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St Mary's Water Trail Hidden Gem 

Dec 1, 9AM - Dec 3, 5PM

Register HERE by November 24!

Join Georgia River Network on the St Marys Water Trail for our 16th Hidden Gem Event. Participants will enjoy delicious meals, live entertainment and tent camping near the beach under gorgeous live oak and palmetto forest. There will be fascinating presentations about wildlife, local lore, coastal restoration efforts and an opportunity to enjoy and explore Cumberland Island by foot/bicycle.

Tickets are available to accommodate physically fit sea kayakers desiring to join the group paddling from the mainland to Cumberland Island, as well as for those who would like to take the ferry across and enjoy the weekend event. 

 

St. Mary's Water Trail Hidden Gem is

a Project of 
Georgia River Network
in partnership with
St. Marys Riverkeeper
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st. Marys hidden gem

 

Journey Details

"St. Marys is the gateway to Cumberland Island, Georgia's largest and southernmost barrier island. Here pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and wide marshes whisper the stories of both man and nature. Natives, missionaries, enslaved African Americans and Wealthy Industrialists all walked here.  Cumberland Island is also home to over 9,800 acres of Congressionally designated Wilderness." National Park Service Website

Participants will enjoy paddling/taking the ferry through the Golden Isles of Coastal Georgia from the historic town of St Marys through marsh, open/blue water, and along the south end of Cumberland island to our destination at Dungeness. We will camp at 'Sea Camp' Friday and Saturday night. The campsites are primitive without electricity or plumbing however it is only a short walk to the bathhouse which has cold showers. We will travel over to the island Friday afternoon, set up camp, relax and enjoy a delicious catered dinner. We will spend Saturday on Cumberland exploring by foot/ bicycle and enjoy a number of educational presentations/programs followed by dinner and live evening entertainment. We will pack up Sunday morning and return to the mainland after enjoying our last hot breakfast on the island!

untamed

SPECIAL PROGRAM - CAROL RUCKDESCHEL

A special program will be given by Carol Ruckdeschel referred to as the “Road Kill Eating, Bareback Riding, Wild Woman of Cumberland Island” in the 2014 biography Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island, by Will Harlan. Ruckdeschel was instrumental in the creation and preservation of Cumberland Island National Seashore and does ongoing research on sea turtles and endangered and extinct species around the Georgia coast.

FULL MOON NIGHT HIKE - DR. BARRY O'NEILL

Dr. Barry O'Neill, a long time Cumberland Island enthusiast, will provide a 3 mile full moon night hike to Dungeness dock and mansion Friday night. Wanna know how to sniff out wolf spiders, enjoy the bioluminescence of dinoflagellates in the intracoastal waters, identify the major winter constellations, learn how the zodiac constellations were selected by the ancients, understand the navigational importance of the North Star, and even find out if you are a truly altruistic soul? Then join us!

VIP FARM TO TABLE DINNER - CARNEGIE HOUSE/ STAFFORD PLACESOLD OUT!

Lucy Foster-Flight and the Foster family have graciously allowed Georgia River Network to offer a special VIP gourmet farm to table dinner with chef MiMi McGee at the Carnegie house, Stafford Place, c1900 for a limited number of participants (tickets available on a first come first serve basis - 14 spots available.) We are extremely grateful for their kindness and generosity! Transportation to and from Sea Camp included.

 

St. Marys Hidden Gem Itinerary 

  • Day 1, Dec. 1:: St Mary's (Mainland) to Dungeness Dock (Cumberland Isl.) - 7 miles
  • Day 2, Dec. 2:: Spend the day exploring Cumberland Isl., enjoying presentations/programs, bicycling/hiking to historic sites, fossil finding & beach combing
  • Day 3, Dec. 3:: Dungeness Dock (Cumberland Isl.) to St Mary's (Mainland) - 7 miles 

Cumberland Boardwalk1Cumberland kayakerCumberland Camping

 

 

 

Paddling spots will be limited to physically fit participants with open/blue water kayaking experience. However, tickets are also available for those who would like to join us on Cumberland for the weekend event but not paddle. While paddlers will be led by experienced local guides, none will be prepared to pull paddlers who tire from lack of fitness. Paddlers must have an intermediate level of physical fitness. 

