(Audio - Red Hair)
If the background music drives you batty - you can always turn it down. - or
Q: Is there anything else I need to
know to go here and have a pleasant trip with my family?
A: Yes! Whatever you do, DO
NOT leave anything where the 'critters' can get into it. The 'coons here seem to be
extremely smart and adept at getting into whatever is left out. Food or not, they
will get into it ... looking for food. They can be VERY destructive. DO NOT leave
food inside your tent. They have an exceptionally keen sense of smell. They will destroy
your tent to get at the food. (We know all about that! Been
there -- Done that -- and destroyed a brand new tent, because they
smelled a loaf of bread. ) They have even gotten inside
peoples cars and tents if they were not fully closed. On one occasion, during the
exceptionally high water, a bear was seen in camp by the Park Superintendent, Sonny
Marshall, standing and looking into a van where people were still asleep inside. More
info on the above in my book.
Q: Where do I go and how do I get into the
swamp to see it?
There are three 'major' entrances. The
East Entrance, the North Entrance, and the West Entrance.
The East Entrance is roughly 12 miles south of Folkston, GA., and about 4.5 miles
down a road running to the west, off of Hwy 121, . There is a large sign on 121
... you can't miss it.
Also, the east entrance is the main Administration site for The
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It has concession facilities offering guided tours,
boat, motor, bicycle and canoe rental, souvenirs, fishing and camping supplies. They do
not have a public campground. (Covered later.) They have a superb Visitors
center. Their 'museum quality' displays of swamp flora and fauna are outstanding. It
alone is worth the trip. One of their biggest attractions
was "Ole George," a huge
ole granddaddy 'gator of submarine proportions. He would
daily lay on the bank of the canal immediately behind
the visitor center and pay no attention to those gawking at him.
Not long ago George apparently died of old age. (I'm told)
They also have a
complete old country homestead nearby which belonged to the Chesser family. This home is
complete and fully furnished right down to the old time family portraits. The kitchen
still has the fancy (expensive in those days) old wood stove, dishes, churns, etc. exactly as it was 50 years ago.
There is a volunteer Ranger on duty who conducts regular tours explaining the era and
history of the family. You will learn more about this beautiful swamp here than
any of the other entrances. Huge excellent parking facilities,
and Rangers who are helpful in every way.
The North Entrance -
not really a swamp entrance point)
Is near Waycross. This is called
Okefenokee Swamp Park. It is privately owned by a non-profit organization.
(??) It too
has a lot of very interesting tourist attractions, tours, a huge gift shop and trails.
Here are also several complete houses, lived in many years ago by the 'swamp folk'.
They have brought these old homes out of the swamp and rebuilt them exactly as they were
50 or so years ago. They are on a small spit of land surrounded by water with
live 'gators adorning the waters edge. For a small fee you can tour this 'village' or walk the
garden trails they have built specifically for you to enjoy and see what the swamp is
Huge parking facilities.
The West Entrance
Is 17 miles east of Fargo GA. At the dead-end of Hwy 177. It is
Stephen Foster State Park
and is operated by the state of Georgia. It has a superb well kept, wooded campground
with an unbelievable amount of 'in camp' wildlife, children's playground, boarded
wildlife walks, a super Marina, clean modern restrooms with cloths washing facilities,
cabins, boats, w/10HP motors, canoe rentals, and a
food & gift shop. Also, they
carry ice, and a limited supply of snack food and drinks. There is a
more detailed description of this entrance further on in this info.
Brochures and maps of the Swamp can be had by contacting the Okefenokee National
Wildlife Refuge, Rt. 2 Box 3330, Folkston, GA. 31537 --
or - calling 912-496-7366
Q: Is canoeing in the Okefenokee really
safe? I wouldn't want to get lost.
