Oct 13-Oct 16, 2003 61 miles
Monday John E. from Atlanta and Denny B. from New Smyrna and myself met at the Burnt Fort landing (Hwy 252) and shuttled our boats and gear up to Hwy 301 landing. We were on the water by about 2:30. There had been scattered showers on the drive up and shortly after launching we were in light rain. We set up camp and the showers ended about 6:30 so we had a nice campfire. The evenings are coming earlier and cooler. It got down in the 50s during the night. Tuesday we were back on the water and experienced no more rain during the trip. The river is unique in that it is a series of twists and turns this makes for beautiful scenery and also changes the usual multiplier of crow fly miles from the normal 2:1 to 3:1. Every bend in the river provided large white sandbars for stopping and camping. For 51-54 miles we had the same pattern of bends and sandbars however about RAINS LANDING the river changes completely. At this point the sandbars are gone and the river flows though a marshy forest with no clear level spots to put a tent. The wild life consisted on the usual north FL. South GA. variety with ample wading birds and few gators. During one of the evening after dark we saw several Great Blue Herons flying about.
This is a great camping and paddling river although next time I would plan the end of the trip knowing that there is no place to camp between Rains Landing and the park at the take-out at Hwy 252.
Oct 27-Oct 30, 2003 61 miles
Satilla River SE Georgia US 23 to US 301
This is the section of the river above where we paddled two weeks ago. When I arrived at US 301 on the Satilla River, John E. from GA. was waiting and advised me that the weather was going to be quite different from what I had read on the Internet. It was raining and John said that NOAA reported that we would have rain for the remainder of Monday and continue Tuesday and Tuesday night.
So we started paddling. It was warm enough that the rain was not uncomfortable and it let up a little about 4:00 so we found a sandbar and set up camp for the night. The rain continued as forecast. Tuesday we packed wet tents and continued down the river. The difference was that the rain was now falling hard. Again the temperature cooperated so we were not that uncomfortable paddling with rain ponchos. I admit that after hours of this I started to wonder why I am not home sitting in my recliner and reading a book. Before I scheduled this trip up I tried to find out information on the river but it seems that nobody paddles it. Between US 84 and US 15 it was obvious why, paddling the next few miles the river became an obstacle course. We had at least a dozen pullovers where trees completely blocked the river including one that had three large trees one after the other. We also encounter one portage of about 100 feet. All this in a hard rain. About 4 PM the rain let up a little and we set up camp. We knew the river would be rising as the rain from up river would be pushing its way down river and the forecast had it raining through the evening. We tied the boats as always and put our tents on ground that was 18 to two feet above that water line. We ate cold meals in our tents and went to sleep. About 4 AM I awoke and felt some water. As I sleep on an air mattress used for floating in a swimming pool neither my sleeping bag nor I was wet. But when I pushed on the floor of my tent I found out that the tent was floating in water. With my flashlight I looked outside my tent and found that the water had risen so the canoes were floating higher then the bottom of my tent. Fortunately most of my gear was still in dry bags and did not get wet. I packed the rest of my gear and moved my tent to a higher elevation. John was still on dry ground but he decided that at the rate the river was rising it would be prudent to seek higher ground. Wednesday the weather report held true. We awoke to cloudless sunny days for the remainder of the trip. We still had a few pullovers in the morning but for the remainder of the trip we either had clear river or downed trees that we could maneuver our way through. The sandbars that were at every turn of the river became scarce and Wednesday night we camped on the side of the river with enough elevation to keep us above the rising tide. The river continued to rise through the remainder of the trip. The campfire that we sat around Wednesday night was at least 6 under water in the morning. Thursday our plan was to paddle and camp where we would have about 6 miles to the takeout. But the river was moving so swiftly and I did not feel comfortable with the elevation of possible camping sites so we finished about 4:45 PM.
We loaded our boats and gear and John drove us up to the put-in at US 23. When we got there we found that the river was up about 5 ft. Fortunately I remembered the trip on the North Withachoochee last winter when the two vehicles we left at the put-in were sitting on an island where the river had become a lake. My van was on high ground and it was high and dry. I checked the water gage information when I got home and found that the river rose 5 feet from when we put in on Monday until we ended our trip on Thursday. This explains why most of the sandbars we normally would have camped on were no where to be seen.
As I look as each trip as an adventure I am glad I went and do not regret the weather or pull overs but I would not recommend that the less then the hearty or maybe fool hardy paddle the section of the river between US 84 and US 15. One other comment is that the trash coming out of the creek from Waycross is a disgrace. The amount of trash in the river for the next several miles is the worst I have ever seen.