Cathead Creek is a tributary of the mighty Altamaha River. It drains part of Buffalo Swamp, a tidal forest containing bald cypress, sweet black gum, and water tupelo. The put-in is on Cox Road off of Hwy 251, where Liz and I met Gerry, Phil and Jay on a sunny and windy Saturday morning for the paddle to Darien.
We had the outgoing tide as we launched into Cathead Creek, which lead us through an undeveloped section of Mclntosh County.
The area was a center of rice production for more than 100 years. Rice canals are still visible and in some cases still navigable – we took a side trip down one of them.
Gerry saw a bald eagle, and then about 30 minutes later, sharp-eyed Liz spotted the nest. We got close enough to see movement inside and hear the calls of hungry fledglings.
There were no places to stop along the way until we found a small campsite near the I-95 crossing. After several hours of paddling against the wind, it was a welcome respite.
Liz gave us a brief history of Darien’s boom and bust cycles. Established in 1735 as a military outpost to protect Savannah, Darien was settled by a group of Highland Scots under the order of General Oglethorpe.
From the early 1800′s through the early 1900′s Darien was a center of commercial strength, handling exports (and banking) for cotton, sugar cane, and rice. South Georgia was heavily forested and at one point Darien was the leading center of timber exportation on the South Atlantic Coast. (The results of this over-cutting led to the practical extinction of the longleaf pine, the story of which is part of Janisse Ray’s wonderful book Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.)
Darien’s economy remains tied to the water; it was a center for oyster cultivation and continues to supply restaurants across the southeast with Wild Georgia Shrimp. As we paddled into Darien, the first thing we saw was shrimp boat rigging.
After ten miles of windy water, we were glad to see our destination. Paddle number three!