The St. Mary’s River is a blackwater river that forms the border between southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida. It originates in the Okefenokee Swamp, flowing for 130 miles on a winding path into the Atlantic Ocean near Cumberland Island, Ga.
13,000 years ago the St. Marys River Basin was occupied by the Timucan Tribe. Spanish and British explorers, along with missionaries, later created settlements in the 1600 and 1700s. The river provided a source of food and a shipping route for the timber industry.
Trader’s Hill, south of Folkston, Ga., our launch site, was once an Indian trading post called Fort Alert, and at one time the county seat until later being moved to Folkston. Spanish Creek, one of the tributaries to the St. Marys River, was named after a local Seminole Indian, ‘Spanish John’.
We set out under sunny skies, 65°, and a moderate breeze to enjoy our 5+ mile adventure…James
St. Mary’s River Paddle Map…
St. Mary’s River Details:
Location: The St. Mary’s River is located in southeastern, Ga and northeaster Florida. The section we paddled is located 2.5 miles south of Folkston, Ga.
Launch point: The launch for this paddle is Trader’s Hill Boat Ramp…30°46’59.2″N 82°01’27.1″W, Folkston, GA 31537
Take Out point: The take out for this paddle is at St. Mary’s Fish Camp 29506 Scotts Landing Rd, Hilliard, FL 32046.
Paddle Distance: 6.34 miles, includes paddles into Spanish Creek and Holly Creek
Difficulty: Easy…today there was very little boat traffic, the river had no obstacles and a very gentle flow.
Average Paddle Speed: 2.11 mph, affected by side paddles.
Width and Depth: The width of the St Mary’s River was pretty consistent from launch to take out, from 175′ to 200′ with an open canopy. Flood stage is 12′ and today’s gauge showed a level of 2.15′
Current – Tidal: The current was low moving and we weren’t far enough on the eastern portion of the river to be affected by tidal brackish waters.
Side Paddles: Our main side paddle was Spanish Creek. The creek was on RL, 1 mile into our paddle. We explored the 35′ wide creek for 0.3 mi, then returned. It looks like this can be paddled for 3/4 mile or so before becoming too obstructed. The creek was scenic, we passed a nice camp site. The down side is the creek is polluted and affected by water treatment runoff from the town of Folkston.
Rest Areas: There our facilities at the campground launch and a couple of sandy beaches and camp sites within the first 2 miles of the paddle, a good break site ( no facilities ) at the Black River Boat Ramp, mile 3.57, RL.
Trader’s Hill Launch:
Trader’s Hill Boat Launch is an excellent staging area. There is a wide soft launch as well as an accompanying concrete boat ramp with small dock. There is plenty of parking and restroom facilities available at the campground up the hill.
Our destination was downstream ( to the left ) and we had beautiful Fall weather in the upper 60°’s and sunny skies!
One mile from our launch, on RL is the mouth of Spanish Creek, one of the tributaries to the St. Mary’s River.
Spanish Creek originates in Little Okefeenokee Swamp near Mack’s Island, about 15 miles to the NNW of where it flows into the St. Mary’s River. The creek is a 35′ narrow creek, heavily canopied with Tupelo trees. We came across a nice camp spot a 1/4 mile up creek on the right, paddled just a little further before returning to the river.
The St. Mary’s River:
The river is the border between southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida. Fall colors were just starting to show, especially on the Red maples and Cypress. There were numerous Titi trees as well as Tupelo. The fruits of the Ogechee Tupelo were seen in abundance at our stop at Black Water Boat Ramp.
Along our paddle we decided to venture into another very small side creek at mile 1.6 mi RR. We only got 350′ into the creek before having to return back to the river. The interesting thing about this creek was it was lined with numerous American Holly trees, more than I have ever seen in one stand!
The paddle was easy and noticeably absent of much wildlife except for three Herons and a Turtle. We stopped 2/3 way into the paddle for a break at the Black Water Boat Ramp, then continuing our journey to the take out at St. Mary’s Fish Camp. Overall, not a lot to write home about but it was a beautiful day on another of Florida’s waterways.
Guides, Maps & Info…
- Folkston/St. Marys Topo Map…
- Fort Alert Marker…
- USGS Report – Spanish Creek…
- Spanish Creek Name…
- Timucua Tribe…
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