Paddling To Cumberland Island. Part 1

Of course, we didn’t plan this ourselves. We left the logistics up to High Country Adventures of Atlanta who provided the sea kayaks, all the gear and, most importantly, our dauntless guides.

But what all of us did plan on was an adventurous get-away, the chance to explore one of the country’s most protected seashores and the opportunity to learn a new sport.

From the time we left the rocky boat ramp in St. Mary’s, we knew we were getting what we planned for and more.

Riding the tidal waters of the St. Mary’s River down to the Intra-coastal waterway and across the sound, we encountered bottlenose dolphins, blue herons and a kamikaze tug boat. Thanks to the swift movement of the tide and the “full speed ahead” tactics of a tug boat captain, we made the black mud banks of the island in record time – under 4 hours.

Campers and day tourists exiting the ferry, “Cumberland Queen,” stared down from the dock in awe and disbelief. “Ya’ll kayaked from St. Mary’s?” asked a middle-aged man carrying his cooler and camping supplies. Looking back across the choppy waters of the intra-coastal waterway, I grinned and said, “Yes, we did!”

Eighteen miles long and three miles across at its widest point, Cumberland Island is a coastal guard for Georgia’s Atlantic mainland. Lining its edge are green salt marshes that wave you in, like the slow, rhythmic hand of a southern belle.

Rising up from the hard and packed earth, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss create a thick and shadowy canopy, fanning over saw-tooth and cabbage palms. Magnolias and cedars also find their place among the flora and fauna of the old maritime forest.

Although inhabited for centuries first by Native Americans then by white men, the island is protected by an Act of Congress passed in 1972 that ” permanently preserves its primitive state.…” When walking the island’s wide trails, you get a sense of what it must have been like for the early settlers who arrived for the sea air, isolated location and excellent fishing.

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