Story + Photography by Michele Roldán-Shaw
I must admit, I was a little reticent at first to paddle Abercorn Creek. A wild tributary of the Savannah, it appears on a satellite map hemmed in by solid fields of green. When I did the usual Google recon, all that came up was a sordid headline about a missing woman whose body was pulled from a submerged sedan just off the landing (foul play suspected). The location did not recommend itself — and yet, I conceded, it wasn’t the creek’s fault. Perhaps I could find peace there, the silent non-judgment of nature.
My trepidation increased when I got there and saw two expensive speedboats putting in ahead of me. “Why did I come on a Saturday?,” I grumbled to myself. I forgot how these Georgia yahoos roll, rippin’ around, cutting wakes — they’re gonna swamp me out! I felt like turning tail for home. But after many years of adventuring, I’ve learned to know the difference between a real warning bell and my own bad attitude. This was the latter, and it needed to be curbed.
I wasn’t 50 yards out before my sullenness dissolved in an instant: wild spider lilies! One of my favorite flowers and a rare sight in the salty Lowcountry (I mostly associate them with Florida), I was thrilled to find the banks here dusted with their blooms for miles. In fact, Abercorn Creek was like a little slice of Florida with masses of elephant ear and palmetto, wild grape vines strung everywhere and some dense shrubby tree that resembled mangroves with its matted branches growing out of the muck. There were no bugs and it smelled like flowers. Moss-hung cypress trees towered overhead. Barred-owl hoots echoed from the mysterious interior. What on land was a still hot summer morning of gray skies and oppressiveness, here was a pleasant situation graced with cool river breezes. I was so glad I’d come.
I can’t report much else from this yellow muddy stream; it was more of the same the whole way, just the peace I was looking for. The yahoos and their blaring country music left me far behind, and nothing else came to trouble the waters. There was absolutely nowhere to land in this formidable country of bogged-out woods and reedy reptile wallows — where I’m certain panthers yet lurk — so with no way to answer the call of nature, I had to turn back despite much more to explore. Rounding a bend I came upon two gators sunning on a mudbank, which startled all of us, and one of them was massive. Yet the 13-footer beat a sheepish retreat, while the little 4-footer stood his ground! A lot of things about this place had surprised me. Next time I try to judge a creek by its headlines, I’ll know better.
If you go
Location: Rincon, Georgia
Mode of transportation: Kayak
How to get there: From Old Augusta Road South in Rincon, turn right onto Abercorn Road, then left onto Abercorn Landing Road. Hang a left upstream, or go right and you’ll soon reach the Savannah River. Look for wild spider lilies blooming this time of year.