Stories from the Savannah Basin

Mary Siceloff & Liz Williams FINISH THE 12 IN 2012 CHALLENGE!!! Read all about their 12th river on their blog site here.

Paddles #5 & 6 - I'd like to claim two more rivers - half way toward my "12 in 12" goal: the lower Hudson River and the upper few miles on the Broad River, both in Madison County. I paddled the section from U.S. 29 to Ga. 281 on August 29 with Gary Crider and Brown Widener. I am attaching a photo I took of Gary and Brown at the 29 bridge and a photo Gary took of me negotiating a rocky spot.

Roger Nielsen

 7/28/2012 - LIttle Ogeechee and Salt Creek

Rivers # 6 &  7 for Mary Siceloff and Liz Williams! Read about them on their paddle blog: 

5/24/2012 - Betty's Branch

Paddle #3 - We packed up the kayaks and headed out to Riverside Park in Evans, GA.  This park is located off of Hardy McManus Road, close to the intersection with Fury’s Ferry Road.   There is a concrete ramp there as well as a sandy area which makes for easy entry.  

There is a marshy lagoon of sorts that you first enter, often filled with a variety of birdlife and many, many turtles.  On this morning Canadian Geese were plentiful as well as a couple of small egrets, a pair of Mallards with chicks, and a blue heron. 

When you leave the lagoon you come to a choice of directions.   Betty’s Branch starts and ends on the Savannah River and travels around a very large island.  So, if you turn to the left you will go up the longest section of the Branch.  If you turn to the right you will go the shortest section.   Since the Branch holds the greatest promise for wildlife viewing we decided to take the long route first.   In all, at a moderate pace, this trip should take about 3 hours.   Bill likes to take a lot of pictures and also fish a bit, so we started at 8:30 and finished at 1:30….which made for a really long paddle!

It didn’t take but a few feet onto the branch before we started to see an osprey, calling and soaring back and forth overhead.   There was a nest on the top of an old dead tree and another osprey in the nest.  The flying bird was bringing in more sticks, so we were not sure if chicks or eggs were present.    

On this route you come to a train trestle that is still in use.   On top of the trestle was another osprey sitting in her nest with at least one baby.  While we were there a very long train passed across the trestle and it never fazed her, she just stayed in the nest.  

This is a beautiful site for pictures.  The sun was just right for reflections and we got a great one of the trestle in the water.  

A raccoon was hunting for fresh water clams along the shoreline.   He didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence and scampered about for a while until entering a large tunnel in the mud bank.  I am not sure if this was his home or not.    

We also saw a muskrat.  At first glance I thought it was a baby otter, but, there was no mother in sight.  After a closer look it was just the muskrat….he also didn’t appear to be too concerned with our presence.  This is why this paddle is so nice, the wildlife are so easy to view. 

You will come to a very pretty site on the branch on your left, and possibly the source of some fresh spring water.   You will know you are there when you see the rocks jutting out and a small drop.   There is also a rope swing on one shore.   I think it would be easy to portage over and try to come down the drop.   You could also portage over and explore the lagoon that feeds this drop.   We did not try it this time. 

When you get to this point you will begin to see signs of the private golf course, Champions Retreat.  Parts of it will run on either side of you, but it is very exclusive and has remoteness to it.  You rarely see or hear anyone on the course.   Along the banks here Bill found lovely purple wild iris growing. 

As we finished up the end of the branch and came closer to the river we saw less and less wildlife of any kind.   Soon we came to the Savannah and turned into the wind for the long paddle down to where the other end of the branch comes into the river.   For most of this trip it is open water with no development along the shoreline.   It isn’t until you see the trestle again, where it crosses the main river, that you begin to see cabins and later large homes. 

When you come to this area on the main river, and have gone under the trestle, begin to look to your right for the channel marker and the opening to Betty’s Branch. You still have a little ways to paddle to get to the opening, but at least you have a reference of where to start to look. Enter the branch, go around a few bends, and you are back where you started.                                                                                              

There are plenty of places along this paddle that you can get out if need be, whether along the branch or along the river.   We did not bring a picnic, but if we do this again we will probably make a stop on one of the small beaches on the Savannah.   The water in the branch is sometimes cloudy, but it is beautiful and clear along the main river.   

- Bill and Pat Colbert of Evans, GA 

5/12/2012 - Back River

I went out for my first official Paddle 12 yesterday along with my brother, Gerry Cowart.  He agreed to paddle in my territory for the day. So, we took off from Alley 3 on tybee island at about 9:30.  It was just past low tide and early enough in the day that the water in the BACK River was smooth as glass.  My plan was to paddle out to the ocean, along the front of Little Tybee Island from north to south, then cut into the Tybee Slough, and from there take Jack's Cut back home to Alley 3.  It was a great trip!  There were some white caps out on the ocean side and cutting into the slough was tricky.  Gerry and I both took on some water going through the waves but not so much as to make our boats unmanageable.  We stopped just inside the slough and had lunch, to the cries of a pair of oystercatchers and the pounding of the surf in the Atlantic Ocean.  It's the birds' nesting season, and I had seen an egg in this area a couple of years ago about the same time of year. 

We hung out long enough in the Tybee Slough so that we'd have plenty of water coming through Jack's cut to make it back home; it was only a 6 foot high tide which is about as low a high tide as we have in this area, but still way plenty enough water for kayaking through this popular shortcut.   By the time we got back to the Back River, the place was getting crowded with Saturday kayaking and motor traffic.  We stopped again where Jack's Cut meets the Back River.  I took a short walk to check on my geocache, and Gerry took a nap.

What I like about this trip was the variety of water and conditions we paddled.  The ocean was exciting. Then, meandering through Jack's Cut was relaxing.  I highly recommend Little Tybee for a paddling adventure! 