A: You bet. Very safe. You are given a map, the canoe trails are well marked
and you are warned by signs when you are entering an area that is closed. Closed
areas are marked "off limits" ... you are not allowed to enter. As a rule, on
day trips you will have lots of canoe company. Especially at the western entrance. On the
trail crossing the swamp you will not. Those trails are by permit only and the amount of
permit holders are limited. Many people come here to experience this great outdoor
adventure. Summertime the swamp usually has lots of canoers. You
are required to 'log out' when you go in - and back in when returning.
- Q: How large is the Okefenokee Swamp?
- A: The Okefenokee National Wildlife
Refuge presently encompasses approximately 396,000 acres. It extends roughly 38
miles north to south, and approximately 25 miles east to west.
- Q. Where is the best place to
canoe? What is the prettiest part of the swamp?
- A. You can canoe at each entrance.
However, in my opinion, the really "scenic swamp" is at
the Western entrance (Stephen Foster State Park) where the swamp is probably still pretty
much as was 50 years ago. The exception being that loggers cut almost all
of the "old growth" cypress. However, there is still an abundance of forested
swamp. I doubt seriously if the area you will see will look much different than it did 100
years ago other than no monstrous cypress trees and 'canoe trail' signs.' So... in
the Western part you will see the true swamp as it 'almost' was. Again, my opinion, This
part of the swamp looks as most people would expect a swamp to look like. A formidable and
mysterious dense forest in 6" to several foot deep water (more in some places) with
lots of wildlife. Though the North and the Eastern entrance parks have tours, gift shops,
facilities, and is more tourist oriented, the canoeing near those locations, is
mostly down canals built by the logging companies to remove their timber. However,
the prairies at those locations have a far greater species of bird populations. Therefore
the bird watching is much better. Here you will find many of the wading birds, such as the
egrets, herons, sand hill cranes, ibis, and wood storks, Osprey and eagles prefer nesting
only in the top of the tallest trees so are more at home on the Western side.
However, they are often seen hunting the eastern side.
- Q. Do they have any place to get
out of my canoe in the swamp? What if I need restroom facilities?
- A. I'm sorry to say there are no
facilities at this time for "day trippers" that I know of at the Western entrance. However, a
request has been made by the Forestry Service to place a toilet facility at the shelter at
Minnie's Lake. Hopefully, that will be installed this winter. As far as getting out
and stretching at the Western side, there are 'almost' none. (except for the above
at Minnie's Lake) There you can get out and stretch or have lunch
on a small (12X12) shelter platform built about 3 feet above the water. (but presently, no
toilet facilities) However, there is a great place to picnic and hike on
Billy's Island. It is one
of only a few places that are high enough above water that you can get out
without a special permit. Most
of the others are in "permit only" areas. (Unless you get out on the sill at the
far western edge.) Billy's Island is only 20 minutes by canoe from the State Park Marina,
and is an easy paddle. As for facilities on the Eastern side, there are shelters
with toilets at Monkey Lake, Coffee Bay, and on the
Suwannee canal . . . about half
way between the Canal Run Shelter and the Marina. There may be others that I
am unaware of. Best you ask a Ranger.
- Q: What about camping? Can I camp in the
- A: Yes and No! You cannot just go
out to one of the islands and camp. Also, anyone not having a permit must be out of the
swamp by 5 to 6 PM. (when leaving and returning you must sign in
and out at the park office) This
varies with daylight savings. However, if you have a camping permit for a specific
place, you are allowed to remain in the swamp for that period of your permit. If you are
canoeing through the swamp on one of the canoe trails, your evening campsite will be a
20X28' "chickie" (They use the term "Shelter"
-- a covered wooden platform about 3 feet above the water with a
3/4 roof) except for Floyd's island, where you will have the luxury of a cabin for
one night only. Those chickies (Shelters) are located at Maul Hammock, Bluff Lake, Round top, and Big
Water. 'Canal Run' also
is a shelter on a small canal
just off of the Suwannee Canal.
shelter . . . mentioned
above. All of the above are in permit only areas except for
the day shelters at Minnie's
Lake and the Suwannee Canal halfway.
does not have a shelter but
has great trails to explore. Great place to picnic.
