Drifting into Darien
A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River

Janisse Ray

"Every endangered ecosystem should have such an eloquent spokesman."—Bailey White


"I found this book important, evocative, and lovingly written. There are many passages of great beauty, and the author's sincerity and knowledge radiate from every page. Her words sing, crackle, and tingle in the mind long afterward. The book offers a rich blend of local color, universal insight, humor, and environmental passion."
—John Tallmadge, author of The Cincinnati Arch: Learning from Nature in the City

"Janisse Ray is, and has always been, the real authentic deal. She feels deeply about the land, the water, the life of this planet. She lives that conviction. And she is blessed with the gift to write about this earth in a way that touches us all. From one Georgia girl to another: Janisse, you and your work inspire me. Read her words. Be inspired."
—Tina McElroy Ansa, Novelist, Baby of the Family, Ugly Ways, Taking After Mudear

More / Hide


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 knows.

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.

A Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book

Page count: 256 pp.
19 b&w photos, 1 map
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5

Read more about the Altamaha River at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


List price: $26.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

List price: $20.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

List price: $22.95
Check ebook availability

Janisse Ray is the author of three works of nonfiction, Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, and the bestselling Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. She is also the author of a poetry collection, A House of Branches, and coeditor of Between Two Rivers: Stories from the Red Hills to the Gulf. She lives in the Altamaha Community in Reidsville, Georgia.