Okefenokee Safe Solo: Maps and GPS

American Alligator swimming submerged in the dark blackwater. Billy`s Lake in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia USA. October 26, 2022. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

​Is it safe to paddle the Okefenokee alone? I suppose that depends on many factors. I have made most of my trips through the swamp with my daughter or my friends, mostly to share the experience. But in addition to a few day trips, I also made a solo overnight excursion to the Canal Run shelter in October, 2022. While it is probably safer to have a partner, I believe a solo trip can be completed safely if you know where you’re going.

Long before overnight paddling by myself, I had made many paddles through the Refuge with partners. I could probably navigate many of the runs off Billy’s Lake without a map, but I would never be foolish enough to go without a map. I always bring an Okefenokee NWR map that shows all the canoe trails and mile markers. Even in this age of technology, an old-fashioned trail map printed on paper is essential. If you forget one, the Refuge always has them available at the various launch points in the Refuge.

My completed canoe trails as of October 2022.

​I also bring my handheld GPS that has many of the mile-markers and platforms marked as waypoints. The canoe trails are all marked and most of the side trails are too choked with water lilies to navigate, but if you happened to take a side run, it would be quite easy to get lost. I use a battery operated, handheld GPS and ensure I have extra batteries. Don’t rely on your phone for GPS navigation because it won’t last long.

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