Savannah River Trip, long and wide, but something I wanted to do once to say I did it. Wayne Charles of Lexington, NC, this writer Don Meece, Salemburg, NC, was invited by Paul Ferguson, Raleigh, NC, author of "Paddling Eastern North Carolina", to paddle this river from Augusta, GA, down to Savannah, GA, or actually Port Wentworth, a suburb of Savannah.
We had been with Paul on several trips which are posted on this site; the Wateree, the Lynches, and the Enoree, all rivers in South Carolina. We all met in Colleton State Park, SC on Monday, Nov 15 to camp out, as this was almost where we were to meet our shuttle person, Jim Odum, my brother in law the next morning at Bluffton, SC. We got to Bluffton, SC around 0900 on Nov 16, loaded up Paul's van with our gear and three canoes and headed for the three hour drive to Augusta, GA. After a stop for gas and lunch we were finally at our put in location; a south landing of the Savannah Bluff, below the lock and dam. Gear was loaded in the canoes and after saying our goodbyes to Jim, we were off and paddling around 1400.
After getting on the river, we saw manmade wing dams, pilings in the river coming out about 30-50 ft on each side to reduce erosion on the river banks which were probably placed there in the 1940's by the US Corps of Engineers. Paul did extensive research on the river with a Google Earth of all the landings, the water flow, and the tides near the end of the trip. We also had help from the Savannah River keeper, Tonya Bonitatibus, who gave us information on artesian wells along our route.
During our paddle the first day, Wayne spotted an Otter. The water was clear about two feet down and not muddy like I thought, but this was due to the lack of rain in the area. We paddled about 9.3 miles this first short day as dark sets in fast and found a nice sandbar around 1635 on river left. After setting up our tents, gathering firewood, we started our supper. Wayne and I had grilled steaks and broccoli and cheese sauce. I did not get a menu from Paul and did not see what he ate. That night before going to bed we saw lightening and heard thunder. The rain and wind held off until we were in bed.
The next morning we got up about 0630, made a fire, made coffee, and after my first cup, I fixed Wayne and I breakfast of scrambled eggs and country ham. We left camp at 0840 with a light fog over the water. During the day Wayne spotted some deer. On river left we started seeing "No Trespassing" signs from the US Dept of Energy, the Savannah River Site which use to make bombs and store nuclear waste, so camping on the left bank was out. Then we started seeing No Trespassing signs on river right and finally saw the two cooling towers of Vogtle Nuclear Plant. It was getting late and we were running out of daylight and needed to camp. Finally at 1645 we found a boat ramp on the right, after 27.1 miles paddling that day, surveyed the property and saw that it did not have any �no camping� signs although it had a sign saying no use after dark.
Against Wayne's protest and being out voted, we decided to camp on a grassy area below a picnic area of the boat ramp. A Georgia Power Company truck came around but did not stop. We decided not to burn a fire of start charcoal for the steaks. Not sure what the rest ate but I decided to try a military, Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) or Meal Rejected by Everyone. The heater for the meal did not work, so it was spam on two bagels.
After dark and supper we were sitting around in the cold trying to stay warm when we saw some headlights coming in the parking lot. We were lower than the parking lot but Wayne saw some lights on top the truck, could it be police? Paul walked up the hill in the dark with the vehicle lights shining on him and we heard a voice say, "Get your hands out of your pockets!" Wayne and I could not see but heard Paul talking to the person, and then Paul and the man came down. Wayne and I freaked out. Here it was cold and a man in a short sleeve shirt, behind Paul was dressed in SWAT gear, with an M-16 over the front of him with his hand on the grip, his arms as big as my thighs. The space we were camping on was a boat ramp open for the public for day use but closed at night as it belonged to the nuclear power plant.
This guy must have initially thought we were terrorists checking out the plant. When he saw it was several old geezers he said we were not supposed to camp there and then said he would lock the gate, besides we were outgunned. Before leaving he gave us an emergency number in case we needed it. We now felt safe to go to bed.
On 18 Nov, we were up at 0630 again, no fire, and I ate oatmeal with a honey bun and coffee. We were back on the river at 0800. Paddling down the river, I spotted about five feral pigs on the right bank. They headed into the woods and later could hear them squealing. Wayne and I stopped for lunch around noon while Paul paddled up a cove to check out a boat landing, Little Hell Rd, which had an artesian well. Paul filled his water jugs at this well. Paul said they should have named it Little Heaven as it was nice. Around 1630 we found a campsite in the woods, which was good as it meant we would have no dew on our tents like the previous two mornings. We had paddled 28.1 miles this day. Supper consisted of grilled steak and veggies medley.
