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Looking back at the Ogeechee River
Early Ogeechee River Bridge
An old wooden bridge near Guyton over the Ogeechee River connecting Effingham to Bulloch County. - photo by Photo provided

The Ogeechee River flowing through our county begins in Greene County in the Georgia Piedmont and flows 245 miles to empty into Ossabaw Sound, approximately 15 miles south of Savannah. The name loosely translated means “River of the Uchees” or “our mother,” referring to a sub-tribe of the Creek Indian Confederation.

The water flows through relatively flat territory in our county. There are many swampy areas with mud flats and small branches emptying into the river basin. The river is prone to flooding with heavy rainfall, but is mostly a shallow river, suitable for kayaking and fishing.

It is a “black water” river, carrying a high load of dissolved organic carbon that gives a “tea” color to the water. Unlike other black water rivers, the Ogeechee has a high pH (near 7.0) due to a large input of carbonate-rich water from Magnolia Springs in Jenkins County, which empties into the basin north of Effingham.

The river and its accompanying hardwood swamps are habitat for deer, turtles, alligators, raccoons, otters, foxes, coyotes and many species of birds. You will see many bird varieties. including owls, ducks, woodpeckers, songbirds and wading birds.

The Steel Bridge Landing on Highway 119 South is now maintained by Effingham County Parks and Recreation and has been a site for family picnics, gatherings and swimming through many generations. There is a public boat landing maintained there.  Some families own recreational cabins or live along the river. These structures are mostly built on elevated timbers to withstand flooding.

Most enjoy the river and its sports so much that they are willing to endure the occasional flood and its consequences. Recently, fish kills and pollution have brought notoriety to the formerly pristine natural setting loved by fisherman, hunters and nature enthusiasts. The Ogeechee Riverkeeper, a watch organization, has brought charges against a textile industry, King America Finishing, located north of our county. Those along the river are fighting back to restore the river to its former pristine state.

The accompanying photographs show the drastic change when the modern bridge replaced the old wooden rickety bridge. Known for dark, clear waters and sand bars, this river has entertained Effingham’s citizens for generations, providing relaxation and recreation. Not always sanctioned by their parents, young people have often gravitated to the area, which in times gone by had a rough reputation.

On weekends you still find families with children on the water at Steel Bridge Landing in the warm weather.  Kayaking, fishing and hunting all draw the nature lover to spend awhile on the quiet waters of the Ogeechee. 

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society.  If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: