Seventeen Mile River, Coffee County

Seventeen Mile River Cypress Knees Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The blackwater Seventeen Mile River can be hard to find, largely due to the fact that it’s considered an “ephemeral river”. This means that  it’s dry as often as it’s wet, often more so. Much of it is located on private property, as well. The best place to see this natural wonder is at General Coffee State Park.

Seveneen Mile River Public Fishing General Coffee State Park Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

If you’re a fisherman, the best time to visit is after a good period of rain. As a navigable stream, the Seventeen Mile River is nearly impenetrable, but several open “lakes” provide good places to fish.

Gar Lake Seventeen Mile River Coffee County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Gar Lake, seen here, is one of the easiest to access.

Seventeen Mile River Gar Lake Coffee County GA Photograph Copyright Bran Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The park prides itself on being one of the best kept secrets in the state. Its protection has enabled rare plants with limited ranges like the Green-fly Orchid (Epidendrum magnoliae) and Narrow-leaf Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia tenuifolia) to survive. Native and introduced ferns are abundant here, as well.

Seventeen 17 Mile River Coffee County GA Macrothelypteris torresiana Marianna Maiden Torres Fern Invasive Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Macrothelypteris torresiana, known as Torres or Mariana Maiden Fern, is fairly common here. Though widely cultivated for its beauty, it’s a non-native and therefore considered invasive.

Seventeen Mile River Coffee County GA Woodwardia areolata Netted Chain Fern Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Woodwardia areolata, or Netted Chain Fern, is a widespread native and likely much more recognizable.

Seventeen Mile River Catface Turpentine Pine Tree Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Evidence of the naval stores industry can be found scattered around the river, as seen in the “catface” scar on this pine.

Seventeen Mile River Boardwalk General Coffee State Park Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Several long boardwalks provide easy access to the river and swamps and make for one of the most peaceful walks in South Georgia.

Seventeen 17 Mile River Ephemeral Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Many would just call this a swamp. I think of it as a piece of paradise.

Seventeen 17 Mile River Coffee County GA Mixed Hardwood Swamp Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Cypress is dominant here.

Seventeen Mile River Cypress Trees Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Seventeen Mile River Cypress Trunk Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The knees are visible everywhere, especially in the dry beds interspersed throughout the landscape.

Seventeen Mile River Dry Lakebed Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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6 Comments

Filed under --COFFEE COUNTY GA--, Chatterton GA

6 responses to “Seventeen Mile River, Coffee County

  1. Doug Tatum

    When the state closed Jeff Davis Park in ’76 we transfered to General Coffee until Daddy retired in ’83. Back then it was Park Superintendant now it’s Manager. The Park had lime rock roads and dirt floor picnic shelters. They left him with one employee on 1600 ac park. Through politicking he got 2 permanent workers. He got Lott Builders to donate the concrete for the picnic shelters, we formed and screeded them. He went to the Coffee County Commission and the County of Coffee paved the roads. The County also built the pond but it was a little smaller. One of the DNR Hatcheries stocked it with catfish. Joe Frank Harris pulled proverbial strings and got the funding for the big Group Shelter and the Pool(which is filled in now). He was the last Park Supt without a college degree. The Regional manager really had a dislike of that and made things hard.
    But thanks to the then Coffee commissioners,Sheriff Paul Hutchinson, Joe Frank Harris, and countless others who came out and saned Gar Lake and a few fish fries the park got a lot of improvements. Daddy also started the Pioneer Harvest Festival that still happens at General Coffee today.

  2. Jesse M. Bookhardt

    Brian,
    I enjoyed seeing your picture of an old Catface pine. Those things once were everywhere across South Georgia. Today only a few are left. We used them as corner post when constructing pig pens and farm fences. They would not rot. I grew up in Jeff Davis County in the Snipesville/Denton community. Seventeen Mile Creek was what the stream was called back then. I never hurt it referred to as a river. It would go almost dry often, and was not what was generally accepted as a river similar to the Ocmulgee, Oconee, or the Altamaha.
    The Bald Cypress trees in your photos are most beautiful. As kids, we boys would pull the green seed cones from the trees and use them as “ammunition” in a friendly but sometimes dangerous Cypress ball fight. The scent of a crushed Cypress cone is very strong but a pleasant one that I now associate with my childhood spent in Jeff Davis County in the Ocmulgee River swamp.
    There is a site on the Ocmulgee near the Jeff Davis/Coffee county line that is called Cypress Nursery. The place is covered with a multitude of Cypress, thus the name. These rot resistant trees were heavily harvested during the years after the American Civil War for making into railroad crossties. Years ago during a drought, a tie was found in a dry slough adjacent to the river. It was covered with mud and was in great shape for its age. Having been made while squaring a log into the usable product, broad-ax marks were still visible.
    The preferred John Boat of the old days was constructed of magnificent Cypress trees. The wood was light, durable, and resistant to decay. Back then, local fishermen didn’t haul their boats on trailers to and from the rivers, but left them roped or chained to a big tree on the banks of rivers. After a boat had been sitting in the water for a while, the first thing that one had to do was to make sure that when they arrived on scene, they checked the boat for Cotton Mouths. The snake loved to hangout in those homemade boats. Being stored on the water, kept the boats swollen and tight, ready to be used once they were dipped-out.
    There is no question that along with the Long Leaf pine, the Bald and Pond Cypress trees are icons of South Georgia. Today usable and marketable cypress boards are expensive and scarce. The younger trees don’t possess as much of the rot resistant characteristics as the old growth ones did. The cypress trees of the Southeastern United States are closely kin to the Redwoods of California

  3. Yep i was raised on the seventeen.We called it shitcreek after they come thru our land and put manholes and crap pipes.When it rained a lot they would overflow into the creek.Then the loggers come thru and messed up the natural flow of the creek.They didnt fix it back down by the seventeen mile bridge.It is beautiful place to dream and fish where man has not desturbed it.

  4. One of my favorite parks. Great photos. Thanks.

  5. Geoff Jacobs

    Brian, The pine tree that had scars on it, what year would you reckon those were made?

    • Jeff, I’d hate to venture a guess. I’d say no later than the 1960s, judging by the size of the tree. I know that area, like much of Southeast Georgia was heavily turpentined. The park ranger there may have an idea.

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