Cruising/Navigating - Georgia’s AICW

Savannah River to St. Marys River

The Georgia portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) begins in the north at the Savannah River, 7.3 NM eastward of Savannah, GA, at (MM "575.5"), the South Carolina/Georgia State Line. It then winds its way in a generally south-southwesterly direction to the St. Marys River and the Georgia/Florida State Line at (MM "713.7").

Aids to Navigation

Buoys and Marks

The Georgia Intracoastal Waterway Aids to Navigation (ATONS) are like most other lateral marks in the U.S. The difference is that Yellow Triangles or Yellow Squares are added to the mark to indicate they are ICW markers.

Caution! While Yellow Squares are typically found on green buoys or beacons and yellow triangles are typically found on red buoys or beacons, this is not always the case.

The rule is: When proceeding south on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Georgia, markers with yellow triangles are kept to starboard while marks with yellow squares are kept to port at all times.

Green ICW Marker Red ICW Marker

Regardless of the Color of the Mark!

Charts

NOAA Charts #11507 and #11489 provide coverage of the Georgia portion of the AICW.

Chart #11507 - Beaufort River, SC to St. Simons Sound, GA covers the ICW from (MM "542.1") at Parris Island, SC to Lanier Island at St. Simons Sound, GA (MM "675.7").

Chart #11489 - St. Simons Sound, GA to Tolomato River, FL covers the AICW from (MM "675.7") at St. Simons Sound, GA to the Tolomato River at Shell Bluff Landing, FL (MM "768.7").

Distances and Mileages

All distances along the Georgia Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway are given in statute miles unless otherwise noted. Statute miles are used in order to conform to the distances shown on the small craft charts typically used along this route.

The Georgia portion of the AICW (southbound) is measured based on increasing mileage between the Savannah River (MM "575.5") and St. Marys River (MM "713.7") for a distance of 138.2 SM (120.1 NM).

Channels

The Federal project depth for the Georgia portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from the Savannah River at the (South Carolina/Georgia State Line) to St. Marys River at the (Georgia / Florida State Line) is 12 feet.

The actual depths in the channels may vary due to shoaling. This may reduce the available water depths to less than the Federal project depth until maintenance dredging can be accomplished.

Communications

Bridges – VHF Channel 13.

Bridges, Locks, and Overhead Power Lines

Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - Georgia Bridge Schedule

The following table lists the bridges; their schedules, and restrictions along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) in Georgia.

The minimum overhead clearance of fixed bridges over the Georgia portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is 65 feet.

This list is believed to be accurate as of July 2019. If any errors or omissions are noted, please e-mail us at with any corrections or recommendations.


Open Down Arrow AICW - Georgia Bridge Schedule
Savannah to St. Marys

Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - Georgia


Savannah to St. Marys

Mile Marker Bridge Charted Vert. Clear. Schedule Restrictions VHF
579.9 Sam Varnedoe Bascule Bridge 21’ Opens on Demand M-F 0630 - 0900 and 1630 - 1830 the draw will open at 0700, 0800, and 1730 except Federal holidays. 09
583.0 Thunderbolt Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
592.8 Diamond Causeway Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
674.0 Torras Causeway Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    
684.0 Jekyll Island Bridge 65’ Fixed Bridge    

The Georgia ICW Bridge List as well as the entire AICW Bridge List (Norfolk to Miami) can be downloaded for your personal and private use below. The ZIP files contain the schedules in Adobe (.pdf) file format:

AICW Georgia Bridge Schedule - Download

AICW Bridge and Lock Schedule (Norfolk to Miami) - Download

AICW - Georgia Locks

None.

AICW - Georgia Overhead Cables and Power Lines

A few overhead cables (5) cross Georgia’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. One cable crossing has a reported clearance of 72 feet; located at Causton Bluff (MM "579.9"). The remainder of the cable crossings have a authorized clearance of 85 feet or greater.

Caution - Many of the overhead cables over the waterway carry high voltage, and an extra margin of safety should be allowed during threatening weather.

Entrances, Inlets, and Passes

There are numerous Entrances, Inlets, or Passes between the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Georgia’s Coast. Between Tybee Roads in the north and St. Marys Entrance to the south, there were 11 at last count. Most all provide access to sheltered inland waters with many providing access to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

While some of these are only suitable for shallow draft vessels and/or local knowledge, some can be considered navigable for most vessels. We have listed them below along with useful information on each to aid you in deciding if you wish to use a particular inlet.

