article, written & published several years ago, best describes this
wonderful area of the
The New York Times
Wednesday, November 29,
By ROBERT CORAM
Published November 3, 2006
AMERICAN JOURNEYS; Shifting Sands and a Slow Pace on the Georgia Coast
If the Bluffs are not at the end of the world, they
are in the same ZIP code.
Midway between Savannah and Sea Island
on the Georgia coast, they sit ,
uncelebrated, in the northeastern corner of McIntosh County,
slightly more than a four -hour drive from
Atlanta. If you look hard, you will find them on the map:
contiguous fishing villages called
Shellman Bluff, Contentment Bluff and
No more than a few dozen people live full time along the high bluffs
that give the villages their names
Most streets are not paved.
Outside the mobile homes and small frame houses, almost every yard has a
boat trailer. Everywhere are enormous moss-draped oaks. Cell
phone coverage is spotty, and tourists are rare enough so that locals
instantly recognize anyone who "is not from around here."
But travelers so find their way here,
and they tend to
return, sometimes over and over again.
They boat and fish in
the creeks and rivers that wend through the greatest expanse of salt
marsh on the East Coast
(a third of the remaining marsh on the
Seaboard is in Georgia).
Island, owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service,
and walk on beaches
devoid of other people.
Some drive half an hour to
take the ferry to
Sapelo Island, where a mansion remains that was once
owned by the tobacco tycoon
R. J. Reynolds.
If things seem too
quiet at night they can drive up to
Savannah, about an hour away, for
some city-style night life.
They can also come at any time of the year.
temperatures rarely drop into the 30's, and in January the days are
almost always in the 60's.
I have been going to the
for more than 30 years, and I have gone swimming in the ocean near the
Bluffs on New Year's Day.
Rich Lehman, 41, a concrete salesman, towed his boat about 900 miles to
the Bluffs last summer from Fort Wayne, Ind.
, for a weeklong vacation
with his wife, Marcy and two daughters , Chelsey, 21, and Taylor, 17.
The Lehmans had been to
three times , and on this trip they
wanted something more remote with fewer visitors, yet still fairly close
to restaurants and tourist attractions. They found it, and they
plan to return.
Taylor and Chelsey were content to comb the
and swim in the
ocean and ,
at low tide, off the long sandbar across the
from the house they rented.
And of course the Lehmans went boating.
the waters at the Bluffs are tricky. They have some of the highest
tides on the
East Coast, seven to nine feet. in places the ebb
tide races along at five knots. The sandbars are numerous and shift
frequently, and Mr. Lehman hit one of them,
broke the gears in the lower
unit of his engine and had to be towed to a marina.
But, he said, what
remained strongest in his memory from the trip was "hanging out on a
The string of
off the Georgia coast
are separated from
the mainland by as much as none miles of salt marshes
-- expanses of
brown and gold with their own mesmerizing beauty.
Boat out beyond
the marsh to the wide, flat islands, and you'll find the surf pounding
onto fine, whitish sand.
Near the Bluffs, most of the
are owned by the state or the federal government and remain
largely undeveloped. there is no causeway to any of them; access
is only by boat.
Once this stretch of coast was a dynamic place, a center of commerce and
More than a half-century before the English arrived at
Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, the Spanish had missions and fortifications
here, the largest and most important on nearby
St. Catherines Island.
The Spanish foothold was "founded earlier, involved more people and
lasted longer" than did the mission culture of the Southwest, according
to David Hurst Thomas,
an anthropologist at the American Museum of
Natural history in New York who has excavated the mission on
St. Catherine's Island.
Edward Teach, the notorious pirate known as
Blackbeard, plundered this
coast, and some of his treasure is said to be buried on the island named
Black Beard Island - the island roamed by Mr. Lehman and his family.