If you tell someone that you are going to paddle a river with the name "Canoochee," they will likely reply "Gesundheit!" This gem of a river has an odd name but promises some of the most enjoyable paddling on the coast.
Winding nearly 100 miles after rising near Swainsboro, Ga., the Canoochee flows into the Ogeechee River just past Interstate 95 at Richmond Hill, Ga. Along the way, the Canoochee meanders through sandy pinewoods, deep cypress and tupelo swamp and emerges into the marshy reaches of the Ogeechee. The lower end of the river moves through the eastern portion of the Fort Stewart reservation and so guarantees minimal human intrusion and a chance to enjoy nature nearly untouched.
One of the best ways to see the Canoochee is by canoe or kayak. There are numerous launch points along the river for you to access the quiet tea-colored waters for a relaxing paddle. History and nature intermingle along the river as it was once part of the frontier buffer between Savannah and Spanish Florida. Fort Argyle once stood between the Canoochee and the Ogeechee, and it is not hard to imagine dugout canoes silently gracing the quiet river.
As a modern adventurer, you might enjoy excellent bird-watching opportunities as migratory birds frequent the nearly unspoiled surroundings. It might even be possible to see the elusive red-cockaded woodpecker along with the prothonotary warbler and other rare finds.
Recently, a group of friends and I paddled the lower reaches of the Canoochee. We did not see rare birds, but we had a rare opportunity to enjoy a seemingly wilderness paddle within an hour of Bluffton.
Launching from a landing within Fort Stewart, we enjoyed several hours of quiet paddling. Even on a bright Saturday, we saw no other people until we reached the Ogeechee and the roar of traffic on the I-95 bridge brought us back to reality.
A good take-out point is King's Ferry Park in Richmond Hill, and the world-famous Love's Seafood Restaurant located next door is the perfect way to end a day on the river.
The Canoochee River is a wonderful opportunity to explore a wild place close to home and know that you have experienced history, nature and relaxation all at once.
From Bluffton, take Interstate 95 south to exit 94, Abercorn Road, and turn left toward Savannah to Highway 25, Ogeechee Road. This will take you to King's Ferry Park. Hours at the park are dawn to dusk and parking is free. Take Georgia 144 north into the Fort Stewart reservation to choose from several put-in locations.
Entry into Fort Stewart can be restricted at times and it is important not to wander into forbidden areas. It is advisable to call the fort's provost office ahead of time to check on access and gain permission if needed. Landing access within the fort is free but remote. Bring plenty of water and do not expect to see many people along the way.