Which Way Okefenokee?

Canoe trail directional sign in Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from Dreamstime.com.

This morning my daughter and I embark on our annual Okefenokee Swamp paddling trip! And this time, she is bringing a friend who has never visited the swamp before. I love sharing this unique world of the Okefenokee with others. I’m sure she’ll be absolutely amazed.

We will be staying at our regular spot: site #4 in the Stephen C Foster State Park campground. Our food is all packed, the canoe is loaded, all is prepared and after a four hour drive, we’ll be in one of my favorite natural places!

Once that canoe hits the water, which way will we go? Which of our favorite gator watering holes will we visit… Big Water… Minnie’s Lake? Where will we get out and explore… Floyd’s Island… Billy’s Island? Is it up the Red Trail, or squeeze through The Narrows? Whichever we choose, it will be an incredible time as usual. I love the swamp!

See previous Okefenokee Journal Photography at http://williamwisephoto.com/okefenokee-swamp.html

Okefenokee in ‘The Wilderness Coast’

An Okefenokee excerpt from Jack Rudloe’s, The Wilderness Coast

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia  ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download legally at Dreamstime.com.

“The sun was just rising, but it was already hot when we launched our canoe just below the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. We were beginning the 217-mile journey through Georgia and Florida to the Gulf of Mexico on the Suwannee River.

“We paddled for days, with only the occasional splash of a bowfin or a garfish, or the bellow of an alligator, breaking the silence. Sometimes we ducked beneath the low hanging branches bearing wasps’ nests, watching for snakes among the contorted cypress tree roots.

“The Suwannee is one of the few large wild undammed rivers in the Southeast. As it leaves the sloughs and hammocks of the vast Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia it gradually coalesces, flowing through an eerie wilderness of stunted Ogeechee tupelo trees. Scattered cypresses rise above the swamps and give little shade from the blazing sun.”

The Wilderness Coast, by Jack Rudloe, 1988, Page 36

Okefenokee Photography Workshop

I’m sad I can’t make it, but wanted to let others know about this great Okefenokee Photography Workshop.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – Spring Photography Workshop with John Reed. Saturday, March 7, 2020. To register contact the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center 912-496-7836.https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Okefenokee/press_releases.html

Shared Okefenokee Post: Kayaking with Alligators — The Wandering RVer

Kayak Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Sharing another great travel blog to the majestic Okefenokee Swamp. This one is by The Wandering RVer.

We only had 2 days to explore the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, not nearly enough time considering it covers 630 sq miles. The swamp is only part of the Okefenokee experience, there are also vast wet prairies, pine uplands and cypress forests. This mosaic of habitats makes the Okefenokee a “Wetland of International Importance.” The […]

Kayaking with Aligators — The Wandering RVer

Okefenokee Plant Life: the White Water Lily

When one says, “swamp”, one of the first images related to the flora and vegetation of the habitat is, of course, the towering Cypress trees and flowing curtains of Spanish Moss. On my forth trip to the majestic Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, I spent some time to learn the other floral inhabitants of this beautiful ecosystem.

Okefenokee Swamp White Water Lily
American White Water Lily, Nymphaea odorata. Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Legally use this photo by downloading it at Dreamstime.

Second to the Cypress trees, the next most common image of swamp vegetation is that of the “lily pad”. Like shiny green dinner plates floating upon black water, the white Fragrant Water Lily, Nymphaea odorata abounds in the Okefenokee. These verdant saucers are garnished with large, white, sweet-scented flowers.

Not only is the White Water Lily a picturesque part of the swamp, but it is an important part of the ecosystem. Wildlife such as Deer, beaver, and muskrat will eat the leaves and rhizomes; while the seeds are consumed by various waterfowl. The underwater parts of the plant also provide food and habitat for invertebrates, which are also sustenance for reptiles, amphibians and avian life.

See more Okefenokee journals at www.williamwisephoto.com.

iNaturalist Observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/35934505

 

Okefenokee Bittern: Hidden in Plain Sight

American Bittern Okefenokee Swamp
American Bittern; Okefenokee Swamp Georgia. March 13, 2019. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

My daughter and I were only ten minutes into a four-day canoe trip through the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and already we had missed something! As we were paddling up the channel to Billy’s Lake from the Stephen C. Foster State Park boat ramp, we pulled to the side to let a tourist-laden pontoon boat pass by. As they went by, the naturalist on board pointed out an American Bittern camouflaged in the marsh grasses. We had paddled right past it, hidden in plain sight!

