The Hampton River, sometimes referred to as Hampton Creek, is a 12 mile tidal river that forms the channel between St. Simons Island and Little St. Simons Island.
Tag Archives: Natural History of Coastal Georgia
Shortly after departing the Port of Brunswick in the early hours of 8 September 2019, the 656′ cargo ship Golden Ray capsized in the waters of St. Simons Sound, between Driftwood Beach (Jekyll Island) and St. Simons Island. Loaded with around 4000 new Hyundai and Kia automobile en route to the Port of Baltimore, the ship sent out an emergency call around 2:00 AM and within two hours, 20 crew were rescued. 4 remained unaccounted for and a fire was raging on the unstable vessel. Holes were cut in the hull and they were extracted safely by the Coast Guard on Monday. Sector Charleston Capt. John Reed told reporters it was the best day of his career.
It was initially thought that the ship could be saved, but that proved to be infeasible. A recent report in the Navy Times suggests that it could remain in the sea for the next year. Coast Guard Cmdr. Matt Bear says “…the Golden Ray has been slowly sinking in the sand because of the powerful tides…and…the situation makes it impossible to get the ship upright without breaking it apart and creating an even bigger problem.”
One of the biggest immediate concerns at present is the environmental impact of the wreck. The ship’s 30,000-gallon fuel supply has been removed but contaminants from the 4000 vehicles yet to be extracted from the wreckage continue to pose a threat and oil continues to leak. Altamaha Riverkeeper has been monitoring pollution impact and has discovered oil slicks and tarballs in the marshes and tidal rivers of St. Simons and Jekyll Islands. While any environmental impact is potentially problematic for the area’s tourist and fishing economies, it isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, according to the Riverkeeper. The incident well illustrates the balance that must be struck between economic and environmental concerns.
Driving north from the Village, Massengale is the first public beach you will encounter. In recent years its popularity seems to have waned in favor of East Beach (Coast Guard Beach) but it’s still a great spot. The dunes here are nearly gone but are still recognizable as you enter the beach (above).
Located on Jekyll Creek, Shark Tooth Beach is perhaps the least known beach on the island, likely because it’s not a beach in the traditional sense. It gets its name from the prehistoric shark’s teeth commonly found here.
There’s no sign pointing you to Shark Tooth Beach. The name doesn’t even officially exist on maps and charts, but judging by the number of people who had found their way here at the time I visited, it isn’t as unknown as it once was. Still, it requires a hike or bike ride of about a mile. No motor vehicles are allowed.
The beach is littered with oyster shells and the remains of other marine life. Wrack dominates the high end of the tide line.
If you’re looking for isolation on Jekyll Island, and don’t mind the short hike, this may become one of your favorite spots.
The entrance to Shark Tooth Beach is located slightly south of the entrance to Summer Waves water park . Look for a simple gate on the right side of the road. You can park near the gate. Follow the trail to its end and you will reach the site. Shoes are strongly suggested as cacti and other sticky plants dominate sections of the trail, not to mention the sharp shells and other detritus on the beach.
Like all roads on Sapelo, the road to Cabretta Beach is devoid of even a stop sign and it’s usually a rough ride.
One of the prettiest views on the island is Blackbeard Creek as seen from the wooden bridge, built by the Department of Natural Resources.
Blackbeard Creek separates Cabretta Beach from Blackbeard Island, which is visible in the distance from the bridge.
At the north end of Sapelo Island is Cabretta Beach, sometimes referred to as Cabretta Island for its isolation at high tide. If you can imagine a place more isolated than Nanny Goat Beach, Cabretta might come to mind.
The only land-based point of access is the Cabretta Campground, which requires reservations. It’s a pristine natural area with a small comfort station and a canopy of Live Oaks.
A short walk through the dunes provides access to one of the most undisturbed beaches in Coastal Georgia.
Sea Oats are dominant here, as they are on all of Georgia’s Sea Islands.
Like Nanny Goat Beach, Cabretta is a prime example of a barrier island environment that has never been developed.
It remains a favored fishing and crabbing spot for the Gullah-Geechee people who call the island home.
If you walk the whole distance of Driftwood Beach, you’ll be at the northernmost point of Jekyll Island. A pine forest skirts the beach for some distance, though some may have been destroyed by the most recent hurricane. [These photos were made in 2014].
There’s still driftwood at this end of the beach, but it’s encountered less frequently.
Erosion is accelerated by St. Simons Sound and sand eventually replaces remnant forest.
Wrack and vegetation are dominant here, so it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as the boneyard further south, but it’s one of the most unique spots on the island and there are great views of neighboring St. Simons Island and its iconic lighthouse, as well as the Sidney Lanier Bridge.