Okefenokee Swamp - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
Weekend Trip Report
Steve in Kentucky
During Spring Break 2000, I went down to the Okefenokee with a paddling friend. Prior to arriving at the swamp, I spent a few days looking around St. Mary's, GA. I kayak paddled the St. Mary's River and for a boy from Kentucky, I was amazed at how difficult it was to paddle with wind, chop and tide all coming at you from different angles! The swamp is in the middle of nowhere but once you get there, the campground is beautiful.
We took the Sewanee River from the Stephen Foster State Park lagoon until we got to our turn off down a narrow channel. In short, we got to within six feet of gators, got to see herons, an eagle, turtles and paddle water the color of tea. We camped out on a platform called a chickee and got to listen to the gators wail during the night (mating season!).
That evening we went out and paddled the swamp with our headlamps and the gator eyes glowed red at night! It was a full moon so we paddled back in the moonlight with our lights turned off. The swamp was beautiful and sort of spooky. We had originally planned a three-day trip but low water levels limited us to an overnighter. Still it was a fascinating experience. We didn't even feel threatened by the gators...but a pesky raccoon wouldn't leave us alone and tried to steal our pots and pans off the chickee!
I still remember after the gators got tired of looking for girlfriends how absolutely quiet the swamp was late at night. For a while the birds screeched and the gators yelled but then it got quiet...really quiet. Once in a while you would faintly hear a plane overhead. It also got really cold for March that far south. Having been camping in national parks and state parks in this part of Kentucky/Tennessee, one gets used to being in the wilderness but not too far from the car or the bath house. Out there, we really felt like we were in the wild. Email me if you want to talk about it.
Stephen Foster State Park has a really pretty campground with Palmetto (?) Bushes all over the sites. The park office has a nature center, a store, is next to the boat rental lagoon that gators live in. You can sit on the porch of the store in rocking chairs and watch gators twenty feet away. A short paddle down the channel leads you to the Sewanee River. From there, various routes cut off the main channel. That is for day trips... Multi-day trips go from the eastern Visitor Center at Okefenokee NWR and then end at Foster State Park. During low water, the park allows overnight trips from the State Park and returning to the same place.
Campground has reasonable fees as expected of a state park. You need to call a number during the morning hours to secure an overnight permit for the swamp well in advance of your trip. There are limited spots and only about 7 canoe routes, so it takes planning.
Go to the middle of nowhere and then drive a little farther! Actually it's pretty easy to find. Just go south of Macon, and then hook over about three hours west of I-75 and you can't miss it. Although it is in the middle of miles of rural Georgia land, with unfortunately a lot of timber harvesting on the roads all around the swamp.
Bob Sehlinger lists the swamp in A Paddler's Guide to Southern Georgia
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