Open Down Arrow AICW - Georgia Entrances, Inlets, and Passes
Tybee Roads (Savannah River) to Ossabaw Sound

Tybee Roads & Savannah River Entrance

Tybee Roads (Savannah River Entrance) is located 10.0 NM southwest of Port Royal, SC, 65 NM southwestward of Charleston, SC, and 10.4 NM northeast of Wassaw Sound, GA. The Savannah River forms the border between Georgia and South Carolina providing access to the AICW and Savannah, GA.

NOAA Chart #11512 - Savannah River and Wassaw Sound is suggested for the approach and entrance to the Savannah River.

The approach is marked by lighted buoy (RW "T" Mo(A) RACON (––·) AIS) located 7.9 NM ESE of the entrance at 31°57’52" N / 080°43’10" W). It is recommended that no vessel, regardless of size, anchor within a two-mile radius of the approach buoy. The approach channel is deep (40+) feet and well-marked with lighted buoys and ranges.

Prominent on the approach is Tybee Light (F 144ft 19M) shown from an octagonal brick tower, upper and lower thirds black, with a white center, on the southern side of the entrance. The three water tanks on Hilton Head Island are prominent in the approach from the north. Also prominent from seaward are a water tank on Tybee Island, the flashing red lights atop the three radio towers on Oatland Island, and the five 200-foot tanks on Elba Island, about 9 miles above the entrance.

The entrance is protected by a low lying jetty to the north and a submerged jetty, at high water, to the south. Both jetties are marked just off of their ends by lighted beacons. Deep water is found in the entrance (40+) feet and the channel is well-marked with lighted buoys and ranges from the entrance to all the way to Savannah, GA.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway can be intersected 7.2 NM above the entrance at (MM "575.8 ") near lighted beacon (Fl 2.5s 16ft 4M).

Cautions - Shifting shoals from South Beach Hilton Head Island to the Tybee Roads ship channel tend to intimidate boaters unfamiliar with the area. But a safe passage through here is routine. There are several unmarked obstructions in the approaches.

Tides and Currents - The mean tidal range is 6.8 feet at the entrance and the velocity of the ebb current from the entrance jetties to Savannah is from 2.2 to 3.1 knots. The flood current has a velocity of from 1.6 to 2.4 knots.

It is reported that currents in the river can reach 7 to 8 knots in the vicinity of Garden City Terminal (southwest side of the river just below the U.S. Route 17A bridge).

The current is considerably influenced by winds and freshets. Currents set in the direction of the channel except at the entrance near Tybee Light, where the flood sets northwestward across the channel. Between the jetties the flood sets 260°. Freshets occasionally occur in the spring.

Dangers - A danger area of an Air Force air-to-air and air-to-water gunnery and bombing range is about 15 miles seaward of Tybee Light. When approaching from the northeast, do not cross the shallows north of R "8" through R "14"; a submerged breakwater exists 0.6 NM NNE of the approach channel. Make your turn at buoys (R "6" Fl R 2.5s or R "4" Fl R 4s) in deeper water.

Wassaw Sound

11511 The entrance to Wassaw Sound is about 10.4 miles southwest of the Tybee Roads approach buoy and 12.9 NM NNE of St. Catherines Sound. It affords access to the AICW, Thunderbolt and Savannah, GA.

NOAA Chart #11511 - Ossabaw and St Catherines Sounds is suggested for the approach to Wassaw Sound while NOAA Chart #11512 - Savannah River and Wassaw Sound is suggested for the entrance.

The approach is marked by a lighted buoy (R "2W" Fl R 4s) located at 31°51’33" N / 080°53’01" W. The approach channel is marked by lighted and unlighted buoys. The reported controlling depth was 10 feet through the marked bar channel.

The entrance, used mostly by small boats, is marked by lighted and unlighted buoys. Once across the bar the channel depths range from19 to 38 feet.

The junction of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is 8.6 NM above the entrance at (MM "585.6") near lighted beacon (Fl R 4s 16ft 5M "40").

