Watch the Roadsides!

Juvenile American Alligator peering out from lily pads in a roadside borrow ditch on Chesser Island; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. November 13, 2021. ©

The Swamp Island Drive is a 7-mile driving trail in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It winds through a typical swamp uplands habitat of tall Slash Pine and a thick understory of Saw Palmetto on Chesser Island. With several wildlife observation openings and a few ponds, it is perfect for the visitor that may not be able to hike on foot. The tendency may be to drive quickly through this upland habitat on the way to the Chesser Island Boardwalk trail at the end. But don’t drive too quickly, or you may pass some sights along the way.

Paralleling the roadside, there are many long, narrow drainage ponds called “borrow ditches”. Except in a drought, these small ponds are often filled with lily pads, the occasional pitcher plant, and other semi-aquatic plants. Basking turtles may quickly drop from a log and into the water as your vehicle passes. And if you keep a keen eye, you may see a pair of reptilian eyes peering back at you! Young alligators may use these small ponds as a safe haven. You might even see a “big one” laying alongside the road on a warm day.

Swamp Island Drive; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. November 13, 2021.



  1. Love the Swamp Island Drive. My last drive through a month back yielded photos of Hooded Mergansers in a pond and an Eastern Rat Snake at the Chesser Homestead. Have also gotten images of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in times past.


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