But we can’t be blamed. Even one prominent ornithology website says, “You’ll need sharp eyes to catch sight of an American Bittern. This streaky, brown and buff heron can materialize among the reeds, and disappear as quickly, especially when striking a concealment pose with neck stretched and bill pointed skyward.” With his bill pointed upward, he blends in perfectly with the tall brown grasses that line the water’s edge. Again, perfectly hidden in plain sight.


iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/21510857

See other Okefenokee Birding journals at www.williamwisephoto.com.

The Okefenokee Swamp – Morning on Billy’s Lake

Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. Morning on Billy’s Lake. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Use this photo legally by downloading at Dreamstime.com.

Thursday, March 12, 2015 – After a breakfast of freeze-dried biscuits and gravy, we loaded the cooler and our packs for a full day of paddling. We were going to press further up the Suwanee River than on our guided tour, perhaps 10 miles up closer to the heart of the swamp. Coming upon Billy’s Lake at the outset of the journey was a serene, moving experience. A hush fell over my daughter and me and we dared only to whisper rather than break the crystalline stillness. The water is a pane of glass, reflecting the tall cypress and gently swaying Spanish Moss; the light breeze, the buoyant lily pads, the echo of swishing oars…  we see no other paddlers, hear no motors… we sit and the drift is taking us. A beautiful place; an alien world found nowhere else. Perhaps not the most hospitable, but sure the hand of the Creator is here.

Thursday, March 12, 2015 – After a breakfast of freeze-dried biscuits and gravy, we loaded the cooler and our packs for a full day of paddling. We were going to press further up the Suwanee River than on our guided tour, perhaps 10 miles up closer to the heart of the swamp. Coming upon Billy’s Lake at the outset of the journey was a serene, moving experience. A hush fell over my daughter and me and we dared only to whisper rather than break the crystalline stillness. The water is a pane of glass, reflecting the tall cypress and gently swaying Spanish Moss; the light breeze, the buoyant lily pads, the echo of swishing oars… we see no other paddlers, hear no motors… we sit and the drift is taking us. A beautiful place; an alien world found nowhere else. Perhaps not the most hospitable, but sure the hand of the Creator is here.

An excerpt from my Okefenokee Nature Journal

Birding the Okefenokee: Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker in the Okefenokee Swamp
Pileated Woodpecker; Okefenokee Swamp Georgia. March 13, 2019. Please don’t steal my work. Legally use my photo by downloading at Dreamstime.com.

A loud call breaks the warm, still afternoon air. “Are there monkeys in the Okefenokee Swamp?”, my young daughter asks. “No. That’s a bird”, I tell her. “Watch over there.” In a moment, a flaming red crest appears from behind the trunk of the tree, peering in our direction as it searches another soft spot in the bark to hunt for an insect meal.

“The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest” says Cornell’s wonderful website.

I’ve come across several Pileated Woodpeckers in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia; more often hearing them than seeing them. But a few in particular have given me the privilege of a swamp photo session!


Read more Okefenokee Adventures at William Wise Photography.

eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S53914222

iNaturalist observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/21592342

Okefenokee, give us a sign!

Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Georgia Sign
Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia. Legally use my photo by downloading at Dreamstime.com.

After miles of seemingly endless, boring driving through pine flat-woods, one hopes for a sign from heaven that the swamp is nearing. And that first “sign” is literally a large, wooden sign marking the entrance to the refuge! The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 as a “refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife”. The Swamp survived an attempt at draining in the late 1800’s and was logged extensively in the early 1900’s before becoming a refuge in 1937 by declaration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It encompasses  401,880 acres (628 square miles), roughly 35 miles north to south and 25 miles east to west. Read more

Shared Okefenokee Post: The Land of Trembling Earth — Wandering Dawgs

Kayak Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Sharing a great post and wonderful photos from another Okefenokee adventurer, Wandering Dawgs. Enjoy!

Okefenokee – “the Land of Trembling Earth” What better way to begin our winter southern adventure than a stop in one of our favorite state parks, Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Much of the swamp is covered with thick peat deposits. The early Native Americans named the area Okefenokee […]

The Land of Trembling Earth — Wandering Dawgs