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How special is little Lake Pamona on Colonels Island in historic Liberty County, Georgia? A freshwater pond, tidal marshes and the Intracoastal Waterway are all within shouting distance. Only the Georgia Coast Region can give you all of these things plus a healthy dose of salt air. Though part of the mainland, Colonels Island is surrounded by rivers and the Intracoastal Waterway. Colonels Island is home to a major marine terminal farther up the Medway River. Only three miles away, Halfmoon Landing of the North Newport River provides a second route to the open sea and a deepwater landing for sea sailors. At the mouth of the Medway River, St. Catherine Sound is home to lovely and protected St Catherine's Island. It's no wonder this coastal area has figured heavily in the history of the United States.
Before European explorers arrived in the area, the islands and marshes around Lake Pamona were home to the Guale Native Americans. Spanish explorers arrived in the 1500s to build churches and attempt to covert the native population. Well before Independence, Puritan settlers arrived to build a colony and a life in what became Liberty County. The church they built is preserved in the city of Midway. The infamous Blackbeard plied his illegal trade along the waterways and it is reputed that his never-discovered treasure is buried somewhere in the area. Two of the three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence were from Liberty County and the area saw heavy military action in both the War for Independence and the Civil War. Many hard-working rice and cotton plantations dotted Liberty County before Sherman's March to the Sea. Most were destroyed but many historical remnants remain. Located less than an hour south of Savannah and the same distance north of Brunswick, Colonels Island has always been in the thick of the action yet has never developed any large cities. Fort Stewart, overlapping the northwestern part of the county, is the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River. Now, the coastal islands and adjacent mainland are increasingly becoming exclusive gated communities with luxurious upscale homes.
Lake Pamona is a favorite among fishermen whenever they can gain access. There is no public boat launch, but a local landowner gives access for a nominal fee. Gasoline motors are not allowed. Those who have fished the shallow lake swear the largemouth bass are just waiting to take the hook. Other denizens of the not-so-deep here are bream, catfish and crappie. The lake averages four feet deep with a channel that dives to seven feet across it. Only the south side of the lake is developed; the marsh abuts the lake on the north.
Nature is at its best in the areas surrounding the salt marshes. Water and shore birds call the mud flats home. Nearby Melon Bluff features 2,200 acres of natural and managed habitats, pine uplands, sustainable forests, salt marsh, blackwater swamp, fields, lakes and the North Newport River. The preserve is criss-crossed by 25 miles of all-season, unpaved trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, birding and walking. Canoeing and kayaking are popular ways to view the marsh wildlife and water birds. Very near Lake Pamona, Youmans Pond supports black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons, blue herons, ibis, various egrets, wood ducks, wood storks and common moorhens. Dabbling ducks are common during migratory seasons. Barred and great horned owls, osprey, and turkey vultures are often seen in the area. Colonel Island's varied habitat supports an amazing variety of wildlife.
Just down the road, one of the areas oldest and most famous bait and charter services still operates. For a visitor wishing to deep-sea or river fish, charters are easily arranged. Here the Lake Pamona resident can arrange for either wet slip or dry dock space on the Medway River. Development is beginning to encroach on the serenity of Colonels Island in the form of upscale housing. More land area is coming under protected status to preserve the natural character of this far reach of the mainland.
There is always plenty to see and do around Lake Pamona. Those with a yen for city lights can always head north to Savannah or south to Brunswick. Both cities provide a variety of cultural activities, arts, music and nightlife venues. But the usual visitor will be more than happy to explore the history and natural areas along the Georgia Coast. Nearby St. Catherine's Island's beaches are available to the public during daylight hours only - the interior of this historic island is maintained as an endangered species 'recovery' preserve. Owned by the St. Catherine's Island Foundation, the island's interior is operated for charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes. Nearby Sunbury is one of Coastal Georgia's 'dead towns'; once a thriving center of coastal commerce, the port lost business to Savannah. Fort Morris was built here to protect the town during the Revolutionary War. A state park unit here provides interpretive trails, restored historic building and camping with prior reservations.
Also nearby, Seabrook Village is a living history museum dedicated to the freed slaves who settled here on their government-granted lands after emancipation. Exhibits include the grave art of Cyrus Bowens and the Willis Hakim Jones Material Culture Collection of handmade items including everything from a peanut roaster to twig furniture. About 40 miles down the coast, Blackbeard's Island National Wildlife Refuge occupies a 5,618 acre island off the tip of Sapelo Island. Accessible only by boat, the refuge provides excellent viewing opportunities for shore birds and wildlife. Parts are open during hunting season with by permit.
Vacation rentals exist in the area around Lake Pamona, although rarely on the lake itself. A nearby residential development has plans to include vacation lodgings in the near future. There are many bed-and-breakfast facilities in the area and the occasional 'fish camp' or sportsman's resort can be found on the local rivers. Commercial lodgings are available in the small cities near Fort Stewart and toward Savannah. Real estate is available very near Lake Pamona in the newer developments and also among established homes. So, bring the boat, the binoculars, the camera and the golf clubs and spend some time around Lake Pamona. You'll never want your Georgia Low Country vacation to end.
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