The Heroes of the Altamaha

A cast of characters throughout the ages have protected this wild and mighty river. Meet some of the most notable.

In 1791 famed naturalist William Bartram published an account of his journey through eight southern colonies including a visit to the Altamaha. While there he documented the rare Franklin tree which is now extinct in the wild; all cultivated specimens descend from seeds he collected.

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has provided significant funding to protect the Altamaha. “The Conservancy helped us appreciate the significance of the Altamaha more than 20 years ago. Thanks to their persistent efforts, future generations will enjoy this river in perpetuity.” - Russ Hardin, Foundation president

Before, during and after becoming President of the United States, Jimmy Carter personally and politically supported preserving Georgia’s natural heritage including the Altamaha River.

Without decades of vision from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, protecting the Altamaha would have been impossible. From leaders like Noel Holcomb, Mike Harris, Steve Friedman and Mark Williams and countless field staff, the people of the DNR are tenacious and dedicated.

The first female vice-chairman of the Conservancy’s national Board of Trustees, political powerhouse and courageous conservationist Jane Yarn took out a personal loan in 1969 to buy an island in the mouth of the Altamaha and then helped protect many other special places in Georgia.

The strong and steadfast Tavia McCuean served as state director for the Conservancy in Georgia for two decades. It was her foresight that led to early land acquisitions that now anchor a 42-mile long protected corridor.

Who are the heroes of the Rafinesque’s big-eared bats, the swallow-tailed kites, and the Eastern indigo snakes? The trees – the ancient cypress, bottomland hardwoods and longleaf pines – and those who work to protect these special forests.

Bill Haynes grew up on the banks of Black Island Creek. He organized The Rally to Save the Altamaha, a grassroots effort with fishermen, shrimpers, farmers and others that helped prevent changes like channelization that could have been the end of this great river as we know it.

Carrying forth the legacy of strong women working to defend this river, over her 16 year career with the Conservancy Alison McGee has helped protect and care for some of the most iconic areas around the river including Moody Forest.

“The Altamaha is irrepressibly and exotically beautiful,” writes Janisse Ray. This Georgia-born author has written about the Altamaha and surrounding forests in her memoirs and other publications, raising the profile of this wild river.