Big Hammock of the Altamaha

A Photo Essay by Brian Brown

Artist Statement

Having spent the past few years photographing the abandoned and neglected manmade landscapes of rural Georgia, I've recently turned my attention to a project which will focus on the Altamaha watershed. Within the watershed of Georgia's Altamaha River are numerous fragments of protected land. One of these, Big Hammock Natural Area near Reidsville, is a thick entanglement of woods and swamps characterized by oxbow lakes and often impassable roads—a place so foreboding to the general public that it rarely attracts large numbers of people. In this wildness, this nativity, it succeeds in representing a much larger, much more fragile ecosystem. Designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service in 1976, Big Hammock has grown from an initial 800 acres to nearly 7,000 today.

It is a place of irony, where the rare becomes common. In late May, the intoxicating beauty of the endemic white-flowered Georgia plume bursts forth, and throughout the summer threatened swallow-tailed kites patrol the river and surrounding forests for prey. Summer also finds eastern indigo snakes venturing out from their shared burrows with vulnerable gopher tortoises. Ancient cypresses and tupelo populate the forests, with their knees and hollow cavities standing as silent sentinels to the passage of time.

This collection of images is a tribute to the sheer beauty of the place, the constancy it shows in the face of unrelenting assaults by polluters like Georgia Power and Rayonier on the larger ecosystem of which Big Hammock is a part. I hope it brings to the fore the tenacity of what was once a primeval landscape which had no dependence on the vagaries and selfish whims of man, and in that process compels the viewer to work to save it while the opportunity to do so remains.


 Click on first thumbnail to above view as slide show.

A Congregation of Knees 

Altamaha Mussels 

Reflection in Taylor Lake, Big Hammock 

Big Hammock Tupelo

Big Hammock Tupelo 

Seed Pods 


 Deep Roots (1)

 Deep Roots (2)

 Deep Roots (3)

Lush Canopy 

Light Rain on the Altamaha 

Old Field Lake 

Plum Ridge Road 

 Big Hammock Road

 Woodpecker Trail (GA 121) Passing through Big Hammock

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