Cautions - Shoals extend offshore a distance of 4 to 4.5 miles from the entrance, forming a shifting bar. The entrance to Wassaw Sound is subject to frequent change. Buoys "4, 6, and 8" are not charted as they are frequently moved to mark the best water.

Tides and Currents - Mean tidal range is 7.1 feet. Tidal currents in Wassaw Sound reach velocities up to 2.2 knots.

Dangers - A sunken wreck covered 4 feet, about 1.2 miles southeast of Wassaw Sound buoy (G C "9") was reported in about 31°53’01" N., 80°52’57" W.

Ossabaw Sound Inlet

Ossabaw Sound is 4.7 NM southwest of Wassaw Sound and 8.3 NM northeast of St. Catherines Sound lying between the southwestern point of Wassaw Island and the northeastern point of Ossabaw Island.

NOAA Chart #11511 - Ossabaw and St Catherines Sounds is suggested for the approach and entrance to Ossabaw Sound.

The approach is marked by lighted buoy (RW "OS" Mo(A)) located 4.6 NM southeast of the entrance at 31°47’48" N / 080°56’10" W.

The approach is split between (2) channels; the North Channel and South Channel which divide at unlighted buoy (RG N "N") 2.6 NM west of the approach buoy. The North Channel is well-marked and has least depth of 12 feet while the South Channel is not as well-marked with a least depth of 10 feet.

Using the North Channel the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway can be intersected 4.2 NM above the entrance at (MM "601.1") near lighted beacon (Fl R 4s 16ft 5M "86"). The South Channel intersects the AICW 3.6 NM above the entrance at (MM "602.6") near lighted beacon (Q R 16ft 4M "92").

Cautions - Shoals extend offshore a distance of 4 to 4.5 miles from the entrance, forming a shifting bar.

Tides and Currents - Mean tidal range is 7.1 feet. Tidal currents in Wassaw Sound reach velocities up to 2.2 knots.

Open Down Arrow AICW - Georgia Entrances, Inlets, and Passes
St. Catherines Sound to Doboy Sound

St. Catherines Sound

St. Catherines Sound lies 8.3 NM SSW of Ossabaw Sound and 9.9 NM NNE of Sapelo Sound lying between the St. Catherines Island and Blackbeard Island.

NOAA Chart #11511 - Ossabaw and St Catherines Sounds is suggested for the approach and entrance to St Catherines Sound.

The approach is marked by lighted buoy (RW "STC" Mo(A)) located 7.5 NM ESE of the entrance at 31°40’13" N / 080°00’12" W. The approach channel is over a bar marked by lighted and unlighted buoys with a reported least controlling depth of 8 feet.

A prominent sand dune, 3 miles south of the north end of St. Catherines Island is reported to show well from seaward.

The entrance is marked by an unlighted buoy with depths of 30 to 50 feet mid-channel.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway will be intersected 0.5 NM above the entrance at (MM "618.7") near lighted beacon (Q Fl 12ft 4M "114").

Cautions - The main body of the sound is exposed and becomes quite rough in moderately bad weather.

Tides and Currents - Mean tidal range is 7.1 feet. Tidal currents have considerable velocity at the entrance.

Dangers - Dangerous shoals extend offshore for 5 NM.

Sapelo Sound

Sapelo Sound is about 9.5 NM SSW of St. Catherines Sound and 11.9 NM northeast of Doboy Sound and lies between the southern end of St. Catherines Island and the northern tip of Blackbeard Island. It affords access to the AICW. No towns of any importance are on the sound or tributaries.

NOAA Chart #11510 - Sapelo and Doboy Sounds is suggested for the approach and entrance to Sapelo Sound.

The approach is marked by an unlighted buoy (RW C "S") 5.8 NM ESE of the entrance located at 31°31’13" N / 081°03’53" W.

The approach is over a shallow bar with a least charted depth of 12 feet in the approach channel. It is marked by unlighted buoys.

The shoreline break for the entrance can be seen from 8 NM offshore on a clear day.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is intersected 1.1 NM above the entrance at (MM "632.5") near lighted beacon (Q R 12ft 4M "138").

Cautions - Vessels should stay in a depth of over 5 fathoms until the bar channel buoys are seen because shoals extend about 5 NM offshore.

