Tag Archives: Georgia Ecotourism

North End of Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island

If you walk the whole distance of Driftwood Beach, you’ll be at the northernmost point of Jekyll Island. A pine forest skirts the beach for some distance, though some may have been destroyed by the most recent hurricane. [These photos were made in 2014].

There’s still driftwood at this end of the beach, but it’s encountered less frequently.

Erosion is accelerated by the ebb and flow of St. Simons Sound and sand eventually replaces remnant forest.

Wrack and vegetation are dominant here, so it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as the boneyard further south, but it’s one of the most unique spots on the island and there are great views of neighboring St. Simons Island and its iconic lighthouse, as well as the Sidney Lanier Bridge.

Hell Hole Road, Ossabaw Island

The trip to South End Beach takes you down Hell Hole Road. Full of potholes and the occasional hog wallow, it’s quite rough.

I can understand why early settlers thought it hellish but it was paradise to me, an undisturbed maritime forest highlighted by numerous swamps and bogs.

National Register of Historic Places

Sea Turtle Release, Ossabaw Island

Since travel here is strictly limited to ecotourism, educational programs, and controlled hunts, and often sold out months in advance, I feel fortunate to have participated in one of the Ossabaw Island Foundation‘s Sea Turtle Walks last weekend.

Besides having access to the architectural landmarks of the North End and seeing the unmatched natural beauty of the island, the trip affords one the opportunity to observe sea turtle research being done here.

Though we didn’t see an active nest, we were able to observe methods used by interns to determine environmental factors affecting species survival. The eggs pictured above were all spoiled.

We were able to watch a rescued hatchling Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) on its return to the sea. Even though this species nests more frequently than other sea turtles, it’s the most critically endangered in the world.


Banks Lake, Lanier County


Banks Lake is a natural blackwater lake characterized by shallow water and cypress trees. Located just east of Lakeland, it was owned for much of the 2oth century by the family of Governor Ed Rivers.


Joshua Lee operated a grist mill here in the mid-1800s. When he dammed the Carolina bay  on his property, the lake was created.


Unsubstantiated sources suggest that Governor Ed Rivers’ family attempted to develop the area in the 1920s and that his estate threatened to drain and log the lake in the 1970s, but regardless, the property was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1980, assuring its preservation. In 1985, the Conservancy sold the lake to the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, who redesignated it Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge.


With around 20,000 visitors per year, Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of the least crowded parks in the system. It almost feels like a roadside park because, effectively, it is. There are docks and a short boardwalk and an outfitter on site. A gentleman I met on the dock told me that fishermen tie strips of cloth to trees to find their way around. It’s apparently quite thick with cypress.


Banks Lake is part of the Grand Bay-Banks Lake ecosystem, the second largest freshwater wetland in Georgia, after the Okefenokee Swamp.


The refuge, managed by the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, does not have on-site staff. Fishing is allowed, for those with valid licenses.

Lanier County Ga Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2016

For information on this natural wonder of Georgia, please visit the refuge website.


Tivoli River, Bryan County

This is the view at the Tivoli River Fishing Pier & Kayak Launch, on Belfast-Keller Road, and it’s the first public “kayak/canoe-only launch” in Coastal Georgia. The Tivoli is an 8.9 mile-long tidal river that flows into the Belfast River, just north of that river’s terminus at the Medway River. The fishing is generally good, too, with redfish, trout, and flounder being abundant much of the year.

Oconee Outfitters, Milledgeville

Located in what appears to be an old gas station, Oconee Outfitters is the place to go for outdoor sporting enthusiasts in Milledgeville.


American Alligator, Harris Neck

American Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are abundant (though generally not aggressive) in the ponds and wetland areas of Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. There were over a dozen young alligators within the first 300 yards or so, posing for my camera then slipping off into the water.

Wood Stork Rookery, Harris Neck

Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) were once a symbol of the diminishing wetland habitat necessary for their survival in the swamps of the Southeast.  For a time one of the most endangered species in America, recent years have seen gains in their population, enough so that the Fish & Wildlife Service is considering removing them from the endangered list. They would still have a threatened status. A friend of mine recently suggested I not place them on a “vanishing” site; in honor of her positive outlook, I offer them as an evocation of how far we’ve come in protecting Georgia’s wetlands but a reminder in how much we still need to fight to protect them. Anyone who has been around Coastal Georgia in the past few years knows that population and development race forward, nearly unfettered.

Visiting Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in late winter and early spring when the Wood Storks, along with myriad other waterfowl and waders are abundant, is a must-do when in McIntosh County.

Dolphin Tours & Shrimp Boats, Tybee Island

Lazaretto Creek GA Tybee Island Chatham County Captain Mikes Dolphin Tour Boats Ecotourism Coco's Bar Seafood Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

Lazaretto Creek is located on the edge of Tybee Island and can be accessed at the Lazaretto Creek Fishing Pier off U. S. Highway 80 or just over the Lazaretto Creek Bridge. It’s a great area for tourists and locals alike to stop and take in the salt marsh scenery. Georgia’s endangered shrimping industry is usually represented with a few boats and Captain Mike’s bright yellow Dolphin boats (in business since 1992) herald a boom in ecotourism. It’s really a nice contrast between old and new.

Lazaretto Creek GA Tybee Island Chatham County Shrimp Boats Savannah Confederate Flag Atlantic Ocean Tidal Creek Salt Marsh Seafood Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013


Kayakers on Cathead Creek, McIntosh County

Ecotourism has experienced a boom in recent years and though Georgia is just beginning to embrace it on a large scale, it is alive and well in the coastal counties, thanks to outfitters like Altamaha Coastal Tours.

If you’re interested, visit their website, or look for others who can help guide you through the complex network of tidal creeks and inlets that characterize the Georgia coast.