St. Mary's River

Basin Description

  • The St. Mary's River basin is located in the southeast Georgia and is bordered by the Satilla River basin to the north and the Suwannee River basin to the west.

  • The headwaters are located in Charlton County and the river flows north and east to the Atlantic Ocean.

  • The St. Mary's River watershed is located in Georgia and Florida. The Georgia portion of the basin drains approximately 765 square miles (of 1,300 total square miles).

  • The 1988-90 land cover interpretation showed 41 percent of the basin in wetlands.

Quick Facts About the River

  • The population is centered mostly in Kingsland and Folkston.

  • There has not been much economic dependence on the river area since the early 1900’s when the last lumber mills closed due to the inability to effectively access timber.

Surface and Ground Water Resources

  • Surface water resources in the basin are limited by its small size. The only significant tributaries are the North Prong St. Marys River (with 540 square miles of tributaries) and Spanish Creek (with 109 square miles of tributaries).

  • Ground water resources in the St. Mary's River basin are supplied by the Floridan aquifer system, one of the most productive ground water reservoirs in the United States.

Biological Resources

  • There are 52 species of fish that together represent 17 families in the St. Mary's River basin.

  • The fish populations in the St. Mary's basin are limited in productivity by acidic waters, low alkalinity, and extreme variation in flow.

  • The blackbanded sunfish and the banded topminnow are two fish species found in the basin that are currently listed by the state as rare species.

Health of the River

In 2002, there were 4 rivers and streams listed on the 303(d) list as waters not meeting their designated use of fishing according to the standards set by the Clean Water Act. These impaired waters include roughly 20 miles of rivers and streams in the St Mary's River Basin.

There are now seven facilities, including industries and municipalities, that are legally authorized to discharge wastewater into the St. Mary's River Basin.

Fishing Advisories
Fish consumption advisories have been issued by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for the St. Mary's River basin. For a complete listing of fish consumption guidelines for the St. Mary's River basin and other basins in Georgia, visit

St. Mary's River (Charlton County)
Largemouth Bass (Near St. George) 1 meal/month due to Mercury
Redbreast Sunfish - -1 meal/week due to Mercury

St. Mary's River (Camden County)
Largemouth Bass (U.S. Hwy. 17) - - 1 meal/week due to Mercury
Redbreast Sunfish - - No Restrictions

Tourist Sites / Significant Parks Pertaining to River

  • In the American Revolution, Georgia’s colonial volunteers fought the British soldiers on the banks of the St. Mary's River.

  • Parks: Crooked River State Park, Black Rock Mountain, Obediah’s Okefenok, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refugee, Okefenoke Swamp Park, Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest, Traders Hill Park, Camp Prickney Landing, Temple Landing

  • Tourist sites and activities: McIntosh Sugar Works Mill; sea kayaking to explore the river and coastal marshes; canoeing; boating; fishing (the sportfish include redbreast sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, and various catfish); and water skiing