St Marys Hidden Gem Registration Information

Tickets are available to accommodate experienced sea kayakers desiring to join the group paddling from the mainland to Cumberland Island, as well as for those who would like to take the ferry across and enjoy the weekend event. While paddlers will be led by experienced local guides, none will be prepared to pull paddlers who tire from lack of fitness. Paddlers must have an intermediate level of physical fitness.

Registration Fees include T-shirt, Map, NPS Day Use Fee, Camping Fee, ACA Insurance, Chartered Ferry, and Dinners, Lunches, and Hot Breakfasts.

$320 (Adult/Child)
 
Island Paddler Hidden Gem Ticket: Participants must be physically fit with sea kayaking experience and able to paddle from the mainland to Cumberland Island (7 miles) on Friday and make the return journey on Sunday.

Island Ferry Hidden Gem Ticket: This ticket is for those who would like to participate in the weekend event by taking the ferry to/from the mainland to Cumberland.

 
$420 (Adult/Child)
 
SOLD OUT -VIP Island Paddler Hidden Gem Ticket*: Participants must be physically fit with sea kayaking experience and able to paddle from the mainland to Cumberland Island (7 miles) on Friday and make the return journey on Sunday.

SOLD OUT - VIP Island Ferry Hidden Gem Ticket*: This ticket is for those who would like to participate in the weekend event by taking the ferry to/from the mainland to Cumberland.

*VIP ticket Includes a special VIP gourmet local farm to table dinner and tour at the Carnegie house, Stafford Place plus transportation.

Lucy Foster-Flight and the Foster family have graciously allowed Georgia River Network to offer a special VIP gourmet farm to table dinner with chef MiMi McGee at the Carnegie house, Stafford Place, c1900 for a limited number of participants (tickets available on a first come first serve basis - 14 spots available.) We are extremely grateful for their kindness and generosity! Transportation to and from Sea Camp included.

VIP Itinerary Saturday, December 2:
4pm               Group transport from Sea Camp to Stafford Place
4:30pm          History of Stafford and Tour of Grounds
5–6pm           Oyster Roast
6ish–7:30pm  Buffet Dinner Stafford Dining Room (See menu on registration page)
7:30pm          Departures for Sea Camp
 

Cumberland BoardwalkCumberland Live Oak

 

 

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How many people participate? 
50 tickets are available for both experienced open/blue water paddlers and for those who will not paddle and instead take the ferry to the island. Participants of any age can join us for the event and take the ferry to/from the Cumberland Island.
 
Can I go for just part of the trip?  
Yes, but all registration fees are the same, regardless of how many days you attend. Those not attending all three days must make their own ferry arrangements. 

What time do I need to arrive on Friday Dec 1st? When will we return on Sunday Dec 3rd?
We will hold a mandatory check in and safety briefing on Friday, Dec 1st at 9:30AM. Plan on arriving in St. Marys at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Visitor Center (park in the free Cumberland Island parking area) no later than 9:00AM. paddlers will depart Cumberland Island at approx. 1:30PM on Sunday arriving in St Marys around 5:30pm.  Those taking the return chartered Ferry will also arrive at this time.
 
What does my registration fee include?  
Your St Marys Hidden Gem registration fee includes a T-shirt, map, National Park Service Day Use Fees (3 days), camping at Sea Camp, ACA Insurance, chartered passenger/gear ferry to/from island, entertainment, activities, and educational programs. Breakfast, dinner and sack lunches are also included in your registration fee. This includes two dinners for Dec 1-2, three lunches for Dec 1-3, and two hot breakfasts for Dec 2-3.

How much does it cost?  
How much would you pay for an all-inclusive educational adventure vacation to an island? This Georgia River Network Island Hidden Gem getaway adventure costs only $320/$420. Registration fees include T-shirt, Map, NPS Day Use Fee, Camping Fee, ACA Insurance, Chartered Ferry, and Dinners, Lunches, and Hot Breakfasts.
 