Update - Due to the 2008
fires, many of those shelters burned down and as of early 2009, they have not
been rebuilt so many of the trails are closed - until they are repaired or
replaced. 2010 -- I have not gotten any info at
this time about whether the shelters have been rebuilt or not. I would expect
that they have. For info on this, call the Admin, number mentioned above.
Q: Where do I get my permit?
A. You apply to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Office. Their
Ph. Number is 912-496-3331 They will mail you all the information. Currently,
call ONLY between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Monday through Friday (excluding
Federal holidays) By the way, the main Admin.
office closes at 3:30 P.M. Do not call here for permits. Call the above number
What does the overnight or canoe trip permit cost?
As of 6/30/2001 - the cost is $10.00 per person per night and is non-refundable.
With all the costs of everything going up -- that might
change. Also, you may
get your reservation up to two months before the start of your trip. All
this will be in the info they mail you.
Q: How many people can I put on that permit?
UPDATE - 4-29-09
There have been changes in fees in many parts of the swamp. Today I
called for updated info on all fees as well as the status of the
campsite "shelters" that burned down in the fires of 2008. When I
get this info, I will post it here. So - the fee "Answer" below is no longer
valid. The rest is still valid I'm sure.
A: At $10.00 "per person." A permit can be for 1 to 20
people. Previously you were not allowed to canoe solo, however, I'm told
that has now changed. When you fill out your permit paperwork, you also must indicate how
many people are included in your party, and the name and address of the group
leader. The group leader is responsible for the conduct of all those in his party.
Note: After making a 5 day trip
recently, and seeing the shelters sizes, I can honestly say that in my
opinion, anything over 10 people would be severely cramping the space
available to spend the night. And then, there would have to be sleeping bags
only, no tents. There were four of us with small tents and we used most of the
- Q: Can I have a fire when I camp?
- A: No! If you are canoeing through
the swamp, you will be camping on "chickies"
(these are partially sheltered, raised wooden
platforms) every night except for one. Being wooden, you are not allowed any sort
of fire except for a Coleman type stove or a backpackers camp type burner. The reason
should be obvious. (Note
- AGAIN - the recent fires in the swamp burned down several of these shelters and as
of 9/20/08 - they are still under repair - so those trails are temporarily
closed to traffic. ALSO -- due to the hurricanes, there are loads of 'Blown
down' trees, blocking many trails, You can call the Okefenokee office
and verify which trails are open. (If any) As stated above, as soon as I get
the info, I will update it here.
Fires are allowed at Canal Run, Floyds Island, and Cravens Hammock.
(Except during extreme fire hazard times of the year which
might dictate changes) You may
bring your own wood or use only down dead wood. Areas
around the fire rings should be properly cleaned of leaves and debris at least
4-5 foot before starting your fires. For obvious reasons. Use
extreme care with fire. Remember, there are no fire
fighters or engines
here - or even near by -
to put out an 'out of control fire.' Use care
and common sense. If in doubt, ask a Forest service employee before
leaving the office.
What kind of wildlife might I hope to see in the swamp?
That depends on how quiet and observant you are. Alligators are most abundant.
You will see them just about anywhere they can find a good place to pull out of the water
and sun themselves. The majority of those you will see are small. Meaning 6 feet and
under. However, occasionally you will see a big fellow. As long as you use a little
common sense and do not molest them, they will not bother you. Whatever you do, when
camping on a chickie, (shelter) DO NOT feed them. You might possibly also see, otter, fox,
turtles, lots of coons, squirrels, deer, bob cats, hundreds of different kinds of
birds in season. Such as many different species of hawks, owls, ducks, turkey, cranes, and
woodpeckers (including the red-cockeyed, and pileated) --
herons, bald eagles, wood stork,
osprey, and occasionally if you are alert and lucky you may see the beautiful swallow
tailed kite. though they are common
and around, you'll probably see them -- if you are observant. I have only seen
a couple on all of my trips.