- Nancy Evans

4/8/2012 - Vernon Creek

Liz Williams and Mary Siceloff's 4th paddle can be viewed here: 

 1/30/2012 - Savannah River

It was a beautiful day here in Augusta, GA on Monday, January 30th.  So, at about 2:00, we tossed the kayaks in the truck and headed for the section of the Savannah River that is just above the Savannah Rapids Pavilion, Lock and Dam in Columbia County.  It is one of our favorite places to paddle because it is so peaceful, usually has a good amount of bird life, and is very beautiful as well.    

Unload your boat by driving your vehicle to a spot just behind the interpretive center....a road winds along the canal there.  Once you unload you will need to park your vehicle in the parking area above you.  There are posts in the road going to where you need to take the, you need to unload and portage about the length of a football field.  We used the wheels that you attach to the kayaks...much easier!   Follow the gravel drive toward what looks like a covered bridge but actually covers the controls for the locks to the canal system.  This paddle is ABOVE the canal you take the path into the woods that is just to the left of the covered bridge building. 

When you enter the river, you can go to the left all the way to the next spillway and around the islands in the river. Or you can go a bit to the right and go between two islands.  Everything leads to the next spillway. 

Just do NOT go back toward the covered bridge there are intakes for the canal there...and beyond is a BIG spillway.   The current is not strong as long as you proceed toward the direction of the islands.   

After entering the river we looked up and saw a bald eagle flying overhead.  Shortly after going between two islands we saw a fledgling eagle at the top of a tree.   We also saw a good number of anhingas (a dark duck with a very long neck), an osprey, a kingfisher and several other smaller birds before getting out into the main river.   

From here, we headed toward Stallings Island - famous in Augusta for being an old Indian settlement.  You will know this island because it is very long and has power poles and lines crossing it just before you reach the Steven's Creek spillway.   We noticed as we got closer that the island looked a little less formidable than usual (very jungle-like usually).  There was a reason for this.  The goats and donkeys that usually are fenced in on the power line section of the island are now running loose everywhere and eating everything in sight.   

We stopped to visit the donkeys that came running to us.  If only we had known that they were able to approach us now we would have brought some apples.  They didn't seem to mind too much...just wanted some love and attention.  The baby donkey was adorable! 

Next we traveled to the spillway, which you can get right next too.  The water was higher than usual and the current not as playful, but it was still fun going around all the rocks...especially the big one...the one we have named the Whale Rock because that is exactly what it looks like.   

The trip back down the other side was quiet and peaceful, so peaceful in fact that the power poles and trees on that side of Stallings Island were covered in buzzards.   

Give yourself at least 2 hours or more to do this paddle...more if you want to fish along the way. 

Also in this area...for the same day or another is the entrance into the Savannah River...BELOW the spillway...or the canal itself.  Both are also lovely...but usually require two vehicles.  If you are into biking or hiking...the canal towpath is wonderful for that. 

 Here are some pictures...



- Pat and Bill Colbert from Evans, GA... first trip of 2012  ... 

1/22/2012 - Savannah River

Dana, I have finished my 2nd of 12 rivers.  On Jan 22nd, myself and four others paddled Ebenezer Creek, a tributary of the Savannah River.  Our intention was to paddle from Long Bridge to the Savannah River, about a 7 mile trip, but water levels were so low that putting in at Long Bridge was not an option.  Instead, we put in at the Savannah River and paddled up the Ebenezer.  We made it up stream approximately four miles before we had to turn around and head back.  Luckily our trip coincided with a rising tide that helped our paddle up stream and by the time we turned around the tide had also turned, making our paddle back to the Savannah River less difficult. 

The day was gray and overcast. It never warmed up as predicted.  This was the lowest I have seen the water in Ebenezer in 8 years of paddling it.  We were able to see river banks, tree stumps and roots that are rarely visible, adding to the other worldly character that Ebenezer is so famous for.

My next paddle is scheduled for Feb 4th on the Ogeechee and Canoochee. We'll put in at Kings Ferry and paddle up stream with the tide into the Canoochee and explore the lower parts of the confluence of Canoochee and Ogeechee Rivers.

Gerry Cowart


1/22/2012 - Savannah River

We had our first 12 in 12 paddle last Sunday (January 22) on the Ebenezer. Liz and I have started a blog as our documentation of our paddles, and I finally got the post finished! Here it is:

 Mary Siceloff' & Liz Williams
Paddle Blog #1  

1/10/2012 - Savannah River

Dana, I did my first river on Sunday - a beautiful afternoon on the Savannah River close to Sylvania, Georgia. In swift water, we paddled about 20 minutes downstream and an hour plus back to the Memorial Park Landing on Poor Robin Road, where we put in. We got our cardio workout on the tough upstream return trip - made easier because we were in sea kayaks. 

It is big, deep water with steep banks and very few inside corner sand banks.  The Corp of Engineers has obviously worked to keep it straight and deep by evidence of "one-man" stone riprap in the big bends. Local fishermen commented the water level was a little low for this time of year but not unusually so.  There was a distinct chemical smell. Water was cold and clear, and the color was beautiful in the late afternoon light.  There were only a few and minor strainers again due to fast moving deep water.

There was very little trash in the swift moving water, but I picked up a dozen or so beer cans at the landing. There was no trash receptacle there. I was joined by one of my architecture students, Sam Titoine. Sam is from Delaware Bay and hadn't been in a blackwater river - certainly not one of this volume, paddling against the current.  He was glad to see the landing.  We both worked up a sweat.  We finished the paddle at the landing by chatting with a local couple fishing from the ramp, drinking a glass of wine, and watching the full moon rise over the darkening river swamp. 

Gerry Cowart