Are there sponsorship opportunities for my business or as an individual?
Yes! We would be delighted if you or your business would like to become an event sponsor! Please complete this sponsorship form. Your company logo will be included on promo material, the t-shirt, social media, newsletters, plus other perks based on your level of sponsorship.
 
In what ways can I volunteer during the trip?
There will be a number of volunteer opportunities available during the trip ranging from assisting with hauling boats and gear, collecting firewood, to helping the chef and kitchen staff. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested in signing up to assist. Nightly volunteer prizes will be available!
 
Do I need to be an experienced open water paddler? 
Yes and if you wish to paddle then purchase the Island Paddler Hidden Gem Ticket and if you don't feel comfortable with your open/ blue water paddling skills and fitness then please purchase the Island Ferry Hidden Gem Ticket. You will be  paddle 7 miles from the mainland to Cumberland Island you MUST be physically fit and have an intermediate level of open/blue water kayaking experienceWhile paddlers will be led by experienced local guides, none will be prepared to pull paddlers who tire from lack of fitness. However, you do not need any paddling experience if you purchase the Island Ferry Hidden Gem Ticket which is available for those who would like to join us on Cumberland for the weekend event but not paddle. 
We will have a mandatory safety briefing in the morning before launching on Friday. If you have never sea kayaked before we ask that you purchase the Island ferry Hidden Gem Ticket.
 
Do I need to take the mandatory safety briefing?
YES! The safety briefing is manadatory and your attendance is required if you purchased the Island Paddler Hidden Gem Ticket  and expect to paddle. If you miss the safety briefing you must take the ferry. No one is permitted to make the trip by themselves - they must be part of the guided group.

What do I need to bring?  
If you purchase an Island Paddler Hidden Gem Ticket you are responsible for bringing a sea kayak, paddle and a personal floatation device. Your sea kayak should be of a size and weight that you and another person can carry. Kayaks should be at least 13' and have front and rear flotation (bulkheads or float bags). Sea kayaks or Transitional kayaks only -- no recreational kayaks.
Georgia River Network does not supply or rent boats. See our full list of outfitters to secure your rental boat. Local area outfitters include: Darien - Altamaha Coastal Tours (912) 437-6010; St Simons Island - SouthEast Adventures (912) 638-6732; St. Mary’s - Up the Creek (912) 882-0911; Fernandina - Kayak Amelia (904) 251-5702. All participants must bring standard camping gear including a tent and personal items.
 
In our efforts to make this an environmentally conscientious/friendly event, we ask that you bring your own water bottle (we will have igloo coolers with water for you to fill them with). Please bring your own reusable eating cutlery, plate, and cup. Dishwashing facilities are available at the bathhouse. Please DO NOT bring cooking appliances or food (other than snacks unless you have special food preferences/ needs and have received special permission from GRN) as space is limited for gear on the ferry.
 
What are some recommended accomodations for Thursday, Nov 30 before the event?
Crooked River State Park
Address: 6222 Charlie Smith Sr Hwy, St Marys, GA 31558
Phone: (912) 882-5256
 
Riverside Hotel
Address: 105 Osborne St, St Marys, GA 31558
Phone: (912) 882-3242

Where do we camp on Cumberland?  
During the St Marys Hidden Gem we will tent camp for 2 nights on Cumberland Island at Sea Camp. The campsites are primitive without running water or electricity however there is a bathhouse (with cold showers and toilet facilities) ¼ mile away. Learn more about Sea Camp and Cumberland Island on the National Park Service Website.
 
Do I need to bring food?  
Breakfasts, dinners and sack lunches are included in your registration fee. The Cumberland Ferry, which drops off/picks up island visitors in the mornings/ evenings, has snacks and sodas for sale. There are no grocery stores on the island. The nearest supply point with grocery stores, restaurants and other amenities is on the mainland. Please DO NOT bring cooking appliances or food (other than snacks unless you have special food preferences/ needs and have received special permission from GRN) as space is limited for gear on the ferry.
 