Black Bear and wild pigs also inhabit the swamp, especially around its outer edges.
However, seeing one of these is extremely remote. Panther were known for many years to
also inhabit the swamp. However, I'm told no one has seen one in over 10 years. That does
not mean they are not there. On several occasions we have heard bear splashing as they ran
away but have never been lucky enough to see one. (There is a difference in the
sound of bear running in shallow water compared to deer. Much more
noise) If you plan on staying at Stephen Foster State Park, I can almost
assure you that you will see 'coons by the dozens, and gray fox almost as plentiful.
They will walk right into your campsite up to within a few feet of you,
,looking for a hand out, Which is illegal. In the fall
when there are plenty of acorns - and in the spring, when
the green grass shoots are plentiful, the deer will feed right in your campsite within
20 - 30 feet
of you and pay no attention to you whatsoever.
What about snakes?
Yes, they are there. However, in over a dozen trips into the swamp in the west
corner, I have seen snakes on only two trips. That was because of extremely high
water. The snakes had to move up higher and were in the tree limbs.
THEN - In two days, we saw only
three. They are not a problem. However, if you are going to walk around on some of the
islands, you should stay alert. You probably will never see one but it is always best to
keep your eyes open. Remember, the snake is more
afraid of you than you are of it. (My wife might disagree . . . grin) --
If you should encounter a snake on the trail, stop! (I was
told by a very old prospector in Arizona years ago, to "stomp your feet" and
the vibrations would help shoo him along a little faster. Give it time
and it will move quickly out of your way. Remember, you are in HIS habitat.
not harass or injure him. Allow him go his way no matter what kind he
is. Note - for some very
reliable information on southern
snakes Visit these
You'll find them very interesting.
- Cottonmouth Water Moccasins
- Pigmy Rattlesnake at
- Brown Water Snakes at
- Scarlet King Snake at
- Great info on the American
- Corn Snake at
- Threatened Indigo Snake at
- Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
- Hog Nose Snakes at
- Black (Rat) Snake at
Q. Can I take a firearm with me into the swamp?
No! Firearms or any other type weapons are not allowed inside the refuge. That
goes for sling shots, bow and arrows, etc.
Can I take my dog with me?
A. No! Pets are not allowed inside the swamp. You are allowed to
have them inside the campground as long as they are on a leash. This is for your own
(and your dog's) safety. As mentioned elsewhere, dog is alligator's favorite meal and they
will go after them great distances - when they see or smell them. Though my
old dog loves to canoe and camp with me, even if there were no restrictions, I
would NEVER take my dog into the swamp. I love him too much
to risk losing him to a hungry 'gator.
What kind of snakes are there in the swamp?
A: Just about anything you want to name that is native to the southern
states. The most abundant however are water snakes. The common moccasin and the
cottonmouth, then comes the Eastern Diamond Back
(common) and maybe an occasional Timber rattler, etc. Again,
as long as you are aware they are around, and you stay alert, they will not be a problem.
Remember, they are more afraid of you than you are of them. (Again,
That does not include my
wife) Grin. Note: There is one exception to the above.
Since I was a boy I have heard the cottonmouth is one of the few snakes in the US with a
reputation to be aggressive. Most snakes will hightail it the minute they see you,
However, IF provoked . . . I'm told the cottonmouth will not only stand his ground, I have heard he will
attack if cornered or feels threatened. I personally have no proof of this nor do I
care to test it. (grin) If this concerns you or if you would like more information, best
to consult with Park Rangers who are far more familiar with these snakes than I. By
keeping still, usually 'most' snakes will get out of your way. Never attempt to
feed or molest any of the animals, especially the alligators.
Again, If you discover a
snake on the trail, leave him be. Remember, you are encroaching upon his
territory. By the way, the Rangers have a regular "show and tell"
program at the campground where you can learn all about the creatures of the swamp, trees,
flowers and much more. I highly recommend you experience one or two of these.
They are very informative and I'm sure you will find them quite enjoyable.