Next morning, 19 Nov, Paul and I were in the dark outside our tents, and Wayne stuck his head out and said, "Look at the buck behind Don's tent." Paul shined his light and we saw a four point buck just staring at us, it moved slowly away but acted tame. Breakfast that morning was oatmeal and honey bun with coffee again. I love instant raisins and spice oatmeal despite what others say, it is good to me. We let camp again early and paddled on.
When we arrived at the Hwy 301 bridge with a boat ramp on the GA side, right bank where there was also an artesian well. Wayne and I filled our water jugs. Wayne saw an alligator this day. After 23.5 miles we found a sandbar on river right around 1615 hours. That night we had the last of our steak and veggie medley.
On 20 Nov, we were up again early. Breakfast was a new experience for me. I have backpacked in my earlier days with Boy Scouts about 50 years ago but never had one of these fang dangled freeze dried backpacking foods until now. I decided to get one a superstore and try it out. It was a one person serving of dehydrated eggs with bacon bits; pour in the hot water, stir and let stand for 7 minutes and eat. Thank goodness for Tabasco sauce. If I were starving it might suffice but for the price, to me it is not worth it.
After breakfast, and before starting out, three bass boats came roaring by, occupants wearing helmets and face shields. These guys were probably doing about 40 knots; you could have surfed on the wake. During the days paddle, the bass boats came roaring down the river past us and did not even slow down, what a ride! Some motor boaters can be inconsiderate.
After 23.5 miles we found a bluff on the right with a landing and it was a nice bluff with plenty of space to camp. It had to be private but there were not any No Trespassing signs. After walking up the hill and not seeing any houses plus the road looked like no one had been down it in awhile, we decided to camp. At the top of the hill was a small pond with a culvert and water coming out down a ravine to the river. This is where I camped as it sounded like camping on a bank near some rapids. That night Wayne cooked us supper, Mexican style rice with shrimp. It was good, even though the can of shrimp had product of Thailand.
21 Nov, my breakfast consisted of instant oatmeal again with a pecan twist and coffee. We were back on the river around 0800. During the days paddle Paul saw an alligator. It was late afternoon and at 1600 we stopped at Ebenezer Landing on river right so Paul could check out the landing. Up the hill from the landing is Ebenezer Church and conference center built around 1769.
After a short stop at Ebenezer, we paddle on trying to find a good campsite. Finally after 27.2 miles at 1715 hours, we found the only site which we had to take on river left, because it was getting dark. The site was across from McIntosh Georgia Power Plant, which of course made a noise from the water pumps and the lights were on all night. This site had a sandbar but a nice path in the woods to put our tents. I cooked supper that night; chicken flavored fried rice with chicken chunks dumped in. We had a fire that night which was nice.
What was to be our last day, Nov 22, I had the usual oatmeal and honey bun, with coffee. We left camp in the fog and stopped later at Millstone Landing for a break. As we got closer to I-95, evidence of the tide going out was seen. We could not find a place for lunch until we reached I-95 and thanks to someone who cleared the brush from underneath the bridge, we had a place to eat, with the traffic roaring by on the interstate above.
When we finished lunch the tide had dropped the river level at least six inches the short time we were there. The river was moving us along, but not as fast as anticipated. We finally reached our take out at 1430 hrs, and 20 miles, at Houlihan's Bridge on GA Hwy 25 at Port Wentworth, GA, a suburb of Savannah.
It was a nice trip, but a long distance in too short of time. The river was mainly desolate with sporadic development, and fairly clean of trash. The river had wing dams up and down the river and a lot of curves were straightened by the US Corps of Engineers years ago to aid in river traffic. We had the best weather and rain on the first night only.
Wildlife seen on this trip were deer, turkey, wild pigs, alligator, otters, heron, egrets, buzzards, hawks, a swallow tail kite, and many kingfishers. We heard owls at night but did not see any.
This is a trip worth doing at least once and several day trips could be made due to all the public landings on the GA or SC side of the river. Do not pass up too many sandbars if winter camping as there were some long straight-aways with no place to camp or either had restricted land due to the Savannah River Nuclear site on the SC or the Vogtle Nuclear Plant on the GA side.
There are several artesian wells on this river two on the SC side, Little Hell Rd Landing, and Cohens Bluff, and one we found on the GA side at the Hwy 310 boat landing.
Old Town Penobscot Solo 15, Mad River Solo Guide and Mad River Explorer tande
Put in was below the Savannah River Bluff, lock and dam in Augusta at the South boat ramp. Take out was at the Houlihan Bridge Hwy 25, boat ramp, Port Wentworth GA
Great help from the Savannah River Keeper
SC and GA Delorme Atlas