Take a look at this interesting, educational video offering aerial perspective of the meandering St. Marys River, the dividing line of east coast Florida and Georgia. Learn about the river with narration by Rick Frey, the St. Marys Riverkeeper. Glimpse scenes above Fernandina on Amelia Island’s north end and adjacent Cumberland Island at Atlantic Ocean, then flying westerly with SouthWings along the river to the Okefenokee Swamp, its headwaters.
How Long Is The St. Marys River?
The St. Marys flows around 140 miles to the ocean, according to the riverkeeper, but is around 50 miles “by way the crow flies.” The source of the river is the Okefenokee Swamp.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
“The swamp is thought to be 6,000-8,000 years old. It is contained in a saucer-shaped depression that drains toward the south and southwest. Drainage from the swamp forms the headwaters for the St. Marys River and the Suwannee River. Indians inhabited the swamp for centuries and coined the term ‘Okefenokee’ which means “land that trembles when you walk on it.”
Possibly Bring Back Oyster Harvesting?
The river is currently designated for recreational use (i.e. swimming, watersports, fishing). The St. Marys River is a “very high quality river,” compared to the St. Johns River, according to riverkeeper Frey.
Even so, the U.S. EPA considers the St. Marys “impaired,” (explained in the video). Besides the Riverkeeper’s objective to “preserve and conserve” the river, it’s interesting to hear another goal mentioned is to “allow estuaries to clean up.” If accomplished, this could lead to allowing oyster harvesting, once again. It would be a wonderful accomplishment to bring the river back as a food source for oysters!
A Look Back — Amelia Island Oysters
Thousands of years ago, native Timucuan Indians picked the location of settlements based on life’s sustenance. They lived off the land and the sea, and here on Amelia Island, a major staple of Indian life was raw oysters. Archaeological digs on this barrier island reveal Indian oyster shell middens, the discards of these former island dwellers.
Oyster shells were also used in early building techniques. Tabby walls can still be seen in Fernandina’s Bosque Bello cemetery, located adjacent to Old Town, dating back to Spanish occupation of the island.
Nassau County, Florida’s history included oyster canning and shipping. “Fernandina is a good location, for the oysters are plentiful, the territory large, and the shipping facilities particularly good,” according to a book published in 1890, “The Secrets of Canning” by Earnest Schwabb. In more recent times, there’s been a moratorium on oyster harvesting in the Amelia River Basin (since 1984).
Want To Help The Riverkeeper?
The St. Marys Riverkeeper welcomes volunteers, memberships, and donations. Find out more information by visiting the St. Marys Riverkeeper website.
VIDEO, PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS: This flyover was made possible with the help of SouthWings, “Conservation Through Aviation,” providing “high altitude visibility for watersheds,” and photography by Pieter Jordaan.