Near the forgotten community of Bannockburn, the Alapaha River marks the boundary between Berrien and Atkinson counties. The Georgia Highway 135 bridge that crosses here normally spans a smallish stream, but if you wonder why it’s so big, check out a Google Earth view of the river at high water. It fills up quickly. [Note the pilings of an old bridge or trestle in the sandbar]. At present (early autumn 2019) the river is low enough to ford and not even get your knees wet. The Alapaha is special to me because Lucy Lake (an Alapaha oxbow in northern Berrien County) was the first place my father took my brother and me river fishing. It had been a popular spot with locals for many years and he had fished there with his father and uncles many times as a young man himself. The river seemed so much bigger to me then.
The Alapaha is one of Georgia’s most beautiful black water rivers. Little known to people not near its banks, it rises in southern Dooly County and meanders southeastward toward its confluence with the Suwannee River near Jasper, Florida. During this course it collects the Wilacoochee, Alapahoochee, and Little Alapaha rivers. An intermittent river, it goes underground through parts of its course, especially in Hamilton County, Florida. A famous locale there, near Jennings, is the Dead River Sink.
The earliest known reference to the Alapaha was made by Hernando de Soto’s expedition. It noted a village near the Suwannee known as Yupaha, in the 16th century.
As a young teen I fished, hunted and camped on the Alapaha river near the town of Alapaha. Best time of my life (1965-1969). My dad would take me and my brother in his pickup to Berrien Beach and load the truck with the white sand on the beach. He used the sand for a large sand box where we would play (1955-1962). I have not been back for 62 years. The Alapaha river was a wonderful place.
My grandparents; Pleamon Gibbs and Mattie Mixon Gibbs met at Lucy Lake when it was recreation area. Both from Ocilla. They were married in 1915. I believe. As a child I remember seeing the spring pump, and tile remains of a pool. Railroad tracks reached halfway across the water and curled under like fingers.
At low water the river sinks where mentioned, but slightly further downstream when the river is higher and the primary sink clogged the river makes a dramatic turn and begins to run (effectively) upstream to disappear into a cave. During floods it continues all the way to the Suwannee.
Thank you for posting I fished and swam in the Alapaha River as a young man with my dad, brothers, Uncles and cousins. Very happy memories of the bridge bellow Willacoochee.
Lucy Lake is a wide, deep place in the river near the bridge where US129 crosses a few miles north of Alapaha, isn’t it? In the 1920’s a man who’s name I forget – lived in the big yellow brick House just south of Ocilla accross from the community center house – built a private railroad from Ocilla to the Lake, had a swimming pool and pavilion – the pool was still there in 1955-56 – It was said to me that hundreds of people went there for summer holidays by folks still living then who went there from Ocilla area. Most Fitzgerald folks went to Bowens Mill and Crystal Lake. Floods finished off the Lucy Lake site, I think. And the pools and bowling alley half-way between Ocilla and Fitzgerald was too easy to get to along with the lake which became a popular fishing spot into the 60’s.
Thanks for the photos and the reminders of 70+ years ago.
That’s correct, Ken. I didn’t know about the pools and other recreational offerings there. Interesting.
Been wanting to walk back in there again, but last time I rode by there was a fence and gate and No Trespassing signs. Not interested in getting shot.
It was at this sandbar and bridge where hundreds, it seems to me, that families gathered on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, swam in the river and picknicked. I was a preteen and it was the good old days.
Growing up in Willacoochee I remember well going to the river with friends to swim on those hot summer days. Seems the river was a little deeper then than it looks in the picture. Just up stream from the bridge we had a rope swing tied to a tree limb. We would swing out as far as possible and let go dropping into the water. But you had to be careful not to let go too early, there were Cypress knees just below the water. It was a popular spot for families from all around on weekends.