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

Henry David Thoreau

To the Narrows and Back

Stephen Foster State Park Site 64
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Well here we are back on the last part of our second paddle on Billy's Lake in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.  To read about the beginning go to the previous post below.
There were two things that stood out on this day in addition to the beautiful sunshine.  And those were the alligators everywhere and the mirror lake surface.

Take a look at the markings and colors on this guy.  click the picture to get a good view

We're getting close to what is called The Narrows on the way to the Suwannee River Sill. 
 Throughout its history, the swamp has continued to exist despite attempts to drain, log, and develop. As they struggle to understand the Okefenokee, scientists ask how much they can manipulate the swamp without changing its nature. A debate rages over the Suwannee River Sill. Because of a history of wildfires which frightened people who owned property and lived around the Okefenokee, this earthen dam was built to hold water in the swamp and prevent it from burning. Now that the structure is in need of repair, people are wondering if manipulating the natural cycle of fire in the swamp was such a good idea in the first place.  No one at the visitor's center in Stephen Foster knew much about it and referred me to the East Side Fish and Wildlife Visitor's Center.  I'm in favor of free flowing undamned rivers personally and would really like to have talked with someone about the current thinking especially after the 2007 fire.
ANYWAY..........back to the paddle

I came to a sign telling me I was on my way to the Sill and that the river narrows.   Hmmmm I'd already firgured that.  Pretty far back in the bushes for a river sign.

We pulled in to take a break at the flopped over sign for Mixon's Hammock where there was clearly a landing  although it appears we have to have a permit to land.  Well I guess we just weren't able to read the sign quite as well as I thought given its position.

David wanted to show just how low the river is and perhaps just how much longer his paddle is than mine.
Is that a guy thing??  :-)  
But seriously, we should have been able to paddle up to the dock and tie up on the side behind David.

We walked off the dock toward the "campsite" sign which explained why there was a porta john here when we had found none at Billy's Island which was much larger

What a beautiful short trail to the campsite.

Here is the campsite which is part of one of the kayak trails in the swamp.  They have marked out kayaing routes of from 1 to 5 days and you can reserve the trail so that you will be the only one on it the day you are using it and thus the campsite is all yours.  I'd really like to try kayak camping since I have all the backpacking gear necessary.   Maybe next time.

After leaving the dock I thought about going on to the sill but it was clear the the water was just too shallow even though the way wasn't really "too narrow". 

So back we went.  Wonder what happens to power boats who try to go through here when the water is higher?  They aren't allowed up toward the sill or up the kayaking trails.  Great idea!!

And guess who we saw sunning?  Maybe this should be the pic of the day.  What do you think?  It's definitely the pic of the return trip.

It was later afternoon now and the black waters were really providing beautiful mirror images as you can see above.

This heron was pretty unconcerned about us going by.  In this neighborhood we probably aren't the most worrisome critters.

Are you beginning to see that David was pretty captivated by the photographic possibilities of the mirror images on the banks he passed?

Evidence of the fire was not so obvious as we paddled along but it was still there.

And so was the biggest local resident

Here's a close up of that grin.  Love that zoom lens since I wasn't about to ask him to pose for a portrait.

 This really was the day for gators and I promise you these are only a small number of the pictures we took of all the different gators that were everywhere as we went along.

We were moving upstream against the current which was almost unnoticeable unless a breeze picked up.

I was just fascinated by the different colors and makings on these alligators.  Hope they are clear for you in the bigger picture you can see by clicking this image.

 It's just such a lovely tranquil place to be that we weren't in any hurry to get back

As we neared the dock David found this which turned out to be his favorite mirror image.  I won't tell you how many shots of it he took before he got the one he liked the best.

So here we are back at the entrance to the canal leading to the State Park kayak take-out.
And look who is waiting.

Are they taking turns manning this spot or is this guy waiting for the duckie to come back or perhaps he's been waiting all day for me so he can get his revenge.

Well he missed his chance obviously or I wouldn't be posting this about a day so glorious it took me two entries to contain it all.

We'll sadly be leaving tomorrow but............I know it's getting to be a refrain.........I'll be back!!
Maybe you'll come too when you get the chance.  It really is an experience you should not miss.  But if you don't own your own kayak, call ahead to make sure they are renting.  Although if you do have your own, I'm told the gators are much more prominent during low water.  :-)


  1. Sorry, but those are just plain scary!!!

  2. Hi Luci & Loree, The gators really were not interested in us at all. We didn’t ever feel threatened by them at any point. They just slipped under the water and went on their way. Wish the water had been clear like the Florida springs, I’d have loved to see them swim

  3. The pic of the gator "reflecting" on the log has my vote for "picture of the day". I'm more scared of the gators when they slip under the water and I can no longer see them. Might I be afraid of the unknown?..maybe..



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