In late April I celebrated my birthday with a trip on the Georgia coast I had not done before . A friend and I drove down from Atlanta ; launched the boat on Jeckle Island ; then brought her up to the old river town of Darien : about a two hour run.
I should explain that the Altamaha ,our ultimate destination , is a good sized river draining a quarter of our large state . But the tidal estuaries near its mouth are also called rivers and each side stream has it’s own name . The town of Darien is on the Darien River .
The town has floats under the Rt.17 bridge where one can rent dockage by the foot .There's a bed and breakfast just at the top of the bank ( The Darien Waterfront Inn) so we just grabbed our bags and walked up . There’s no gas dock but you can walk small tanks to the nearby gas station where one pump is ethanol free –for outboards. Formites may recognize my boat ,Otter. I‘ve shared the building process here ,but never her exploits on the water .
The next day we went up the Altamaha to Lewis Island , where we searched for some Cypress trees : giants that the loggers couldn't get out in the old days because of the soft ground . We tied to a cedar tree on the muddy bank of a narrow stream and disembarked.The surrounding vegetation was jungle like .The whole island is just silt from upstream I believe. We sank up to our knees in it at times. We walked a couple of 10 minute vectors from our landing place with a hand compass and struck the big trees square on the second go . Not Sequoias of course ,but they do have a certain presence,hard to capture on screen.
Note boat hook for walking staff.
I'd chosen a weekend that would give us a rising tide that morning and afternoon as we committed to the shallow upper channels of the river . You could just see the sandy bottom that morning (photo). In the afternoon we still had plenty of water to come back through the shallow Rifle Cut and poke about beutifull Cat Head Creek .The down side of that necessary scheduleing decision had been experienced the afternoon before ,as we worked our way from Jeckle toward Darien (very pretty and remote behind St. Simons) . After going through Wood Cut we arrived at a shallow spot late in the afternoon with a falling tide and couldn't pass (the entry to the Butler River ) .
The chart seemed to show a useable passage for us at that tide but it hasn’t been surveyed since at least ‘97’. Unmarked channels with no commercial traffic don’t get looked at too often ,and of course there’s been no dredging . To generalize : there seemed to be less water in this area than charted (the engine touched coming out of Wood Cut which shouldn’t have been the case ). We felt our way down a shallow stretch of the Altamaha toward the ICW , knowing if we stranded we might be there for an hour or more .
It was a beautiful evening ,without a ripple on the water . When the tide is low on that coast the top of the marsh grass is over 8 feet above the boat . We were alone in an old, old , world , with no mark of man for miles about . Wading birds eyed us from emergent mud banks . The engine, running at idle speed , was tilted as much as could be and still draw cooling water . The boat touched bottom a few times but could be backed off to search again for deeper water."shoaling rep." notes the chart in this area ,which I can now confirm .
After about 30 minutes of this we made our way to the buoyed channel of the ICW and ran fast to the Little Mud River as the Sun went down (the middle of nowhere). Next through the Little Mud and up the Rockdedundy and Darien Rivers ; weaving between the unlit markers in the fading light . We came around the bend into Darien at the very end of twilight : all the town lights burning bright .