Big Hammock Hustle
We say goodbye to the Ohoopee within the first mile of paddling as it spills out into the wide and hustling Altamaha. Draining some 14,000 square miles of the Georgia (one quarter of the state), the Altamaha’s prodigious flow will be immediately felt when you leave the slow winding Ohoopee.
And after spending two days on the “tunnel” of the Ohoopee, the Altamaha’s expansive vistas and massive sandbars will be a shocking contrast. Near its mouth, the Ohoopee is a mere 60 feet wide; the Altamaha at the same location is 600 feet wide.
Our first day on the Altamaha will take us past Big Hammock Wildlife Management Area, a 6,177 acre tract that hugs the river’s northern bank. The Hammock is home to a large colony of Georgia plume, a rare plant that blooms in showy white flowers in May and June. The WMA is also home to rare animals likes the gopher tortoise and eastern indigo snake. In the air, you’ll likely grow accustomed to the sight of swallow-tailed kites, among the most beautiful and graceful birds of prey.
On the south shore, the river bumps against a long, 150-foot high ridge that parallels the river for some 10 miles from Carters Bight to our take out at Upper Wayne County Landing. Carters Bight is home to an interesting row of homes, sitting atop a high, and steadily eroding bluff. Further downstream, Lower Sister Bluff provides another visual break from the predominately flat and willow-lined landscape.
Occasional sloughs provide off-the-main-channel explorations and during scouting trips, it was here that we found mussel shells in abundance, including the unique Altamaha lance—an aptly named mussel, if there ever was one.
The day’s 14-mile paddle ends at a nicely developed boat ramp—yet another link in the Altamaha River Partnership’s boating trail. The 11-county, 10-city partnership promotes nature-based tourism in the Altamaha corridor and has the mission of “sustaining the river that sustains us.”