In the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Seneca and Tugaloo rivers meet to form the Savannah River, which then flows more than 300 miles to the Atlantic Ocean, dividing Georgia and South Carolina.
The Savannah River supplies water to two major Georgia cities – Savannah and Augusta – as well as several rapidly growing coastal counties in Georgia and South Carolina. More than 1.5 million people rely on the Savannah for drinking water. The river is also harnessed for hydropower and supports growing industrial uses including a large sea port.
The lower Savannah River, beginning just below the Thurmond Lake reservoir near Augusta and extending to the coastal estuaries, is fed by a number of tributaries, including Brier Creek and Stevens Creek. This portion of the river system – which is the focus of The Nature Conservancy’s work – harbors more than 110 species of fish including the robust redhorse and the endangered shortnose sturgeon. The rare shoals spider lily struggles for existence on the remaining 4 percent of its native habitat.
Swallow-tailed kites inhabit bottomland forests of cypress and tupelo, which extend for miles on either side of the river. High bluffs along the river support many rare and unusual plant species, and stands of native longleaf pine forest stretch from the river’s eastern side. The lower river basin also includes small isolated wetland communities like Carolina bays and cypress domes, which harbor the rare Boykin’s lobelia and pondberry and a variety of amphibians like striped newts and flatwoods salamanders.
Focused on the lower Savannah River and its tributaries, staff from The Nature Conservancy’s Georgia and South Carolina programs work with more than 40 federal, state, and local partners, academic researchers, and other organizations to sustain and restore the river’s ecological health.
In 2004 and 2005, the Conservancy worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of the national Sustainable Rivers Project to conduct a series of controlled floods from the Thurmond Dam to restore seasonal patterns in the lower Savannah River. The project’s ultimate goal is the restoration of more than 200 miles of river, 70,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, and 20,000 acres of estuary.
Christi Lambert, SE GA Conservation Director
2865 US HWY 17
P.O. Box 484
Darien, GA 31305
Learn how changing flows from dams can produce benefits for people and nature.