The Blackwater Fountain Of Youth

Craig James | February 26, 2020

When Ponce de Leon was first told about a mystical body of water that had the ability to restore youth, I believe those boys were onto something. However, somehow Ponce got his directions wrong and ended up somewhere down in south Florida.

Little did he know that 100 or so miles to the north, there’s a blackwater river that can restore youth, even if only for a little while.

The Satilla River cuts through the heart of south Georgia as it twists and winds in its pursuit of the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of sandbars dot the river’s banks, with white sand that rivals any Caribbean beach.

But the water is what makes the Satilla so special.

Black as coffee, stained by tannic acid, wide as a football field in some places and barely a trickle in others. You could search the world over and never find another like it.

As for its ability to restore youth?

I first witnessed it when I was only 6 years old. My grandfather was near 60 the first time he took me fishing on the Satilla. A carpenter his whole life, his body was wore down from years of hard work. He walked slowly as we approached the river, but over the next few hours as we walked along the sandy banks, I saw a change in his body.

As we walked, his pace increased. He bounced from one fishing hole to the next, climbing up and down bluff walls in search of our next bite. I’d never seen my grandpa move like that before in my life, and I know the Satilla’s magic made it happen.

Fast forward years later. I first felt the Satilla’s effects on my own body. After a very intense shoulder surgery and months without any fishing, I was excited to finally get the OK to get back on the water from my doctor. As I started casting, my arm ached. I wondered if I could even handle the pain to fish. However, as I waded in the blackwater, the pain went away.

I fished nearly until dark that day, and as far as I could tell, my arm was healed. Later that night was another story, but after a few Ibuprofen and an ice pack, I made it. I know on that day the Satilla restored youth, though only for a little while. 

This past summer I had the chance to float a stretch of the Satilla I grew up fishing, and I may as well of stepped into a time machine. As I dragged my kayak over sandbars and paddled one bend to the next, I wasn’t a 33-year-old man any more. My back didn’t hurt, no stress of work on my mind, all was right in the world. 

 I was 13 again, looking for adventure and my next fish. The blackwater had worked its magic, and I had been made young again. As I loaded up my kayak that afternoon, the magic was gone. Nine missed calls on my cell phone and a sore body assured me I was back in the realm of reality. But while I was in the blackwater, I had been made young.

I’m convinced I’ve found the fountain of youth Ol’ Ponce was looking for, and the good news is there is plenty of its healing powers to go around. Plan a trip to the Satilla this year to see for yourself how magical the blackwater can be. I can assure you that your youth will be restored, even if only for a little while.

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