Tag Archives: South Georgia Natural Areas

Leonard Spring, Dooly County

Though it’s inaccessible and located on private property, Leonard Spring is among the most pristine “blue holes” in South Georgia. It’s located on Pennahatchee Creek, a tributary of the Flint River. In recent years, many of these ice cold springs have lost their blue color due to environmental and agricultural strains, but not Leonard Spring. It’s the focal point of an important stewardship forest which has been in the same family for nearly two centuries.

Dooly County pioneer settlers Willis and Sarah Leonard lived on this land and recognized its importance from the start. Its protection has been one of their greatest legacies. I’m grateful to my friend Bert Gregory for securing access and to the family for granting permission.





Filed under --DOOLY COUNTY GA--

Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve, Grady County

Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve is one of the true natural wonders of South Georgia (all of Georgia, really). And about ten years ago, it was almost turned into a real estate development. It’s located just off US Highway 84 near Whigham and there’s no admission charge, though donations are accepted. A new sign at the entrance indicates the bloom time as being between late January and early March, though the lilies seem to almost always bloom in the middle of February. It’s essential to follow the Preserve’s Facebook page to get updates on the bloom time, as they can be quirky and sometimes bloom en masse and at other times be quite sporadic.

Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) are primarily an Appalachian species, favoring filtered sunlight on mountain slopes. So how did they end up here? Though there are a few anomalous populations in Southwest Georgia and North Florida, the Wolf Creek population is the largest in the world and thought to have appeared sometime during the last Ice Age.

If you came here and the Trout Lilies weren’t blooming, you’d still love this place. The gentle slope of the riparian forest makes for a good walk. I came this year about a week after the mass bloom and there were still quite a few scattered around the site.

Add to that the beautiful Spotted Trillium (Trillium maculatum) interspersed throughout and you basically have a mountain walk in deepest South Georgia.

The volunteer who greeted us at the entrance was so delightful and informative and we enjoyed talking with her. Grady County should be applauded for recognizing the importance of this resource and sharing it with the public. Instead of waiting for the state to recognize it and all the time that would take, Grady County took it upon themselves to promote and protect it. Highlighting important local resources like this isn’t just a win for the environment but a win for the local economy. We had lunch at a restaurant in Cairo, so yes, there is an economic impact, however small it may be.


Filed under --GRADY COUNTY GA--, Whigham GA

Sunrise on Morgan Lake, Long County

Morgan Lake Altamaha River Long County GA Sunrise Fog Logged Out Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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.


Filed under --LONG COUNTY GA--

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


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

Reubin Lake Rock Outcrops, Ben Hill County

Reubin Lake Monolith Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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.

Reubin Lake Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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.

Reubin Lake Rock Outcroppings Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Boulders like the ones seen below can also be found in random nearby locations.

Reubin Lake Ben Hill County GA Altamaha Formation Rocks Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This is an important natural heritage site and I hope it remains in pristine condition for years to come.

Reubin Lake Rock Formations Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015







Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--

Burkett’s Ferry Landing, Ocmulgee River

Burketts Ferry Landing Ocmulgee River Jeff Davis County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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.

Burketts Ferry Landing Jeff Davis County Ocmulgee River Water Trail Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Rock outcrops common to the Altamaha Formation are found here as they are in other parts of the county.

Rock Outcrops on the Ocmulgee River at Burketts Ferry Landing Jeff Davis County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

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.


Filed under --JEFF DAVIS COUNTY GA--

Withlacoochee River, Valdosta


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.


Filed under --LOWNDES COUNTY GA--, Valdosta GA