Janisse Ray was a babe in arms when a boat of her father's
construction cracked open and went down in the mighty Altamaha
River. Tucked in a life preserver, she washed onto a sandbar as the
craft sank from view. That first baptism began a lifelong
relationship with a stunning and powerful river that almost nobody
The Altamaha rises dark and mysterious in southeast Georgia. It
is deep and wide bordered by swamps. Its corridor contains an
extraordinary biodiversity, including many rare and endangered
species, which led the Nature Conservancy to designate it as one of
the world's last great places.
The Altamaha is Ray's river, and from childhood she dreamed of
paddling its entire length to where it empties into the sea.
Drifting into Darien begins with an account of finally
making that journey, turning to meditations on the many ways we
accept a world that contains both good and evil. With praise,
biting satire, and hope, Ray contemplates transformation and
attempts with every page to settle peacefully into the now.
Though commemorating a history that includes logging, Ray
celebrates "a culture that sprang from the flatwoods, which
required a judicious use of nature." She looks in vain for an
ivorybill woodpecker but is equally eager to see any of the
imperiled species found in the river basin: spiny mussel, American
oystercatcher, Radford's mint, Alabama milkvine. The book explores
both the need and the possibilities for conservation of the river
and the surrounding forests and wetlands. As in her groundbreaking
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Ray writes an account of
her beloved river that is both social history and natural history,
understanding the two as inseparable, particularly in the rural
corner of Georgia that she knows best. Ray goes looking for wisdom
and finds a river.