Sunday, January 22nd, 2012
Liz and I were joined on this adventure by Dan, Gerry, and Jay. We had planned to put in at Long Bridge landing and shuttle to a take-out where the creek feeds into the Savannah River. Gerry was first at the put in, he let us all know that Ebenezer was too low to paddle at that point. The level of the creek varies according to drought conditions (which are severe at this time). High water periodically flows into the creek from the Savannah River if upriver dams have opened to release water. Periods of rain will cause the creek level to rise accordingly.
We readjusted and met up at the Ebenezer boat landing on the Savannah River. The day had been forecast to warm to 70 degrees after morning fog and drizzle, but the temp hovered in the mid-50′s with a strong enough breeze toencourage us to wear all the layers we had.
We paddled upriver (with the tide) into grey, mysterious, and otherworldly surroundings. The river is a habitat for cypress trees (Taxodium distichum), as well as large stands of water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica). Partly due to this rare natural environment, Ebenezer is one of only 4 waterways designated as a Georgia scenic river and is a National Natural Landmark.
The cypress turn the water to a deep tea brown (also known as blackwater). With the historically low water levels, giant cypress “knees” were visible all along the creek.
We saw beaver sign and pileated woodpecker sign (below).
We paddled up into a side creek, encountering a thick mat of a floating aquatic plant which we later learned (courtesy John Crawford of UGA) was mosquito fern (Azolla caroliniana). It is sometimes called ‘water velvet’, and it was certainly like paddling over a soft, floating blanket.
The area was home to the Creek Indians before the German Salzburgers developed their first settlement in 1733, seeking freedom to live according to their religious beliefs. After several years of disease and struggle, the Salzburgers moved down creek to establish New Ebenezer on higher ground at the Savannah River confluence.
The new community prospered until the Revolutionary war, when it was mostly destroyed. The only building left standing was their church, which is now noted as being the oldest public building still standing in the state of Georgia. This area is now a historical landmark and open for visitation.
A hundred years later, the creek was the site of a tragic civil war incident when freed slaves seeking protection followed the army of Union General Jefferson C. Davis to the creek. When the Confederate cavalry closed in on the opposite bank, panic set in and hundreds (or possibly thousands) of the freed slaves became trapped between the opposing armies and perished. Now all that is visible from the civil war history are railroad pilings that still stand in the swamp.
We stopped at a public boat ramp for lunch and to admire Liz’s singular parking ability (top).
We went through several stands of swamp tupelo, which Gerry helped us identify by the twisted trunk.
The palette of grey and brown was broken up by brilliant pink, identified for us by Steve Braden of Savannah Canoe and Kayak as red maple, Acer rubrum.
We estimated that we paddled 8-10 miles in our up and back trip. The section of the river from Long Bridge Landing (Long Bridge Road off of Hwy 275) to the Savannah River is just a little over 10 miles. There is parking available for a nominal fee ($10.00 at present) at the Ebenezer Boat Landing at the Savannah River. You will have to arrange for your own shuttle if you plan on a one-way trip. If the water level is too low to put in from this launch site, there are 2 other sites available to launch from off of Wylly Road and Highbluff Road.
A tip of the hat to A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to Georgia, a great resource for Georgia paddlers that provided us with ramp locations, history, and other background information for our trip. See you next time!
Mary and Liz