Kayaking and Canoeing
Probably the single best kayak/canoe adventure in Savannah is the run across the Back River from Tybee to Little Tybee Island, an undeveloped State Heritage Site that despite its name is actually twice as big as Tybee, albeit mostly marsh. Many kayakers opt to camp on the island. You can even follow the shoreline out into the Atlantic, but be aware that wave action can get intense offshore.
Begin the paddle at the public boat ramp on the Back River. To get there, take Butler all the way to 18th Street and take a right, then another quick right onto Chatham Avenue. The parking lot for the landing is a short way up Chatham on your left. (Warning: Do not attempt to swim to Little Tybee no matter how strong a swimmer you think you are—the currents are exceptionally vicious. Also, do not be tempted to walk far out onto the Back River beach at low tide. The tide comes in very quickly and often strands people on the sandbar.)
Many local kayakers put in at the Lazaretto Creek landing, at the foot of the Lazaretto Creek bridge on the south side of U.S. Highway 80 on the way to Tybee Island. This is a peaceful, pretty paddle for novice and experienced kayakers alike.
One of the great overall natural experiences in the area is the massive Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (912/652-4415, www.fws.gov/savannah, daily dawn–dusk, no fee). This 30,000-acre reserve—half in Georgia, half in South Carolina—is on the Atlantic Flyway, so you’ll be able to see birdlife in abundance, in addition to alligators and manatee. Earthen dikes crisscrossing the refuge are vestigial remnants of rice paddies from plantation days.
You can kayak on your own, but many opt to take guided tours offered by Wilderness Southeast (912/897-5108, www.wilderness-southeast.org, two-hour trips start at $37.50 for two people), Sea Kayak Georgia (888/529-2542, www.seakayakgeorgia.com, $55 per person), and Swamp Girls Kayak Tours (843/784-2249, www.swampgirls.com, $45). To get there, take U.S. Highway 17 north over the big Talmadge Bridge, over the Savannah River into South Carolina. Turn left on South Carolina Highway 170 South and look for the entrance to Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive on the left.
Another pleasant kayaking route is the Skidaway Narrows. Begin this paddle at the public boat ramp, which you find by taking Waters Avenue all the way until it turns to Whitefield Avenue and then Diamond Causeway. Continue all the way over the Moon River to a drawbridge; park at the foot of the bridge. Once in the water, paddle northeast. Look for the osprey nests on top of the navigational markers in the Narrows as you approach Skidaway Island State Park. Continuing on you’ll find scenic Isle of Hope high on a bluff to your left, with nearly guaranteed dolphin sightings around marker 62.
Farther out of town but worth the trip for any kayaker is the beautiful blackwater Ebenezer Creek, near the tiny township of New Ebenezer in Effingham County. Cypress trees lining this nationally designated Wild and Scenic River hang overhead and wildlife abounds in this peaceful paddle. Look for old wooden sluice gates, vestiges of the area’s rice plantation past. To get there, take Exit 109 off I-95. Go north on Highway 21 to Rincon, Georgia, then east on Highway 275 (Ebenezer Rd.). Put in at the Ebenezer Landing ($5).
The one-stop shop for local kayaking information, tours, and equipment is Sea Kayak Georgia (1102 Hwy. 80, 888/529-2542, www.seakayakgeorgia.com), run by Tybee Islanders Marsha Henson and Ronnie Kemp.
Another popular tour operator is Savannah Canoe & Kayak (2169 Tennessee Ave., 912/341-9502, www.savannahcanoeandkayak.com).
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition