Join Georgia River Network (GRN) and St. Marys Riverkeeper on the St Marys River Water Trail for GRN’s 18th Hidden Gem Event. Participants will enjoy delicious meals, live entertainment and tent camping near the beach under gorgeous live oak and palmetto forest. There will be fascinating presentations about wildlife, local lore, coastal restoration efforts and an opportunity to enjoy and explore Cumberland Island by kayak/foot/bicycle. Food for all meals will be sourced from local farmers and fisherman! Tickets are available to accommodate physically fit sea kayakers desiring to join the group paddling from the mainland to Cumberland Island, as well as for those who would like to take the ferry across and enjoy the weekend event.
"St. Marys is the gateway to Cumberland Island, Georgia's largest and southernmost barrier island. Here pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and wide marshes whisper the stories of both man and nature. Natives, missionaries, enslaved African Americans and Wealthy Industrialists all walked here. Cumberland Island is also home to over 9,800 acres of Congressionally designated Wilderness." National Park Service Website.
Participants will enjoy paddling/taking the ferry through the Golden Isles of Coastal Georgia from the historic town of St Marys through marsh, open/blue water, and along the south end of Cumberland island to our destination at Dungeness. We will camp at 'Sea Camp' Friday and Saturday night. The campsites are primitive without electricity or plumbing however it is only a short walk to the bathhouse which has cold showers. We will travel over to the island Friday afternoon, set up camp, relax and enjoy a delicious catered dinner. We will spend Saturday on Cumberland exploring by kayak/ foot/ bicycle and enjoy educational presentations/programs followed by dinner and live evening entertainment. We will pack up Sunday morning and return to the mainland after enjoying our last hot breakfast on the island!
SPECIAL PROGRAM - CAROL RUCKDESCHEL
A special program will be given by Carol Ruckdeschel referred to as the “Road Kill Eating, Bareback Riding, Wild Woman of Cumberland Island” in the 2014 biography Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island, by Will Harlan. Ruckdeschel was instrumental in the creation and preservation of Cumberland Island National Seashore and does ongoing research on sea turtles and endangered and extinct species around the Georgia coast.
MARSH KAYAK ON CUMBERLAND
On Saturday, our paddling guides will lead those interested with kayaks on a 4 hour paddling adventure (including lunch and a walk-about) through the wildlife rich marshes of Cumberland. We will depart Dungeness Dock southbound for Beach Creek entrance, then up Beach Creek to “The Grange” and rear of Dungeness Ruins. We can get out and walk around a bit at this point to explore the Greene-Miller Cemetery nearby. Beach Creek is a twisty tidal creek, fairly deep in the channel, with mud flats during low tides, and plenty of Spartina and other marsh grasses. Lots of birds, some otters and other wildlife abound. We will arrive back to camp by early afternoon.
BIOLUMINESCENT NIGHT HIKE LED BY DR. BARRY O'NEILL
Dr. Barry O'Neill, a long time Cumberland Island enthusiast, will provide a 3 mile night hike to Dungeness dock and mansion Friday night. Wanna know how to sniff out wolf spiders, enjoy the bioluminescence of dinoflagellates in the intracoastal waters, identify the major winter constellations, learn how the zodiac constellations were selected by the ancients, understand the navigational importance of the North Star, and even find out if you are a truly altruistic soul? Then join us!
LIVE MUSIC BY DAVE GRIFFIN
Uncle Dave Griffin describes himself as a “writer of songs, planter of seeds, and teller of tales.” Growing up in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s has given him a unique sound that travels smoothly across the genres of Americana, Blues, Country, Folk, and Roots Rock. Griffin’s music is inspired by Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, CSNY, The Eagles, and Gram Parsons. He has spent his life playing music and honing his songwriting skills since 1974.
St. Marys Hidden Gem Itinerary
- DAY 1, NOV. 30 :: St Mary's (Mainland) to Dungeness Dock (Cumberland Isl.) - 7 miles
- DAY 2, DEC. 1 :: Spend the day exploring Cumberland Isl., enjoying presentations/programs, kayaking/bicycling/hiking to historic sites, fossil finding & beach combing
- DAY 3, DEC. 2 :: Dungeness Dock (Cumberland Isl.) to St Mary's (Mainland) - 7 miles
Paddling spots will be limited to physically fit participants with open/blue water kayaking experience. However, tickets are also available for those who would like to join us on Cumberland for the weekend event but not paddle. While paddlers will be led by experienced local guides, none will be prepared to pull paddlers who tire from lack of fitness. Paddlers must have an intermediate level of physical fitness.
St. Marys Hidden Gem Registration Information
Tickets are available to accommodate experienced sea kayakers desiring to join the group paddling from the mainland to Cumberland Island, as well as for those who would like to take the ferry across and enjoy the weekend event. While paddlers will be led by experienced local guides, none will be prepared to pull paddlers who tire from lack of fitness. Paddlers must have an intermediate level of physical fitness. Registration Fees include T-shirt, Map, NPS Day Use Fee, Camping Fee, ACA Insurance, Ferry Ticket, and Dinners, Lunches, and Hot Breakfasts.
$330 (Adult - 10 and older)
$160 (Child - 9 and under)
Island Paddler Hidden Gem Ticket: Participants must be physically fit with sea kayaking experience and able to paddle from the mainland to Cumberland Island (7 miles) on Friday and make the return journey on Sunday. Island Ferry Hidden Gem Ticket: This ticket is for those who would like to participate in the weekend event by taking the ferry to/from the mainland to Cumberland.
WHAT'S ON THE MENU?
MEALS provided by Creative Catering with food sourced from local Georgia farms!
FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER
- Low Country Boil to Include: Shrimp, Sausage, Corn on the Cobb, and Red Potatoes with Old Bay Seasoning and Butter
- Roasted Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Feta
- Apple and Cabbage Slaw
- Pecan Tarts
- Rolls and Butter
- Iced Tea and Lemonade
SATURDAY NIGHT DINNER
- Pulled Pork
- BBQ Chicken
- Fresh Garden Salad with Ranch
- Squash Casserole
- Sweet Potato Souffle
- Apple Crumble
- Rolls and Butter
- Iced Tea and Lemonade
FRIDAY, SATURDAY, AND SUNDAY BAG LUNCHES
- Wrap Sandwich with Lettuce and Tomato and Choice of: Tuna Salad, Egg Salad, Turkey, Roast Beef, or Veggie
- Chips or Popcorn
- Cookie or Brownie
- Piece of Fruit
- Breakfast Strata with Sausage and Cheese
- Potatoes with Peppers and Onions
- Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches
- Fresh Fruit Tray
- Asst. Muffins and Danishes
- OJ and Coffee
- French Toast Casserole
- Ham and Cheese Croissants
- Vegetable Frittata
- Fresh Fruit Tray
- Asst. Muffins and Danishes
- OJ and Coffee
HOW MANY PEOPLE PARTICIPATE?
50 spots are available for both experienced open/blue water paddlers and for those who will not paddle and instead take the ferry to the island. Participants of any age can join us for the event and take the ferry to/from the Cumberland Island.
CAN I GO FOR JUST PART OF THE TRIP?
Yes, but all registration fees are the same, regardless of how many days you attend. Those not attending all three days must make their own ferry arrangements.
WHAT DOES MY REGISTRATION FEE INCLUDE?
Your St Marys Hidden Gem registration fee includes a T-shirt, map, National Park Service Day Use Fees (3 days), camping at Sea Camp, ACA Insurance, ferry to/from island, entertainment, activities, and educational programs. Breakfast, dinner and sack lunches are also included in your registration fee. This includes two dinners for Nov 30-Dec 1, three lunches for Nov 30-Dec 2, and two breakfasts for Dec 1-2.
WHAT TIME DO I NEED TO ARRIVE ON FRIDAY NOV 30? WHEN WILL WE RETURN ON SUNDAY DEC 2?
We will hold a mandatory check in between 7:00AM and 7:30AM for all participants (Ouch! We know this is early, but time and tide wait for no man!) in St. Marys at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Visitor Center.
Island Ferry GA Gem Ticket Holders:
Participants taking the ferry should park at the free Cumberland Island parking area where your vehicle will remain for the duration of the trip. After checking in, please unload all of your camping gear onto the St Marys dock loading area. We will depart on the scheduled 9:00AM Ferry, arriving on Cumberland at approx. 9:45AM.
On Sunday, Dec 2 those taking the return Ferry will depart at 10:15AM and arrive around 11:00AM.
Island Paddler GA Gem Ticket Holders:
Paddlers will need to drop off their boat(s)/paddling gear between 6:30AM and 7:00AM at the Meeting St. Boat Launch (a volunteer will be stationed at the Meeting St. launch helping unload/secure boats and gear) BEFORE checking in at the Cumberland Visitor Center where you will then drop off your camping gear at the St. Marys Dock loading area. Once you have checked in and unloaded your camping gear you will return to the Meeting St. Boat Launch, park, and attend the MANDATORY SAFETY BRIEFING from 7:45AM-8:00AM and immediately depart for Cumberland. Please DO NOT leave any valuables in your vehicles.
On Sunday, Dec 2 paddlers will depart Cumberland Island at approx. 10:15AM arriving in St Marys around 1:30AM.
ARE THERE SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES FOR MY BUSINESS OR AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Yes! We would be delighted if you or your business would like to become an event sponsor! Please complete this sponsorship form. Your company logo will be included on promo material, the t-shirt, social media, newsletters, plus other perks based on your level of sponsorship.
