The Okefenokee Swamp

Waterway in the Okefenokee Swamp, GA
The water in the swamp is brown from high concentrations of tannic acid. It appears black which makes reflections stand out.

It looks like there’ll be no Internet today. I’m in the heart of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, at a campground in Stephen C. Foster State Park which is on an island in the swamp. There’s no sense of being on an island though, you can’t see a body of water anywhere. Internet and cellular come and go seemingly at whim and even when the technology Gods grace us with a moment of connectivity it is frustratingly sloth like.

Alligator, Okefenokee Swamp, GA
I guess you could say this gator was chillin’ even though he was warmin’ in the sun. He didn’t seem to mind our presence… I mean he didn’t eat any of us or anything like that.

It’s nearly 9:00 A.M. As I peer out the window of my my RV I’m surrounded by a dense jungle of trees and small palms, Spanish moss draped from the branches of the trees giving this wooded spot a feeling of magic, romance and mystery. It’s quite beautiful. Various songbirds and more jungly, exotic sounding birds call out to each other, and who knows, maybe to me as well. I sometimes answer. The past couple days the air has been thick with dragonflies but I see no sign of them today. Not yet anyway. It will be hot today. Hotter than yesterday. Somewhere in the 80s I expect and it will be humid.

Cypress Knees, Okefenokee Swamp, GA
The function of these cypress knees is not understood by scientists. It’s obvious to me they were intended to make a cool photo.

This is my third and final day here in the Okefenokee. Gee that’s fun to say. Wet weather has been chasing me around the country for what seems like weeks, from Pie Town in the mountains of New Mexico which is named after, well,  pie, to Roswell, famous for space aliens, through the panhandle of Texas to Wichita Falls. It chased me into Oklahoma where it only got worse. In Sulphur and Hodgen there were heavy thunder storms and tornado and severe weather watches. Rain followed me to Hot Springs, Arkansas then Greenville, Mississippi, up the Natchez Trace Parkway into Nashville, Tennessee with more severe weather warnings and the threat of tornados and hail the size of golfballs and larger. It wasn’t rain all day every day, but there was certainly a shortage of dry, sunny weather even as I continued my route now southerly from Nashville through Birmingham, Alabama and onto Montgomery and then more southerly into the Florida panhandle to Falling Waters near Chipley. Man oh man was Alabama beautiful! Even along I-65 it felt like I was driving through a verdant green forest–and I was: it was spring and the Interstate tree-lined. Yesterday, finally, was the most beautiful and perfect day of gentle winds, sunshine and warmth, and the timing was perfect for I had booked a boat tour here at Stephen C. Foster State Park deep in the heart of the Okefenokee.

Street signs in the Okefenokee
I was amused when we came to this junction of waterways in the swamp: note the “street signs” on the left. Look carefully and you’ll also see the eyes and snout of a gator guarding the entry to the side street!

We motored through the waterways and saw many alligators sunning on the banks, some on logs and others half submerged along the shore. Occasionally a shy one would dive under the water as we approached, but many didn’t seem to pay us any mind at all and we were able to get within maybe 20′ of them to snap a photo or two. We saw egrets and other wetland birds. A hawk or two soared overhead and we could hear the rat-a-tat-tat of woodpeckers judiciously at work. The brown water, so colored from a high concentration of tannic acid, appeared black and reflected like a mirror the bright, spring green needles of the cypress with their furrowed trunks that seem content to grow right out of the water. Cypress, a kind of conifer is not an evergreen. It sheds it’s needles every year. I had hoped to find some large old cypress to photograph in misty conditions to make some wonderfully creepy swamp photos. I was disappointed to learn that the Okefenokee had been heavily logged of the old growth trees many years ago. The trees now are much younger and smaller.

Cypress and ferns, Okefenokee Swamp, GA
Cypress and ferns, Okefenokee Swamp, GA. Taken along the nature path behind the visitor center.

And so it was when I penned–or is it clicked?–most of this report but a short week ago. Since then I’ve been to Savannah and Brunswick GA, and now find myself in the woods near Lancaster SC, soon to be launching into North Carolina in search of spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway. For this I’ll have to stall somewhat as I’ve learned that spring has not yet fully sprung at the higher parts of the mountains. I expect to take some time to lallygag as well as to catch up with chores and blogging. I could use a rest. All this traveling and sightseeing has got me plum tuckered out.

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