Description: Rhetts Island is a tidewater island with several diked impoundments consisting of about 1,200 acres in the Altamaha River delta. It was one of the original rice plantations that dominated coastal Georgia in the 19th century. Giant cutgrass is the dominant vegetation that buffers the dikes from surrounding Darien and Altamaha rivers. Widgeon grass is commonly found in the ditches that surround the interior of the dikes. Inside the impoundments are grasses and other plants consistent with brackish water marshes that now occupy the old rice fields. Some of the old fields associated with other islands (Butler, Champney, General's) at this site are seasonally drained and planted with grains and then flooded in the fall to provide winter food for the migratory waterfowl that arrive here in late fall by the thousands. Rhetts Island has no vehicle access. Visitors may reach the island by boat. Access points exist around the perimeter of the island where boats may be pulled up and over the dike for access into the impoundment.
Viewing Information: During late fall and winter, Rhetts Island is home to an amazing number of wintering waterfowl. Gadwalls, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, canvasbacks, redheads, ring-necked ducks, scaups, coots, and many others are found in the impoundment. Bald eagles are frequently seen during all seasons of the year. Osprey are very common and can always be seen. Other wading birds such as great blue herons, wood stork, white ibis, American egrets, great white herons, and clapper rails are all common in the area. Canada geese and snow geese are sometimes seen during the late fall and winter. Rhetts Island is home to a sizeable population of American alligators which may be observed basking in the sun on the dikes. Manatees frequent the Altamaha River area during the summer and can sometimes be seen feeding on emergent vegetation along the river's edge. Otters may also be observed playing in and around the island. Wildlife viewing is excellent all year at this site. There is an open waterfowl hunting season on a portion of the area, but there are separate viewing areas.
Directions: From Brunswick, travel I-95 to exit 9. Turn east on GA Hwy. 99, then turn north on US Hwy. 17 and travel about 2.5 miles to the Champney River boat ramp. The Rhetts Island impoundment is .5 miles downriver from this boat ramp, on the north side of the river.
Management: Georgia DNR, Wildlife Resources Division, 912-262-3173
Closest Town: Darien, GA
Additional Information: Primitive camp sites are available. A map of the Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area may be obtained from the Georgia DNR at the above phone number. Persons wishing to visit Rhetts Island who are unfamiliar with the area should talk to one of the DNR staff familiar with the area before attempting to visit. At low tide it may be difficult to reach the surrounding dikes from the Altamaha or Darien Rivers as the access points may be without water.
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