Where do I leave my car? 
After unloading your gear (and boat, if you are paddling), you will park your car at the free Cumberland Island parking area (30.7208885, -81.5514559   https://goo.gl/maps/sCP4q4KE2vz) for the entirety of the event. Once we return to the mainland on Sunday you will retrieve your vehicle, load your gear and return home.

Can I bring my bicycle?  
Bicycling is allowed on the island however due to limited space on our chartered gear/passenger ferry, we ask that you rent a bicycle on the island rather than bringing your own. Find more details about bicycle rentals here.

 

This is an ACA-sanctioned event 

 
 
 

 
Mark your calendars!
See all of GRN's 2017 events HERE!
 

Hidden Gems Paddling Series

 
Photos & Partners from Past
Hidden Gem Paddles
 
 
 
Lower Oconee Hidden Gem Paddle & Campout - 2016
Event Partners: Georgia River Network, .Altamaha Riverkeeper, and Lower Oconee Water Trail
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Coosawattee River Hidden Gem Paddle to Farm to Table - 2016
Event Partners: Georgia River Network, Georgia Organics, & Coosa River Basin Initiative.
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Ochlockonee River Hidden Gem 2015 Tea-Stained Waters, Cypress Knees & Rich Wildlife Diversity
Event Partners: Georgia River Network, Ochlockonee River Water Trail, and Golden Triangle RC&D.
South River Hidden Gem 2015 - From Urban Wasteland to Wet & Wild Oasis
Event partners: Georgia River Network, South River Watershed Alliance, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area & Rockdale County
Photos from the trip.
Middle Oconee Hidden Gem 2015 - Bubbling Shoals, Rocky Outcrops & Historic Mills
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Upper Oconee Watershed Network, UGA Office of Sustainability, Upper Oconee Watershed Network, UGA Odum School of Ecology - River Basin Center, UGA College of Environment & Design, and Athens-Clarke County Oconee River Greenway Commission.
Satilla River Hidden Gem 2014 - Giant Magnolias and Burnt Forts - A Glimpse of the Satilla’s Unique Past
Event partners: Georgia River Network,
North Oconee Hidden Gem 2014 - Bobbin Through Remnants of the Oconee’s Historic Timeworn Textile Mills
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Upper Oconee Watershed Network, State Botanical Gardens of Georgia, University of Georgia Office of Sustainability, UGA College of Environment & Design, UGA Outdoor Recreation, and Athens-Clarke County Oconee River Greenway Commission.
Photos from the trip. 
Chattahoochee Columbus Hidden Gem 2014 - From Derelict Dams to Recreational White Water -Adventure on a Revitalized River in Columbus
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and Chattahoochee Riverwarden.
Ogeechee River Hidden Gem 2014 - Secrets of South Georgia’s Tea-Colored Waters and White Barking Sands
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, and Georgia Interfaith Power & Light.
Altamaha River Hidden Gem 2013 - Ancient Giants of the Altamaha River
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Off Grid Expeditions, & Altamaha Riverkeeper.
Savannah River Hidden Gem 2013 - Savannah River’s Last Remaining Shoals
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Georgia Kayak Fishing-Paddle4Tomorrow & Savannah Riverkeeper.
Etowah River Hidden Gem 2013 - Paddling Through Cherokee History on the Etowah
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Coosa River Basin Initiative, Upper Etowah River Alliance & Cherokee Historical Society.
Chattahoochee River Hidden Gem 2013 - Behind the Scenes of Atlanta's Work Horse on the Chattahoochee
Event partners: Georgia River Network, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, & Keeping it Wild!
Yellow River Hidden Gem 2012 - Yellow River Unveiling the Hidden Gems of Metro Atlanta
Event Partners: Georgia River Network and Yellow River Water Trail
South River Hidden Gem 2012 - Unveiling the Hidden Gems of Metro Atlanta
 Event Partners: Georgia River Network and South River Watershed Alliance.