The first Europeans to explore the area were Spanish missionaries  in the fifteen hundreds who established outposts on the coastal  barrier islands among the native guale people. Later, Union forces considered the river important and raided upstream in 1864.  During World War II, the US Army Air Corps appropriated land at the river mouth for an airfield to train P-40 "flying tiger" pilots.  Historically, local folks and wildlife  enjoyed terrific fishing, shrimping and crabbing.  Today, the river is visited by declining numbers as mud replaces flowing water.

The river flows from fresh water swamps in the area of the antebellum LeConte-Woodmanston rice plantation across 15 miles of salt marsh to the Atlantic Ocean.  Twice daily tides flood as much as three fourths of the estuary with a depth range of six to nine feet.  As documented, this portion of the east coast salt marsh is the most naturally productive acreage on earth due to warm water, salinity and other factors. 

Critters large and small thrive here.  While dolphins and alligators are abundant, occasionally manatees swim by.  Fishing and crabbing are traditional activities augmented by opportunities for  oysters and shrimp.  Waterfowl, eagles, ospreys, storks and other birds feed at will.  Indeed, the largest wood stork (endangered species) rookery in the east is in the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge abutting the river.  In addition to recreational users such as birders, boaters, fishers and hunters, several commercial crabbers harvest blue crabs.  And all this plus more is made possible by the vast salt marsh nourished by the South Newport. River.  

Direct public access on the river is limited to a boat ramp at US  Route 17 as enhanced by McIntosh and  Liberty Counties and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  The silting in of the river is an immediate threat  to this access site and may terminate its long term use.  River restoration plans include channel protection and improvements to the ramp site.  These betterments include dockage for the physically challenged as well as for sustenance fishermen.  And  marsh and oyster habitat will be enhanced. 

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