- Q: What about campgrounds?
- A: There are excellent camping facilities at the West
corner, called Stephen Foster State Park Campground. At the Okefenokee National
Wildlife Refuge on the east side below Folkston, Georgia, there are no campsites inside
the park, however, there is a commercial facility outside the park on Hwy 121 at the
entrance to the park. Their Phone number is 912-496-4472 There
is also a wonderful county campground just below Folkston off of Hwy 121, (a very
short distance) called "Traders Hill" Campground. It is right on the St.
river. They also have an excellent boat ramp ... and ... this is one of the prettiest
campgrounds I have had the pleasure of staying in. The huge old oak trees are
several hundred years old and are everywhere. This is a very old and historical place ...
You will love it. Check it out in your Florida history books.
Tell me about the facilities at Stephen Foster State Park?
all do they offer if I wanted to take my family there?
A: You name it, they have it! Showers, full hook up RV sites, dump
station, Kiddy park, washers, dryers, marina, launch ramp plenty of paved parking,
canoes for rent, boats and motors for rent, bicycle rental year around for $3.50 per hour,
tent sites, gift shop, "some" snack supplies, ice, 9 - SUPER
nice cabins ... (which are usually booked well in
advance.) They also
have an area set aside for Group Camping. These cabins
for $21.00 per night for the
first 15 people and $1.50 for each person over.
ASK! I'm sure this has changed.....
They have a total of 66 sites, of which 10
are pull through RV sites. They hold Ranger Programs inside the
Interpretive Center every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at 8:00 P.M. Subject
matter varies each night. This is an excellent place to learn about the swamp inhabitants
and it's flora and fauna. On Sunday morning there is a guided walking tour on the Nature
Trail which is a 1 1/2 mile board walk. This is free. There are also regular
professionally narrated boat tours (large pontoon boat) of the swamp three times a day.
10:00 A.M., 1:00 P.M., and 3:00 P.M. The cost of the tour is $8.00 per adult and $6.00 for
children over 3. Again, check if
there have been changes. This park also has two children's playground facilities, 3 covered picnic
shelters with grills, and numerous picnic tables with grills. It
also has a large GROUP campground facility that can handle a very large group.
If you need further
information, call 912-637-5274 from 7:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M.
"My opinion" -- This is a wonderful
place to bring your family!
UPDATE -4-29-09 -
VERY IMPORTANT YOU READ THIS, MANY CHANGES TO THE ABOVE, - ESPECIALLY
If you plan on going, best you print it out. Also note it has the current
- Q: Where is this Stephen Foster Park?
- A: It is at the dead end of Hwy 177 going northeast out
of Fargo, Georgia, about 17 miles from town. Fargo is almost on the border with
Florida, and on Hwy 441, north of Lake City, FL.
I should mention Fargo has a couple gas stations, a small grocery, a
convenience store, and two very small country restaurants, one completed
in the fall of 1998 (Nearest to the Railroad tracks) where
the food was very good.
- Q: How's the fishing in the swamp?
- A: Like the
fishing anywhere else. One time it's great, other times it's terrible.
If you like brim or bluegill fishing, they usually are
excellent. However, I
was told by some of the locals, in the last 10 years the bass fishing seems to
have fallen off quite a bit, and not
good. They say the tannins in the water have something to do with it. I would be more
inclined to believe the gators are catching and eating them. Remember, the
swamp is LOADED with gators.
- Q. Do I need a Georgia Fishing
license to fish in the swamp?
- A. Yes. But Georgia has a short
term license you can buy for only three days and it only costs $5.00. Ask at the
Ranger Station. I'm told you can get your license either at the East Entrance
Concessionaire or at the Stephen Foster Headquarters.
- Q: Can I put my boat in at the swamp?
- A: Yes! IF ... your motor is
no larger than 10HP. They allow nothing larger than 10 HP in the swamp, and then they are
allowed only in designated areas. Motors of any kind are not allowed on any wilderness
trail. There is a small fee for launching.