Tides and Currents - Mean tidal range is 6.9 feet. In the entrance to the sound the velocities of flood and ebb are 2.1 and 2.5 knots, respectively.

Dangers - Dangerous changeable area (31°32’29" N. / 081°08’01" W) about .25 NM north of the approach channel with depths of 1 foot.

Doboy Sound

Doboy Sound is about 11.9 NM SSW of Sapelo Sound and 3.1 NM NNE of Altamaha Sound with the entrance found between Sapelo Island to the north and Wolf Island to the south. It affords access to the AICW. No towns of any importance are on the sound or tributaries.

NOAA Chart #11510 - Sapelo and Doboy Sounds is suggested for the approach and entrance to Doboy Sound.

The approach is marked by lighted buoy (RW "D" Mo(A)) 4.5 NM ESE of the entrance at 31°21’14" N / 081°11’24" W.

The approach channel is well marked with unlighted buoys and a least charted depth of 10 feet mid-channel over the bar with depths increasing to 35+ feet.

The entrance is deep (30+) feet and marked by a single lighted beacon (Fl R 6s 12ft 5M "8").

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is intersected 2.6NM above the entrance at (MM "649.5") near lighted beacon (Q R 16ft 4M "178").

Cautions - Shifting shoals extend about 4.5 NM offshore, when approaching the sound, vessels should stay in a depth of 5 fathoms or more until the approach channel buoys are sighted.

Tides and Currents - The mean range of tide is about 6.8 feet in the sound. Tidal currents in the sound have a velocity of 2 knots at the entrance.

Dangers - The marked channel over the bar at the entrance to Doboy Sound is not considered safe for strangers except on a rising tide and a smooth sea. If there is too much sea to cross the bar, vessels are advised to enter via St. Simons Sound.

Open Down Arrow AICW - Georgia Entrances, Inlets, and Passes
Altamaha Sound to Hampton River

Altamaha Sound

Altamaha Sound is about 3.1 NM SSW of Doboy Sound and 4.3 NM NNE of Hampton River with the entrance found between Wolf Island to the north and Little Egg Islands to the south. It affords access to the AICW. No towns of any importance are on the sound or tributaries.

The approach is unmarked with few lighted and unlighted buoys and beacon marking the approach channel. The approach is obstructed by a bar covered 4 feet and shoals with depths of less than 2 feet border the channel.

Hampton River

Tides and Currents - The mean range of tide is about 6.7 feet in the sound. Tidal currents in the sound have a velocity of 2 knots at the entrance.

Dangers - The entrance and the sound are obstructed by shoals that are dangerous to navigation. A shifting channel through the shoals extends 4 miles from the entrance.

Open Down Arrow AICW - Georgia Entrances, Inlets, and Passes
St. Simons Sound Inlet to St. Marys Entrance

St. Simons Sound

St. Simons Sound is found 15.6 NM south of Altahama Sound and 8.2 NM NNE of St. Andrews Sound. St. Simons Sound is 0.8 mile wide at the entrance and affords access to the AICW, St. Simons Island, and Brunswick, GA.

NOAA Chart #11502 - Doboy Sound to Fernandina and NOAA Chart #11506 – St. Simons Sound is suggested for the approach and entrance to St. Simons Sound.

The approach is marked by a lighted buoy (RW "STS" Mo(A)) located 9.4 NM southeast of the entrance at 31°02’49" N / 081°14’25" W. The approach is obstructed by dangerous shifting shoals forming a bar that extends up to 5.5 NM offshore. A deep (38 feet) dredged channel leads through the bar. The approach channel is well-marked by lighted buoys and a leading light range as well as contemporary lighted ranges.

Prominent on the approach is St. Simons Light (F Fl 60s 104ft 18M) shown from a white conical tower on the north side of the entrance to the sound. The towers of the fixed bridge crossing Brunswick River and the tall stacks of the Hercules Powder Company in Brunswick.

The entrance channel is deep 36+ feet and well-marked with lighted buoys and ranges as far up as the foot of Second Avenue in Brunswick, GA.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is met 1.0 NM above the entrance at (MM "677.8") near lighted buoy (R "20" Q R).

Tides and Currents -. Tidal currents normally follow the general direction of the dredged channel across the bar with a velocity of 2 knots. During northeasterly weather there is a strong southerly set across the bar channel and in southeasterly weather a strong northerly set.