IN WHAT WAYS CAN I VOLUNTEER DURING THE TRIP?
There will be a number of volunteer opportunities available during the trip ranging from assisting with hauling boats and gear, collecting firewood, to helping the chef and kitchen staff. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in signing up to assist. Nightly volunteer prizes will be available!
DO I NEED TO BE AN EXPERIENCED PADDLER?
Yes and No depending on the type of ticket you purchase. If you purchase the Island Hidden Gem Paddling Ticket (as opposed to the Island Ferry Ticket) and paddle 7 miles from the mainland to Cumberland Island you MUST be physically fit and have an intermediate level of open/blue water kayaking experience. While paddlers will be led by experienced local guides, none will be prepared to pull paddlers who tire from lack of fitness.
However, you do not need any paddling experience if you purchase the Island Hidden Gem Ferry Ticket which is available for those who would like to join us on Cumberland for the weekend event but not paddle.
We will also have a mandatory safety briefing before launching on Friday. If you have never sea kayaked before we ask that you purchase the Ferry Island Ticket or take a sea kayaking instruction class and gain some experience prior to signing up for this event. Contact the Georgia Canoe Association to find out about classes/trips being offered.
WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
If you purchase an Island Hidden Gem Paddling Ticket you are responsible for bringing a sea kayak, paddle and a personal flotation device. Your sea kayak should be of a size and weight that you and another person can carry. We will not allow anyone to paddle a recreational kayak!
Paddle Georgia does not supply or rent boats. See our full list of outfitters to secure your rental boat. Local area outfitters include: Darien - Altamaha Coastal Tours (912) 437-6010; St Simons Island - SouthEast Adventures (912) 638-6732 ; St. Mary’s - Up the Creek (912) 227-0414; Fernandina - Kayak Amelia (904) 251-5702.
All participants must bring standard camping gear including a tent and personal items. Please do not bring cooking appliances/ food (other than snacks unless you have special food preferences/ needs and have received special permission from GRN as space is limited for gear on the ferry.
WHERE DO WE CAMP?
During the St Mary’s Hidden Gem we will tent camp for 2 nights on Cumberland Island at Sea Camp. The campsites are primitive without running water or electricity however there is a bathhouse (with cold showers and toilet facilities) ¼ mile away.
Learn more about Sea Camp and Cumberland Island on the National Park Service Website.
DO I NEED TO BRING FOOD?
Breakfast, dinner and sack lunches are included in your registration fee, but participants may choose to bring their own food. Camilla, 12 miles to the east of our campsite, is the nearest supply point with grocery stores, restaurants and other amenities.
WHERE DO I LEAVE MY CAR?
After unloading your gear (and boat, if you are paddling), you will park your car at the free Cumberland Island parking area (30.7208885,-81.5514559)https://goo.gl/maps/sCP4q4KE2vz) for the entirety of the adventure. Once we return to the mainland on Sunday you will retrieve your vehicle, load your gear and return home.
CAN I BRING MY BICYCLE?
Bicycling is allowed on the island however there is limited space on the passenger ferry. We have your ferry ticket covered but you must arrange/purchase a ‘bicycle ferry’ ticket from the Cumberland Island Ferry:https://www.cumberlandislandferry.com. You can also rent a bicycle on the island rather than bringing your own.
FOR YOUR SAFETY AND THE SAFETY OF OTHERS:
- All paddling participants must attend the pre-launch safety briefing. Participants must adhere to the safety guidelines presented.
- Paddling participants must wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device at all times on the river.
- Participants under age 18 are the responsibility of, and must be accompanied by, a parent or guardian.
- Sorry, no pets allowed.
- All participants must sign a Medical and Emergency Contact Information sheet and a Waiver of Claims and Release of Liability form. Parents must sign for children under the age of 18. (Online links to these forms will be sent in the information packet.)
- Person-powered watercraft only.
- All paddling participants must have intermediate open/blue water paddling skills and be capable of self-rescue in the water.
- No more than 2 children under the age of 12 per adult guardian.
- Georgia River Network is not responsible for any personal property that may be lost, damaged, or stolen during the trip.
Violations of these policies can result in the participant being removed from the event without refund.
Any registration cancellations made by November 15 will incur a 10% processing fee. After November 15, no refunds will be granted. If you have questions or need assistance, call our office at 706-549-4508.
Don't forget to fill out your ACA waivers online! Once you have completed your online waiver(s), you will receive an email. Within the email, you will need to click on the included link to finalize submission of the form.
HUGE THANKS TO OUR LOCAL FARM /BREW SPONSORS:
- Uncle Dons Market
- Sweet Grass Dairy
- Grassroots Farms
- Sapelo Sea Farms
- Southern Brewing Company