A lazy, winding river meanders through coastal lowlands. Songbirds sing in the treesand, occasionally, the water in front of you erupts as ducks emerge from behind reeds to take to the air.
Turtles slip quietly off logs and the shining eyes of alligators slowly sink beneath the surface as you pass by. Tall, buttressed cypress, tupelo and maple trees wade into the water along the shore and through deep hidden oxbow lakes. Golden sandy beaches slip by on either side. This sylvan paradise is both quiet and cacophonous in the riot of life it supports. You are not traveling on some distant continent but are really only a few short hours from home.
Where is this place where bird-harboring blackwater swamps and picturesque beaches come together to guide you to the sea? You are kayaking along the wild, remote Satilla River in southern Georgia, and with each mile you travel, you are immersed in a valuable, beautiful ecosystem.
John Wesley Powell, famed American explorer of the Grand Canyon, spoke of rivers not only in terms of what they offered to see, but of the possibilities they represented. “We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore.”
The Satilla River is both well-explored and well-charted but there is still the thrill of the unknown when passing between its banks.
A valuable watershed, the Satilla is a 235-mile waterway that snakes from central Georgia to its meeting with the Atlantic amid the trackless marshes between Jekyll and Cumberland islands. Along its path lie rich farmlands and forests that are part of the economic backbone of the state and support many towns and communities.
The river itself is rare in that it is both remote and accessible. It is remote in the sense that the rural lands and deep swamps provide a reach into nature unencumbered by much industry or residential impact. It is accessible in that it has excellent boat landings and a well-maintained recreational blueway and water trail program that provide incredible opportunities for recreation and fishing.
Legend has it that the name “Satilla” is derived from that of a Spanish officer from the days of the earliest European exploration. It is a reminder that the waterway has seen a rich history from Native American times. It also served as a buffer between a young colonial America and its Spanish-owned neighbor to the south.
The river is home to an array of wildlife and efforts are underway to preserve it. Over 52 species of fish along with birds, alligators and other creatures make their home there.
The river makes a fine destination for a day-trip adventure. You will find that though it is remote, you will have many access points. I recently paddled the river with a group of friends recently. We kayaked from the U.S. 82 landing 12 miles to Deep Bend Landing, a privately-owned campground and boat ramp that made an excellent place to complete our trip. This mix of public and private access make a trip on the river possible any time of year. Locals provide helpful information and advice on river conditions and wildlife. Our day-long trip carried us past countless bends of high golden sand and through many quiet and green swamps. The journey was over far too quickly.
Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.Flickr.com and search on the username “greenkayak73.” He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Satilla River in southern Georgia is remote and yet very accessible. Just an hour and 45 minutes minutes down I-95 from Bluffton, you’ll find many good access points. The U.S. 82 public landing is located near the town of Atkinson, Ga., and is open dawn to dusk. There are no facilities but parking is free.
The take out of Deep Bend Landing is located on the northern bank at 164 Deep Bend Lane in Waynesville, Ga. There is a small fee for day use. Multiple campsites and lodges make this an option for an over night visit or extended stay. Deep Bend Landing can be reached at 912-778-5607. More info can be found at deepbendlanding.com.
A detailed and helpful blueway map is located at garivers.org/satilla-river-water-trail.html. This 140-mile trail is part of the Georgia River Network and is maintained in part by volunteers and non-profits. When you paddle the Satilla River, bring lots of water, bug repellant and other supplies. File a float plan and be sure to be prepared to drive some well-maintained but sandy dirt roads.