Driving east on US 84 between Jesup and Ludowici you’ll pass a number of “lakes” and “branches”. This section of Morgan Lake has been logged out recently, but it’s a beautiful sight at sunrise, nonetheless.
Tag Archives: South Georgia Natural Areas
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.
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, seen here, is one of the easiest to access.
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.
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.
Woodwardia areolata, or Netted Chain Fern, is a widespread native and likely much more recognizable.
Evidence of the naval stores industry can be found scattered around the river, as seen in the “catface” scar on this pine.
Several long boardwalks provide easy access to the river and swamps and make for one of the most peaceful walks in South Georgia.
Many would just call this a swamp. I think of it as a piece of paradise.
Cypress is dominant here.
The knees are visible everywhere, especially in the dry beds interspersed throughout the landscape.
Known locally as “The Rocks”, this site in the Salem community of northwestern Ben Hill County seems out of place in the Coastal Plain landscape surrounding it. It’s been an area landmark for at least a century but there is no general access. I’m unable to give directions to the site.
For years these geological features were informally identified as Ashburn formations (Wharton, The Natural Environments of Georgia, Atlanta, 1978, et al.) , after the first well-documented site of this type, located off Highway 41 north of Ashburn. Since I’m not a geologist, I don’t know if they’re related to the well-known Altamaha formations (or Altamaha grit). I suspect they may be grouped together at this point. Recent scholarship suggests they may be remnants of coral reefs near the ancient shoreline. Still others believe they’re meteoric in origin.
It’s looks quite small from some perspectives but the largest rock is actually nearly twenty feet high.
Boulders like the ones seen below can also be found in random nearby locations.
This is an important natural heritage site and I hope it remains in pristine condition for years to come.
The site of a historic ferry on the Ocmulgee, this landing now provides public access to the river. It’s truly one of the most appealing areas on the river, just upstream from the confluence with the Oconee and the beginning of the Altamaha River.
Rock outcrops common to the Altamaha Formation are found here as they are in other parts of the county.
Jesse M. Bookhardt recently shared this about Burkett’s Ferry: Burkett’s Ferry is a wonderful place and occupies a special place in my memory. Located in Jeff Davis County just off the old Pioneer Tallahassee Trail, it represents one of several ferries that provided river crossing services. Though not in operation during my time, I remember the site well. Folks from the neighboring communities such as Snipesville often went there fishing, boating, and picnicking. There existed a small spring of cool clear water that seeped from a bank just up stream from the landing. From this pool of fresh water, many fishermen and visitors to the river stopped to drink. It is unknown to me whether the spring still runs or has succumbed to the dynamic forces of nature. Burkett’s Ferry was one of two closely geographically connect fishing spots. Nearby is Pike Creek recorded as Pipe Creek in the original land survey of the area. Both places provided rich fishing waters. Perhaps the “Pipe” referred to a site for making Native American tobacco medicine pipes. Obviously Native Americans once occupied the Burkett’s Ferry site, for in the 1950s when I was a kid, I found pottery and stone artifacts. During the pioneer period, the ferry connected Telfair with Ocmulgeeville, and further to the east Holmesville, the county seat of Appling. When the original plan was made for the old Macon and Brunswick Railroad, it called for the route to cross the Ocmulgee near Burkett’s Ferry. Later the plan was changed and the railroad was scheduled to be built across the Ocmulgee at Lumber City further down stream. Burkett’s Ferry is historically significant to the Ocmulgee and Wiregrass region for it provided much needed access to the hinterland of South Georgia.
Originating in Berrien and Cook counties, the Withlacoochee River flows south through Brooks and Lowndes counties then crosses into Madison and Hamilton counties in Florida. It merges with the Suwanee River near Live Oak and eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
There’s another Withlacoochee River, originating in the Green Swamp near Polk City, Florida, and emptying directly into the Gulf of Mexico. Kayakers sometimes refer to Georgia’s river as Withlacoochee North. It’s believed the Florida river is named for the Georgia river. The origin of the name is thought to be Muskogean/Creek, loosely translated as little big water or river of lakes.
The Withlacoochee is a relatively low river in general, but was particularly so when I made these photographs in the winter of 2012. The river was suffering the effects of a drought at the time. It’s best known by kayakers and a few intrepid anglers. Bowfin (Amia calva) a cousin of gar, is common in most runs of the Withlacoochee and though not generally taken for food, is a popular, if exotic, sport variety.
There’s little literature or historical writing to be found on the Withlacoochee. It’s well-known to locals, but beyond its moss-draped banks, very few people are even aware of it. Most published lore on the Withlacoochee can be credited to the paddle sport community.
There are a few private campsites along the river but access is quite limited.
The growth of Valdosta and pollution from industrial agriculture near the river are putting a strain on this fragile environment, but ultimately, the river makes its presence known.
A neighborhood near the spot these photographs were made has been known to flood on several occasions when the river receives heavy winter and spring rains. Interstate 75 passes within a half-mile of this area, as well.
There’s a timeless feel to this wilderness, even in its most urban setting. At low water, one could theoretically “walk” the river for as far as he wished.
Today, the Withlacoochee-Willacoochee-Alapaha-Little-Upper Suwannee Watershed Coalition (WWALS) is working to make the public more aware of the smaller and lesser known rivers of this section of South Georgia. Through education and pollution monitoring, they’re beginning to make a real impact.
If you’ve ever traveled Georgia Highway 107 between Jacksonville and Snipesville, you’ve undoubtedly noticed these large outcrops near the Coffee/Jeff Davis County line. They’re an extension of the better-known Broxton Rocks, a natural area protected by the Nature Conservancy of Georgia. The area, known as Flat Tub, is accessible as a Georgia Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and recent covenants have led to further protections of this fascinating resource.
Long thought to be Altamaha Grit, different hypotheses suggest that it could be of Altamaha Formation, but not as “gritty” as other such areas previously identified. Another thesis suggests this may be a more specific “Ocmulgee Formation”, the result of a meteorite impact which may have created the Big Bend of the Ocmulgee.
Whatever the specific geology, it’s certainly an amazing environment, almost alien in comparison to adjacent lands.
Now the centerpiece of George L. Smith State Park, the renovated structure seen here was built by James M. Parrish, who along with Alexander Hendricks purchased the surrounding 200 acres from J. J. Moring in 1880 and set about building a dam and grist mill on Fifteen Mile Creek. The structure also served as a covered bridge.
The pond, filled with cypress trees, is one of the most picturesque places in this section of Georgia and attracts fishermen, kayakers and nature lovers from all over. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but well worth a visit.
Though the lake is man-made, it’s a pristine natural area attracting lots of birds and other wildlife.
A relatively short walking trail follows the pond and affords views like these from one of several docks and overlooks.
Take advantage of a peaceful hour or two and stop by when you’re in the area.
One of the most knowledgeable guides to the park is Wesley Hendley, who loves being on the water and has a real passion for the history of the area.