Dangers - An unmarked wreck, covered 25 feet, is in 31°03’10" N., 081°13’45" W., about 1.4 miles eastward of the entrance to the bar channel. Sediment traps are on the north side of the approach channel. These traps may shoal at a rapid rate, spilling over into the adjacent navigation channel; mariners should exercise caution when operating near them. A rock ledge, about 600 to 800 feet long and covered 23 feet, is parallel to the south side of Cedar Hammock Range.

St. Andrew Sound

St. Andrew Sound is found 15.6 NM south of Altahama Sound and 13.2 NM NNW of St. Marys Entrance and is located between Jekyll Island to the north and Little Cumberland Island to the south. It is 0.8 mile wide at the entrance and affords access to the AICW and Jekyll Island, GA.

NOAA Chart #11502 – St. Andrew Sound and Satilla River is suggested for the approach and entrance to St. Simons Sound.

The approach is marked by a lighted buoy (RW C "STA") located 5.7 NM southeast of the entrance at 30°55’33" N / 081°18’58" W. The approach is over a shifting bar extending about 5.0 NM offshore. The approach is marked with uncharted buoys to mark the best water. In 1983, the reported controlling depth was 12 feet in the buoyed approach channel.

Prominent on the approach is an abandoned lighthouse on the northern point of Little Cumberland Island.

The entrance channel is deep with depths to 60+ feet.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is met 0.2 NM above the entrance at (MM "689.7") near lighted buoy (R "32" Q R ).

Cautions - Vessels should stay in 5 fathoms or more until the approach buoy is sighted. Breakers are common on easterly side of the approach channel and the northerly side of the entrance

Tides and Currents - Mean Tidal range is 6.4 feet with a current velocity of about 2 knots in the entrance.

Dangers - A sunken wreck was reported about 1.9 miles eastward of the abandoned lighthouse.

St. Marys Entrance

Lying on the Florida/Georgia State Line, St. Marys Entrance is 16 NM southward of St. Andrew Sound, GA and 19 NM northward of St. Johns River Entrance, FL. St. Marys Entrance affords access to Fernandina Beach, FL, St. Marys and Kings Bay, GA and the AICW.

NOAA Chart #11503 – St. Marys Entrance is suggested for the approach and entrance to St. Marys River and Cumberland Sound.

The approach to St. Marys Entrance is marked by lighted buoy (RW “STM” Mo(A) AIS) and is located 8.2 NM east of St. Marys Entrance at (30°42’54" N / 81°14’39" W). The approach channel through the bar is deep and well-marked with lighted buoys and ranges.

Prominent on the approach is Amelia Island Light (Fl 10s 107ft 19M) located 2 NM southward of the entrance. It is reported that the light is difficult to distinguish during daytime hours. Also prominent from seaward is a 295 foot-high processing tower southward of the entrance. The tower is marked at night by flashing red lights. Smoke from the stacks of the paper companies at Fernandina Beach and St. Marys make them easily visible from all directions.

St. Marys Entrance is between two stone jetties. The jetties are reported to be in very poor condition with both almost entirely submerged at mean high water. The north jetty is marked off its outer end by a lighted buoy (R "2NJ" QR). White buoys with orange bands also mark the approximate location of the north and south jetties. The entrance is deep (40 foot+), wide, and well-marked with lighted buoys and ranges.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is intersected 2.5 NM above the entrance near lighted buoy (Y "E" Fl Y 2,5s) at (MM "713.7").

Cautions - Mariners are advised to exercise caution at the entrance. The jetties can be hazardous to navigation when visibility is limited. Currents are strong off the ends of the jetties. The natural channel between the jetties is subject to frequent change.

An ebb current inside the jetties opposed by a moderate to strong easterly wind often creates 4 to 7 footers in the entrance.

Tides & Currents - The mean tidal range at the entrance is 5.8 feet. The tidal currents at the entrance have considerable velocity and are dangerous at times. Maximum current velocities are reported to be 2.0 to 3.9 knots in St. Marys Entrance. Freshets in the St. Marys River may cause the ebb to run 7 or 8 hours. Velocities exceeding 5 knots have been reported to occur.

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