Crooked River Paddling Guide

Crooked River Paddling Guide

Kayaker on Crooked River. Crooked River. Crooked River State Park offers the perfect staging area for paddlers exploring the Georgia coast, including Cumberland Island.

For paddlers voyaging to Cumberland Island National Seashore, Crooked River provides the shortest and most enjoyable route starting from a public boat ramp on the mainland. Even if the destination is the chief attraction, journey by paddle enhances the overall Cumberland experience. The river is a typical coastal estuary, the safe passage of which requires deference to tides and wind. 

MAPS: National Park Service; Harrietts Bluff, Cumberland Island South, Cumberland Island North (USGS); Camden (County). See an interactive Google map showing the boat ramp at Crooked River State Park.
Class: Tidal River; Length: 13.1 miles; Time: 4 hours (with ideal conditions); Gauge: Web; Level: Tidal; Scenery: B-
DESCRIPTION: Paddling trips to Cumberland Island may take the form of a day trip or an overnight stay. The 13-mile roundtrip to Plum Orchard packs plenty into a single day. Campers either continue up Brickhill River to camp at Brickhill Bluff or take out at Plum Orchard and backpack into Cumberland's interior. Your choice of back country campsites must be arranged in advance with the Park Service. Permits are issued at the Cumberland Island Ferry Landing Visitor Center in St. Marys. Obtaining a permit requires a reservation or luck; there is a strict cap on the number of campers allowed on the island and reservations are often exhausted months in advance. In the absence of a reservation, all is not lost; no-shows sometimes free up permits for walk-ons. Phone (888) 817-3421 or (912) 882-4335 for reservatoins. Additionally, there is a $2 per day parking fee at the Crooked River State Park boat ramp. 
The trip can be a leisurely jaunt or an odyssey, depending on conditions. With the wind and tide going your way, the 6-mile trip to Plum Orchard takes a couple hours. Going against a stiff wind can exhaust the entire 6-hour tide window, particularly for open canoes. Along the way, the surrounding terrain of coastal-marsh mud flats is covered with grass slightly higher than a paddler's eyes. The width and openness of the scene, combined with the absence of stopping points along the way, can make inland paddlers feel vulnerable. Above the grass, forests are visible in the distance. Boat traffic consists of pleasure craft: anglers fishing from motorboats and the occasional sailboat. You may encounter commercial traffic where Crooked River crosses the Intercoastal Waterway. Needless to say, stay out of the way and make your crossing snappy. 
Regardless of the weather, bring apparel or insect repellent that protects exposed flesh, not least of all your hands, from biting insects. The bug nuisance peaks at the boat ramps. The bites continue to torment long after your paddle strokes outdistance the swarms, so cover yourself preemptively before you start packing your boat for launch. 
Time your launch carefully with all of the following phenomena in mind: sunrise and sunset; high and low tides; the lag between tide reversal and when the current gets moving in the desired direction; wind direction and strength; the time of day at which you can pick up your permit; and the time required to drive from St. Marys to Crooked River boat ramp. Given that some of these variables are not known in advance, arrive knowing the next feasible launch time in case conditions don't allow you to launch when you want to. 
SHUTTLE: Crooked River State Park is located at the end ofGA Spur 40. Take 1-95 to Exit 3 for GA 40 East. Turn left at GA Spur 40 and proceed to the boat ramp. 
GAUGE: For tidal flows on Crooked River, use the National Weather Service's Web site for Jacksonville tides.
Tagged with: Crooked River Paddling Guides Georgia Coast

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For paddlers voyaging to Cumberland Island, Crooked River provides the shortest and most enjoyable route starting from a boat ramp on the mainland at Crooked River State Park.
Jen and Pete says:

Crooked River State Park is a beautiful, kayaker friendly facility located on the Crooked River in S.E. Georgia. The Crooked River indeed offers beautiful paddling, and is our preferred launch point for paddling to Cumberland Island. We often see Osprey, Bald Eagles, Dolphins and a number of other Coastal Critters in and around the Crooked River. Due to the wide-open nature of the Crooked River, and the extreme nature of the tidal currents in that area, BE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE TIDES for your trip before you launch (Or you’ll Definitely learn about them the hard way later…). And be sure there’s at least one experienced paddler in your group! For assistance with Tide and Weather information, Kayak/gear Rentals and Repair, or Shuttles, just give us a call at Up The Creek Xpeditions (912-882-0911) and we’ll be happy to assist you in any way we can. Happy Paddling!

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