To go where one has not gone before…

Camping by permit only sign; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia birding and wildlife photography by

To go where one has not gone before is the call of every adventurer’s heart. Many times my daughter and I had paddled eastward just past Billy’s Island only to stop and stare at “permit required beyond this point” sign and wonder what lies down that channel. I was going to find out on my October 2022 solo trip.

Obtaining the permit for this section of trail that leads to the Canal Run shelter was quite easy, being a one-night trip. The platform availabilities and paddling routes are now on a website. No longer do you have spend time on the phone with Refuge staff to list the available routes. You can simply look up your desired dates and routes, and then call to book them.

I booked this one night stay at the Canal Run Shelter so I could explore a short portion of canoe trail that runs between the Stephen C Foster State Park Launch and the Suwannee Canal. I would paddle the five mile ‘permit only’ portion of the East Fork Suwannee River, camp overnight at the platform, and backtrack the following day while taking photographic observations along the way.

Being a relatively narrow and closed-in portion of the trail, the conditions weren’t the best for photography, but great for exploration. In the close quarters, I used my cellphone camera more than my DSLR and long lens. It was hard to pinpoint the small birds and lizards that scurried among the thick, tangled vegetation.

I always love coming across Bartram’s Air Plant while paddling the Okefenokee. They are so hard to spot amongst all the growth, but it always makes my mind think of a time when the Christian botanist William Bartram walked and paddled the pristine Southeast just before the United States became a nation.



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