- Q: Can I put my air boat in?
- A: NO! Airboats are not
allowed in the swamp. Except for Forestry
repair crews, staff and researchers, and they use them only
when absolutely necessary. Airboats are a noisy intrusion into the peace and quiet
of the swamp and also they scare wildlife.
- Q: How many boats and motors do they have to rent at the
Stephen Foster marina?
A: I have never counted them but there appears to be at least 30. Maybe
- Q: How many canoes do they have for rent?
- A: Somewhere around 30-40. Both aluminum and
- Q: Do I need a reservation to camp in the campground?
- A: Yes and no. In the busy season, yes! This is a state
owned and operated park. You call 1-800-864-7275 to make your reservation.
Occasionally, when things are slow and there are plenty of spaces, you can just go
to the office and they will assign you a space. It is much better however, to call the
above number and make an advance reservation. I prefer
calling the office since I know all the gals there. That
number listed on the 4-29-09 update listed above and also below -- in
- Q: Do the have cabins for rent in the campground?
Yes. But they only have 9 and unless you have a reservation FAR
in advance, it is almost impossible to get one. They are EXTREMELY nice by the way.
Large screened in porch, Modern, clean, very well equipped and maintained.
Pets are not allowed in the cabins. OK in the campground, on a leash.
What do the sites in the campground cost?
- A: At
this writing . . . $13.00 tent and $15.00 RV. $15 gets you water and lights. Those rates change to
15.00 and 17.00 from March 1st. to June 1st. This is what is called "peak
time." They also have a senior discount. The last time I
was there, (November) they were installing cable for those who RV.
along a TV. (Gads!)
SEE THE 4/29/09 UPDATE IN RED ABOVE AS PRICES HAVE
- Q: How many sites do they have in their
- A: 66 tent, trailer and RV sites.
- Q: When is the best time to go to enjoy the swamp and
- A: Anytime! Spring is the busiest season. My personal
first preference is early spring. We have never had a
serious mosquito problem then ... Also, when we have camped inside the swamp at Cravens
Hammock, we had only a few. They were there, but not
unbearable. We had expected them to
be much worse. The 'coons were more aggravating than the
mosquitoes. They were into everything, all
night long! Some so bold they began raiding
everything they could get into - even before dark.
What about wildlife around the campground?
- A: It is plentiful.
In the spring, I have counted 10 deer
my camp, at one time. The 'coons are everywhere. So much so, they are pests. The fox are also
plentiful around camp and are unusually unafraid of people. This is rare.
Nowhere else I have been in my 80 years have I ever encountered fox that were as bold and
unafraid of humans as they are here. They will come right into your campsite, sit down and
watch you. Photo ops are excellent. You usually will see plenty of wildlife. As for the
deer, early spring or late fall is the best time for them. They come into
the fields along the road to feed on the young green grass shoots. In the fall,
they come into the campground to feed on acorns. Note...
Was in the Park, in NOV. and
there were does and fawns grazing everywhere inside
you see baby gators, don't try and get a closer look. Enjoy them from a safe
You can bet Mama is very
close by and she is fierce when she thinks her young are in danger. She
will attack in the bat of an eye. Other than protecting their young, you will not have to worry about gators
IF you have more questions about this park I'll try to answer them.
However, I recommend you call them direct. The Stephen Foster State Park
office phone number at the campground is - 912-637-5274 The phone is generally answered by
Barbara, Marilyn, Kathy or Amy. If you wish
information on permits, call 912-496-3331. You need to call between 7: a.m. and
10: a.m. EST only. I'm told this might possibly change in the
future but for now, adhere to these times.
I have added a link to the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service ... on
"Link Page." Clicking on their map will take you to Okefenokee National
Wildlife Refuge website for more information.
I hope you have a super trip.
Be sure to check out the
on this website to see what
the Book contains.
River Frequently Asked Questions.
To go to
the Book information page.
Go to the Video
- and - DVD
Album Page One.
Suwannee River's main Page.