Okefenokee Swamp Park, Waycross, Georgia

by swampnut

As a swamp boat guide I get to see many interesting things. I decided to share some of them here and provide links for those who would like to learn more.

At the age of eighteen, I worked briefly as a boat guide at the Okefenokee Swamp Park outside my hometown of Waycross, Georgia. Now, in my later years, I get to do it again on a part time basis. While some things about the park and the swamp have changed since 1975, the overall uniqueness of the swamp hasn't changed. It is still an adventure for me every time I enter the trails and waterways of this special place in our national park system. Most of the Okefenokee has been enclosed and protected by the 680 sq. mile Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge designation it gained in 1937 when President Roosevelt had it set aside to be protected from ambitious loggers.
The story of how that happened is especially interesting. During the 1920's and 1930's a Cornell University professor (Francis Harper) visited and camped within the Okefenokee studying over 230 different species of birds. He often had his wife and children with him. His wife became alarmed at the ongoing destruction of the swamp by loggers who were steadily removing the giant cypress trees of the swamp.
She decided to write President Roosevelt about the need to protect the swamp. It just so happened that before her marriage, the young lady had served as the tutor for the Roosevelt children. It took her almost two years to get it done, but she was eventually able to convince the president to protect the swamp.
The pictures I am showing on this page show a little of the swamp's natural beauty today as it continues to recover from that long ago damage.

A brief glimpse at our Okefenokee Swamp Park

Our park was founded in 1946 for the purpose of educating people about the swamp and its unique environment. The Okefenokee is the largest freshwater swamp in the US. It isn't a true swamp, though. The water is actually flowing to the south at a slow rate of speed and is the headwaters of both the St. Mary's River and the Suwanee River. 

The swamp contains about 70 island sand about 72 Indian mounds. It has over a hundred miles of canoe trails one may travel and camp alongside. The terrain is varied, from open prairies and lakes to forested areas with pockets of open spaces here and there. 

There are over 50 different kinds of mammals in the swamp, over 30 different species of fish and over 230 different species of birds. Many bird watchers from around the US enjoy coming to the Okefenokee, especially in the winter to view birds which winter here or pass through on their migration.

Well, I could go on and on..... but I'll stop and let you look at the pictures and make your plans to  join us soon!  

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Some recent alligator pictures from our park.

The alligator is the king of the Okefenokee. Estimates on their population range from 15,000 to 27,000, depending on who is giving the information.
A gator resting.
A gator resting.
photo by Clint Bowman
He thinks he is hidden.
He thinks he is hidden.
photo by Clint Bowman
Just waitin' to see what might pass by.
Just waitin' to see what might pass by.
photo by Clint Bowman

Who's the boss?

A male alligator by the name of Crazy is the boss in our park. He has attacked males and females for no apparent reason. The big males are territorial. He has ruled the area since about 2008.
This is Crazy, the dominate male alligator in our park. He often attacks both male and female gators, hence the name.
This is Crazy, the dominate male alli...
photo by Clint Bowman

Erin's Gator Hole

A couple of years ago a large female named Erin moved her newly hatched offspring from their nest area near the heavily traveled boat trail. She went south and chose a low spot. She then wallowed out the area so it would hold water. This is it.
One of her offspring hanging out.
One of her offspring hanging out.
photo by Clint Bowman

Turtles: There are probably millions!

I tell the folks on my tours that turtles are gator snack food. The millions which hatch out in the spring of every year are well appreciated by the alligators.
A soft shell female looking for a nesting site. She is minus one foot, probably taken off by a gator.
A soft shell female looking for a nes...
photo by Clint Bowman
A Slider keeping watch for an approaching gator.
A Slider keeping watch for an approac...
photo by Clint Bowman

Our swamp has millions of other types of critters as well.

You should bring your camera and spend a day walking and riding with our guides. There are tons of things to see!
Bullfrog hanging out.
Bullfrog hanging out.
photo by Clint Bowman
Great Blue Heron hunting
Great Blue Heron hunting
photo by Clint Bowman
Gray Squirrel enjoying the early morning sun of springtime.
Gray Squirrel enjoying the early morn...
photo by Clint Bowman
Dragon fly warming up in the morning's sunlight. We love these guys! They eat the biting yellow flies in summer.
Dragon fly warming up in the morning'...
photo by Clint Bowman

Some of our plant life.

Some of the plants of the Okefenokee are useful to both humans and wildlife of all types.
Lilies can be a resting place for many smaller critters
Lilies can be a resting place for man...
photo by Clint Bowman
St. John's Wort
St. John's Wort
photo by Clint Bowman

Peoples of the Okefenokee Swamp: Mound Builders, Timucaans, Creeks, Seminoles, White settlers.

At least four Indian cultures either lived in the swamp or used it. About 1850 or so white settlers began to move onto some of the islands.
One of the park's educational consultants, Leslie Ranew, leading a class on soap and candle making.
One of the park's educational consult...
photo by Clint Bowman
An example of a Seminole home in the Okefenokee.
An example of a Seminole home in the ...
photo by Clint Bowman

Our park offers tours with trained boat guides.

Each guide does his tour a little bit differently. We all have our past experiences in the Okefenokee to call on as well as our lessons learned about the swamp's wildlife, trees, and plants.
One of the tour boats headed out on the 45 minute loop.
One of the tour boats headed out on t...
photo by Clint Bowman
Another tour boat arrives safely back at dock.
Another tour boat arrives safely back...
photo by Clint Bowman

A view of some of our boat trails.

The original boat trails were made by widening the existing natural trails left by alligators and old swampers.
One of our walk over bridges along the trail.
One of our walk over bridges along th...
photo by Clint Bowman
Heading around by Erin's old nesting site.
Heading around by Erin's old nesting ...
photo by Clint Bowman
A tour boat passes local historian and author, Luther Thrift, on Pioneer Island.
A tour boat passes local historian an...
photo by Clint Bowman

I hope you have enjoyed this brief glimpse of the Okefenokee Swamp Park.

It is my hope to meet you one day on one of my boat tours. Please come visit us anytime! Check the park's website out online at http://www.okeswamp.com/ and come see us soon! 

Updated: 05/30/2017, swampnut
 
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