Okefenokee Swamp paddlers owe much to the federal Okefenokee NWR and Stephen C Foster state park employees that keep the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge’s canoe and kayak trails clear, maintained and well-marked. When one visits today, direction signs label and point to Billy’s Lake, Minnie’s Lake, Big Water, Canal Run and more. Since cell phone and GPS signals can be unreliable in the heart of the swamp, the regular mile markers are a true blessing as well. But it wasn’t always that way! Hamp Mizell writes in 1926 of his father:
“It was in the early winter of 1874 that my father found Chase Prairie. He had determined to try a boat in an effort to get through the Swamp instead of the old way of wading and jumping from one clump of bushes to another, all the time bogging from knee deep to armpits, which was the old way of traveling in the great Swamp.
“Let me say right here that it is no small job to find the right course to take in the Swamp and the right route to take to reach the mainland. It is a dangerous thing for one not familiar with this Swamp to undertake, for one not familiar with it will surely get lost and begin to travel in a circle. Old-timers in the Swamp can even tell the directions by the growth of bark on the trees, etc., but it requires an expert to do this.”
History of Okefenokee Swamp, 1926, AS McQueen and Hamp Mizell, pp. 31-36
So unless you’re an Okefenokee expert, it would be a nice thing to thank the park employees if you encounter them on your journey, or during your stay in the wonderful Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge!