Going back in time on Savannah River

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Most of the rivers of the region can be described in a sentence or two, but one requires volumes just to scratch the surface.

The Savannah River has been dammed, deepened, straightened, poisoned, filtered and fiddled with - for centuries - and still there's pitched debate about her future.

Tonya Bonitatibus is tasked with the well-being of the entire river. She is the Savannah Riverkeeper.

"It could be argued that the Savannah was really what brought the south into existence. You know, Oglethorpe ended  in Savannah and sent some folks up the river and they hit the shoals of the rocks that are in Augusta - and that's basically where it was born," she said.

The river not initially called Savannah. The name of the river was actually based on an Indian tribe that was actually here for a very short period of time

"The original name of the river was the Westibou, that was named for the Westo Indians," she said.

It was the Savannah that attracted English settlers in 1733 led by James Edward Oglethorpe.

It was too shallow for the 200-ton square rigger "Anne," which never came to the new colony. There were  114 hearty souls who got off the Anne in Beaufort and Port Royal to be exact.

The settlers later boarded a half dozen smaller boats and rode the incoming  tide up the Savannah to Yamacraw Bluff.

Oglethorpe's account to the Trustees of the colony: "I fixed upon a healthy situation about ten miles from the sea. The river there forms a half moon, along the South side of which the banks are about 40 foot high and upon a top a flat which they call a bluff. ….  Ships that draw twelve foot water can ride within ten yards of the bank. … The river is pretty wide, the water fresh. "

But most won't swim in the Savannah River. However, they do in Augusta and love it.

On Wednesday, Sonny Dixon will head up to the lakes along the Savannah River, one of which is the biggest east of the Mississippi River. WTOC talks to the people who make it all work.

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