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Altamaha River

  • The Altamaha River supports the largest concentration of rare species of any river in Georgia.
  • The Nature Conservancy has worked on the Altamaha since the late 1960s and has helped protect almost 100,000 acres in the watershed.
  • This mighty waterway is vital to the health of the Georgia coast; the Altamaha carries nutrients to the plants and animals that live in the estuary where the river meets the ocean. The protected forests that surround the river cleans harmful chemicals from the water and ensures that just the right amount of water at the right time is flowing into the ocean.

You can learn much about the Altamaha River by talking to the folks dedicated to saving it: its importance to the state economy, its inseparable connection to the Georgia coast, the wondrous amount of life it supports. But what will really stick with you—what you’ll remember long after the facts and stats have been forgotten—is how incredibly passionate these people are. 

For the conservation staff at The Nature Conservancy and our many partners like the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Altamaha isn’t just a step on a conservation career path—it’s a career in and of itself. That’s because the Altamaha is special, even in a state blessed with an abundance of incredible rivers and streams.  

The Altamaha belongs to Georgia and Georgia alone. Formed by the joining of the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers in North Georgia, the Altamaha River flows 137 miles through 53 counties—draining nearly a quarter of the state—before emptying into the Atlantic near Darien, where its steady output of clean water sustains one of the most robust and healthy estuaries on the East coast. 

Along its course, the Altamaha supports the largest concentration of rare species of any river in the state. Its mainstem is undammed and free-flowing, creating a relatively intact and healthy ecosystem.

The Conservancy long ago made the Altamaha River a focus of its freshwater and coastal conservation work, purchasing its first parcels in the watershed in the late 1960s – two small barrier islands that are formed from the sediment and sand the river washes downstream. The Conservancy’s long commitment to the Altamaha and coast has become a testing ground for a bold new conservation strategy of protecting entire landscapes and ecosystems

A massive biological inventory of the watershed was begun in 1992 and completed four years later (although conservationists will point out that, as long as there are boots on the ground and in the water, inventories are never over). That study—which found more than 120 rare or endangered plant and animal species—informed the evolution of what is now one of the most successful conservation projects in Georgia.  

Working with the Georgia DNR and private landowners, the Conservancy has protected almost 100,000 acres of ecologically important lands within the watershed, including creating a 42-mile contiguous corridor of conserved lands all the way out to coastal barrier islands. 

The Altamaha River offers excellent recreational opportunities for kayakers, anglers or those simply interested in experiencing nature in its most pristine form.

As we help manage and steward protected lands, we’ll continue to work within the watershed to identify and protect other important areas to ensure the incredible Altamaha flows healthy and free for generations to come. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Follow the links below to find out how you can visit, support and learn more about the mighty Altamaha River or contact our staff for more information.

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