate is "loosely defined among locals"; is also called, "Upcountry"; and includes ten (10) counties: Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, Pickens, Cherokee, Oconee, Union, Laurens, Greenwood, and Abbeville.     (Chester and York are missing when compared to the list for the state's Region 1, but there's an additional county included: Greenwood.)  [3]


Discover Upcountry Carolina AssociationThe Upcountry South Caronlina tourist promotion site considers six (6) counties to be part of the Upcountry: Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartansburg.  [4]

They have a nice road map which you can download as a PDF file:
Upcountry Map

And speaking of precision, they have 1,001 Things to Do in the Upcountry.

SCATR - South Carolina Association of TourismThe SC Association of Tourism Regions (SCATR) also calls it the Upcountry region. SCATR - SC Association of Tourism Regions(It is also more 'granular' in how it identifies tourism regions in the rest of the state; for example, the Olde 96 Region. This site and it's regions are worth exploring if you enjoy sighseeing and attending local events. It's a good way to get oriented to the variety of sights, events and recreation that's SC.)  Although the map region colors may change, the map for the SC secton of the national State Parks directory  uses essentially the same regions.  Likewise, shows lakes by region using a similar map.  [5]

By the way, the SC Appalachian Council of Governments (SCACOG) represents the same six county region, but calls it, obviously, the Appalachian region. [4]

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SC DOT) also groups those six counties as the Appalachian region in it's transit providers regional map.

Upcountry vs LowcountryIf you go back into the earlier history of South Carolina, times were obviously simpler as they were mainly concerned about looking at the state as just two oppossing (economically, culturally and socially) regions:  Upcountry vs Lowcountry.  [6]


Back to "Upstate"

Let's continue looking at a few other examples...  

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) groups the state into 4 Environmental Regions, including Upstate, Midlands, Lowcountry and Pee Dee (name of an native American tribe that originally inhabited the area and subsequent name of a river watershed).   It's designated Upstate region consists of eleven (11) counties including all on the Wikipedia list plus a county that is not on any of the previously Upstate mentioned lists: McCormick[7]

Upstate SC Information HUBThe Internet based Upstate South Carolina Information Hub agrees with Wikipedia, of course, in its grouping of ten (10) counties in the Upstate region

Side note:  Piedmont means, "foot of the mountain".  The Piedmont geographic region sits at the foot of the Appalachian mountain and is a plateau of gently rolling hills and valleys.  It's often called the Foothills by locals. Many businesses, particularly in the upper Piedmont areas, will include "Foothills" in their business name.  [see regions above]

Then you have the SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR) which broadly groups counties and names regions geographically.  This is not the only instance we've encountered of this type of county groupings and region names.  Here you have what is roughly equivalent in location to the Upstate and Upcountry areas, with a few extra counties added at the bottom of the region, but it's now called the Piedmont region.  [8]    The region names also reflect basin (watershed) regions as defined by the DNR.

There's More

There are more variations that we could mention.  

Hopefully, the point has been made that the regional term, Upstate, is flexible and depends on the context it is being used. 

After Upcountry, Upstate is probably one of the more "precisely" used of all the region terms, give or take a few counties!

If you're not sure whether to call an area Upstate or Upcountry, or for that matter Appalachian or Piedmont, you can always use a nebulous, more vague term such as higher country, uplands, highlands area... just don't require anybody to be too precise, unless it's their job as part of government or an organization promoting or coordinating a specified "region".

What's our perspective on the meaning and use of "Upstate"?

We're happy to be politically correct and inclusive in this situation and therefore we proudly serve all upstate and upcountry (13) counties, regardless of region affiliation!  :-)

Yerkes Upstate SC

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