Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Becoming Swampers

Stephen Foster State Park
in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Site 64

Up this morning to catch a beautiful sunrise from our water front site.   Boy do I love this!

Hated to leave Ocean Pond and its very reasonable rate and water front site but we were anxious to try some swamp kayaking.   So we drove the 74 miles to Stephen Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.   My kind of driving day.

The park is 17 miles down GA State Route 177 from Fargo Georgia.  We checked in at the Visitor's Center and found that the Okefenokee Swamp is, at 700 square miles,  the largest, intact and un-fragmented wetland wilderness swamp in North America. The name "Okefenokee" came from what the Creeks and Seminoles called, "Land of Trembling Earth" .  This is not a reference to earthquakes, but to the unstable Earth that would shake from something as light as a footfall due to the fact that much of the land is actually floating and though it looks stable if you try to stand on it, you find out otherwise.

The refuge is vast, with almost 402,000 acres (that’s roughly 300,000 football fields in size) of cypress forest, marsh, lakes and islands. Filled with alligators, Sandhill cranes, red-cockaded woodpeckers and over 400 other species of animals.   Whoopie!  I can hardly wait!!

We selected Site 64, a nice pull through.  We knew we wouldn't be there much since we'd be living in our kayaks but it's a great place to come home to.

Our new backyard

We'd been told at the Visitor's Center that cell and internet were very sparce but our best chance of either was over by the Interpretive Center.  So I sat down on the swing and tried to get the air card to work.   Why ARE all benches made for folks at least 5'6" tall?   Those of us who are vertically challenged have dangling feet just so those who aren't can not have their knees up too high?   Unfair I say!  VC people unite for lower shelves, swings, chairs and kitchen counter tops!!

Well I only got the flag, no bars, but it was good enough to reply to some emails but not strong enough to do anything else.   So David said, get up higher and I did.

No bars here either but I could bring up google to check weather and reservations but it wasn't strong enough to post to a blog.  Hmmmm does this have anything to do with using up our 5GBs so quickly?

With what was left of the day we did our usual "check out the park" routine.  One of the campground loops is closed so we needed to take a look there.  And we decided to walk the "Trembling Earth Nature Trail".
It's a nice wooded path, mostly boardwalk over the swamp or is this a marsh or maybe a bog.....

As you can see from this information handily provided near the beginning of the hike, it is just like the name says, a swamp, a wooded WETland.  Click on this picture of the sign which clearly explained the difference.

Only it wasn't wet.   The drought here has been extended.  There had been no rain in nearly 5 months to this point.   So it was a boardwalk over dried leaves.

Lots of evidence of the April 2007 fire which burned 80% of the park and burned from April through June.  I can't imagine the smoke that must have been a blanket over the swamp.   But fires are necessary in this habitat for regrowth and regeneration.   Although it is extremely unusual for such an extensive area to burn all at one time.  This fire had two starting points, one in the north near Waycross due to a downed tree on a power line and one in the southern section of the swamp due to a lightning strike.  I guess they just burned until they met in the middle.   It didn't appear that any of the park buildings were burned but the fire came very close as this trail begins right behind the visitor's center.   

The reason for the long burning was the peat had dried out due to the long drought and provided acres of fuel.  The peat burned in some areas up to several feet deep.   As it burned, it burned the roots of the trees leaving them in a weakened condition and strong winds could easily blow them over.  But the regrowth is very impressive and would be more so I'm sure if there hadn't been other cumulative droughts including the one going on right now.

Walking along we saw what looked  like red banded trees and wondered if those were the pink plastic ties often put on trees in our area that are slated to be removed.  We were really surprised to see that here.  But when we got up closer we saw it was a type of lichen completely encircling the tree.   Pretty cool huh?

Also along the way we ran into this fabulous Golden Silk Spider known for creating intricate orb like webs that are 2 or 3' high as well as wide.  It was growing dark so we weren't able to look around for the web.  This  female golden silk spider can grow up to an inch in length--not including legs. Male golden silk spiders are actually much smaller and a brown drab color.   Way to go girls!!

The Self Guided Hike was very interesting and provided a lot of information about the plants and animals of the Swamp.  It was a great way to familiarize ourselves with the flora and fauna of the Swamp before going out in the kayak where guide books are difficult to take.  

We were introduced to the White TiTi (pronounced tie tie) which produces white flowers in long catkin like groups in the June and July.  I'd like to see that but the fruit on the bushes at this time of year was also really lovely.

Really fine colors aren't they?

A last look down this very informative trial before we headed off for dinner and a night of reading before bedtime.


  1. Glad to see you are really enjoying yourselves.

    You have found some beautiful sites and great kayak trips.

    Let us know when you get back to Myrtle Beach area so we can catch up in person.

    Safe Travels and Happy Trails.......

  2. Sherry... I have just found your blog and am so happy I did. Yesterday I kayaked at First Landing State Park... making Virginia the 25th state I have kayaked. I am so glad I found you as I am heading south and plan to kayak some of the places your and Dave are kayaking now. Maybe we will have a chance to meet? My Dave died in 2001... and I needed some new goal bigger than life... which was to kayak all 50 states. I am a member of Yahoo Vandwellers... and so far on my trip have met 34 vandwellers. I hope to meet you both one day... paddle on.

  3. Nancy and Bill,
    We should be there early in Thanksgiving Week and will for sure let you know so perhaps the 6 of us can get together and swap stories. Looking forward to seeing you.

    Thanks so much for the comment. I'd love to hear about where you have been paddling. Virginia is our home state and so we are very familiar with First Landing-used to be called Seashore State Park which I liked better. Keep in touch on your travels.


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