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St. Marys River Basin
A remote blackwater stream, the St. Marys River is located in southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida, forming the easternmost border between the two states.
The St. Marys River begins deep within the Okefenokee Swamp and flows along a twisting 130-mile-long path into the Cumberland Sound and the Atlantic Ocean only 40 air-miles from its headwaters.
A blackwater river colored by decaying peat and vegetation, the St. Marys River contains little suspended sediment. Extensive swamps and marshes have curbed urban development and pollution discharge points are few. The St. Marys River is considered to have excellent water quality by the Florida and Georgia agencies responsible for monitoring and managing water resources. With few river crossings and little development along its banks, the St. Marys River is used primarily for recreational and sightseeing purposes. Activities are highlighted in the online guide — The St. Marys River Guide.
While overall water quality is good, there are specific areas of deterioration, causing concern for the river’s future. Alligator Creek in Florida and Spanish Creek in Georgia have been degraded by surface water discharges from wastewater treatment plants.
The biggest concern for the water quality of the St. Marys River and other coastal rivers is secondary impacts from development, such as chemical and pesticide runoff from lawns and streets, and leaking septic tanks.
A top priority of the St. Marys River Management Committee is to minimize septic tank leakage into the river. Members work with the river’s surrounding four counties to introduce procedures, ordinances and regulations to implement setback rules, and identify and remediate failing septic systems. The committee also developed and maintains a management plan to guide the river’s future.
Boaters must maneuver around many fallen trees and shallow sandbars, which were formed by swirling currents.
The committee was formed in 1991 when the river was being studied for inclusion in the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers program. Since that time, the committee has evolved into a group whose primary focus is to audit local management of the river. Its members are volunteers who represent the four counties that border the river and form the dominant portion of the basin: Charlton and Camden counties in Georgia, and Baker and Nassau counties in Florida. (Although a portion of Ware County, Ga., also borders the St. Marys River Basin, it is under the management and jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)
For information about the St. Marys River and the management committee, visit the committee’s website, or write to:
St. Marys River Management Committee
P.O. Box 251
Folkston, GA 31537
Updated on 2-8-2013