09:24:11, Georgia,31° 18.189’N, 83° 3.217’W – It’s a short but seldom seen journey, just under 3 miles there and back, so no excuses for not checking this out near Willacoochee or Lakeland, Georgia.
Drop your kayak in on the Alapaha river where it crosses under the Highway 135 bridge just south of Willacoochee at 31° 18.189’N, 83° 3.217’W. Unless you have a four wheel drive don’t try to get down to the river’s edge. You’ll just bog down in a big sand flat, especially if the water level is low like it was for me. Park up closer to the highway and drag your boat the rest of the way. Get used to it. This will be the first of many slogs today but the destination is worth the drag.
The Alapaha didn’t qualify as a creek, much less a river. It was so shallow a couple of local fisherman had driven their truck right up the middle of the river. As I approached on foot with kayak in tow, two chiwawas jumped from the front seat of the truck and proceeded with their attack run. The sight of my big ugly yellow kayak as well as my growling dog, Dawson scared them right back in the truck. I chatted with the fishermen wondering how they thought they could catch anything. I had a sneaking feeling they were just looking for a reason to hang out down by the river. I understood perfectly and headed downstream. However, I was surprised around the bend by water deep enough to paddle and there were nice sized fish swimming under the boat.
The Alapaha is thin and twisted along this stretch with crystal white sand banks holding onto lots of tree action. Real drop dead gorgeous scenery but a workout to navigate. You’ll be in and out of the boat more times than you care to count but just deal with it and press on. I got about a mile in and there was so much tree action that I thought I could make better time by walking the river instead of paddling so I grabbed my gear and hoofed off leaving the boat behind on a sandbank. I doubted anyone would stumble upon it let alone try to slog it out of here.
You can make good time actually walking in the river. There’s a four wheeler trail along the bank if you’re in the mood for a woodsy experience. Soon you’ll start to see hand painted signs on ragged wooden planks reading KEEP OUT in real old school South Georgia design style. If that scares you at all then just keep to the middle of river. Chances are you’ll see no one.
I wish I would have slogged the boat just a bit further when I walked around a couple of bends to a straightaway that was full of water and clean of deadfall. But no worries, after the next turn I was at the destination. It’s long railroad bridge that cuts across a big patch of sandy beach at 31° 17.384’N, 83° 2.894’W. There’s plenty of room to inspect the length of the entire bridge. You should spend some time walking it’s underbelly. You’ll see some interesting fortifications and what’s left over from the previous design.
After the bridge and you have gotten acquainted, time to have a seat, take off your shoes, bury your dawgs in the pearly white sand, soak up the sunshine and listen to the wonderful nothingness of the Alapha river under the blue southern sky. If you’re lucky enough the only interruption will be a passing train overhead.
– Steve Tanner