Altamaha WMA--Butler Island Plantation House Area

About this Location

One of the largest plantations in the South was the Butler Island Plantation, located just south of Darien, across the Darien River on what is now US Highway 17. The story of the plantation is a fascinating one, beginning in the 1790s when Major Pierce Butler planted the land on the Altamaha Delta, which provided perfect conditions for growing rice. In 1838, the major’s grandson, Captain Pierce Butler, who married the famous and beautiful British stage actress Fanny Kemble, arrived at the plantation for a six-month working visit. Kemble, who was not familiar with the reality of slavery, immediately became very opposed to the treatment of the slaves. She penned her feelings and eventually published the notes in a book called “Journal of a Resident on a Georgia Plantation,” which some say helped persuade the British to oppose slavery and the Civil War.

The plantation site is now owned by The Nature Conservancy, and the land (excluding the house) is open to the public for picnicking, fishing, and birding. Sunsets can be dramatic, as the setting sun creates reflections of brilliant color in the Butler River.

About Altamaha Wildlife Management Area

See all hotspots at Altamaha Wildlife Management Area

The Altamaha Wildlife Management Area is composed of units on the east and west sides of US-17, south of Darien. The east side of the road has impoundments and towers to view marsh birds and ducks in the appropriate season.

The Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area consists of 3,154 acres of managed waterfowl impoundments and some 27,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods and cypress-tupelo swamps. Impoundments built as part of Ducks Unlimited's M.A.R.S.H. (Matching Aid to Restore States' Habitat) program provide an excellent wildlife viewing area with several towers. The impoundments are located on the remains of an old rice plantation. Many of the rice fields are managed to benefit waterfowl and other wildlife species.

Types of Birds: Birds of prey, shorebirds, songbirds, wading birds, waterfowl, raptors

Best Birding Seasons: Songbirds (all), shorebirds (all), wading birds (all), waterfowl (fall and winter), raptors (fall and winter)

Specialties: Wood stork, swallow-tailed kite, bald eagle, king rail, painted bunting, mottled duck, wood duck, white ibis, glossy ibis

Tips: Look for common snipe feeding in exposed muddy areas. In summer, look for wood ducks. In fall and winter, black ducks, pintails, green-winged teal, northern shovelers and other waterfowl can be seen in the impoundment. Look for rails darting through the vegetation in the impoundment. Bald eagles can be spotted in winter and spring.

Directions: Take Exit 49 on I-95 at the junction of I-95 and GA-251 (Briardam Road). Travel east on GA-251 to the junction of GA-251 and US-17. Turn right (south) on US -7 and continue through Darien. The entrance to the Ansley Hodges M.A.R.S.H. Project will be approximately 3.5 miles on the right.

Content from Butler Island Plantation House, Steve Holzman, and Georgia Colonial Coast Birding Trail (Altamaha WMA)