and Ocmulgee rivers come together just
west of Uvalda, GA, to form the mighty Altamaha River. Named for a Yamasee
Indian chief, Alatamaha, the Altamaha is the largest river of the GA coast and
the second largest river basin in the eastern United States. The river winds for
137 miles from the forks to the Atlantic ocean and is relatively
undisturbed except for a few fishing villages and vacation houses.
The river is home to the endangered wood stork, as well as the
southern bald eagle. The West Indian manatee and the shortnose sturgeon, and seven species of pearly
mussels found nowhere else in the world live in and visit the river. There are several rare plants found alone the river. A rare
flowering shrub, Franklin alatamaha, named after Benjamin Franklin, may still
survive alone the river. Radford's Dicerandra, a recently discovered mint; grows
nowhere on earth but on the rivers sand ridges.
Wide, big, and slow, the Altamaha's flow is quite
different from that of the area's smaller rivers and streams. With the rains of
spring and early summer the Altamaha can flood with its waters sometimes
reaching as far as a mile or more into the hardwood swamps and bottomlands that
line both sides of the Altamaha River. This is a great time to paddle to these
swamps, which at other times of the year is only accessible with difficult
hiking. Lewis Island Natural Area, located five up river from
Darien, is a mass of canoe trails and waterways. The Altamaha on one side and
Buffalo Swamp on the other, it is accessible only by boat. The island contains
the largest known groves of virgin tidewater cypress and tupelo gum trees in
Georgia. The Island is a great example of what forested swamps in the tidal
areas of the eastern United States once looked like.
Late summer and winter is the best time to paddle the main
channel of the river. The water is low and clear and sandbars around every
corner makes an over night camping trip very relaxing and enjoyable. This is also a great time for fishing. Largemouth bass and big
catfish swim in the waters of the Altamaha. The world record largemouth bass
was caught in a lake on the Ocmulgee River, a tributary of the Altamaha. So make
sure to bring alone fishing gear on this trip. The Altamaha is good
river for day trips and overnight trips. For
the adventurous spirit take a week and do the entire river. If that is not
enough add one of it's tributaries and do 2 weeks or more.