Ebenezer Creek is one of the most enchanting natural sights near Savannah. A blackwater tributary of the Savannah River, the creek winds its 13-mile path from Springfield, GA to its confluence with the main channel of the Savannah through old-growth cypress swamp and tupelo forests.
The trees’ enormous buttressed trunks and the deep, slow, tannin-stained (hence black) waters provide one of the most ethereal and distinctively “southern” landscapes of the Georgia coast.
Ebenezer Creek – named for the abandoned settlement of Ebenezer, founded by exiled Salzburgers in the first years of the Georgia colony – is also a significant historical site, not only for its pioneer history but as the scene of a notorious Civil War tragedy.
Projects are underway to preserve and better highlight the human heritage of Ebenezer Creek, but at present the area is primarily enjoyed as a paddling trail. An excursion by kayak or canoe, either guided or independent (see below), is currently the best and easiest way to explore the swamp landscape around Ebenezer Creek, and its wildlife and historic sites.
The information below is correct as of March 2017, but please check all details with the company or guide before planning your trip. Availability may vary by season and tours may be withdrawn or changed without notice.
History Of Ebenezer Creek
Ebenezer Creek is named for the abandoned historic settlements of Ebenezer and New Ebenezer, created in the earliest years of the Georgia colony by refugees from the city of Salzburg (in present-day Austria).
After a false start at a swampy and disease-ridden inland settlement chosen for them by colony founder James Oglethorpe, the Salzburgers moved to a new site near the Savannah River.
There, they proved to be proficient and successful colonists, whose agricultural achievements eclipsed those of most of the English colonists at the main Savannah site, and whose arrangements for the care of orphans were said to have inspired the creation of George Whitefield’s Bethesda orphanage.
The town of New Ebenezer was greatly damaged during the Revolutionary War, its fortunes declining thereafter until it was abandoned for good shortly before the Civil War. The Salzburger’s Church, however, survived and is still in active use. Completed in 1769, it is today the oldest continuously-used building in Georgia and together with its adjacent cemetery, the only remaining part of the former Salzburger settlement.
The Georgia Salzburger Society operates a small museum next door to the church (at 2980 Ebenezer Road) at which you can further explore the history of the area. As the museum’s hours are very limited, it is advisable to call ahead to verify it will be open before making a special trip. More details
Civil War Atrocity
During the closing stages of the Civil War, Ebenezer Creek was the site of a notorious mass drowning of African-Americans.
In December of 1864, Union troops were advancing on Savannah, the culmination of General Sherman’s weeks-long March to the Sea. In the wake of the army followed thousands of fleeing slaves, hoping to find protection and permanent freedom through their association with the northern side.
To the Union army, they were an annoyance and a burden, as they consumed the troops’ food and slowed their passage through Georgia. As the army and its followers neared Savannah, Union Brigadier General Jefferson C Davis (who coincidentally shared his name with the Confederate president) chose a course of action that is now considered to have been a deliberate attempt to rid himself of the freed people.
On December 9, the soldiers arrived at Ebenezer Creek. Threatened by a unit of the Confederate cavalry, they constructed a series of pontoon bridges to enable them to cross the water and evade their pursuers. With his men on one side of the creek, but the refugees still on the other, Davis ordered the pontoons removed.
As the Confederate cavalrymen rode up in the rear of the gathered refugees, many of them panicked, plunging themselves into the cold waters of the creek. It is estimated that hundreds of the probably several thousand people there – men, women and children – were drowned.
At present, the site of the drownings, known as Ebenezer Crossing, is commemorated only by a historic marker. Plans to preserve Ebenezer Crossing as a park and improve access to the historic spot are underway, but current public access is exclusively by water.
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Paddling Excursions To Ebenezer Creek
Ebenezer Creek is a peaceful and striking place to kayak, canoe or paddleboard, with beautiful scenery and an abundance of birds, fish and other wildlife. The slow, sheltered waters of the creek are an ideal spot for beginners.
The entire creek is around 13 miles long, and takes a full day to paddle. If you lack paddling experience and knowledge of the area, it is best to take a guided tour, as it is easy to get lost along the creeks, especially when high waters allow access to the bordering swamp.
Advance reservations for these trips are usually required. Tour companies may be able to arrange transportation to the launch site for an additional fee, please inquire directly.
Ebenezer Creek By Kayak
Savannah Canoe and Kayak offers two tour options to Ebenezer Creek, with 3-hour and 5-hour excursions available. 3-hour tours $79 per person, 5 hours $95. Call 912-341-9502 for reservations. More details of 3-hour or 5-hour tours.
Savannah Coastal EcoTours offers a 3.5 hour kayak tour of Ebenezer Creek. $170 for 1-2 people, plus $50 per additional person. Call 912-220-6092 for reservations. More details
Sea Kayak Georgia’s Ebenezer tour is 4 hours long. $75 per person for a minimum of 4 participants. Call 912-786-8732 for reservations. More details
Ebenezer Creek By Canoe
Two local companies offer canoe tours of Ebenezer Creek. Both excursions take 4 hours.
Wilderness Southeast’s canoe tour costs $190 for the first two people, plus $30 for each additional person up to a maximum of 6. Call 912-236-8115 or book online. More details
Sea Kayak Georgia’s tour is $75 per person, with a 4-person minimum. Call 912-786-8732 for reservations. More details
Ebenezer Creek By Paddleboard
Savannah Canoe and Kayak offers a 3-hour paddleboard tour of Ebenezer Creek, for $75 per person. Call 912-341-9502 for reservations. More details
Wilderness Southeast’s canoe tour above is also sometimes offered as a paddleboard tour. Call 912-236-8115 for details and availability. More details