What is Okefenokee?
Okefenokee, pronounced Oh- Kee – Feh – No – Kee, is a large wetland and national wildlife refuge found in southern Georgia. This refuge, largest in the eastern states, is home to many different species including alligators, black bears, and sandhill cranes. During our trip, we saw alligators ranging from 3 to 13 feet!
Okefenokee is just over an hour northwest from Jacksonville, Florida and an hour and 15 minutes southwest of Brunswick, Georgia.
To visit the swamp, you can enter at a few different locations. There is one entrance to Okefenokee called Okefenokee Swamp Park that is a private nonprofit facility with tours, rentals, and trails.
Both times we visited Okefenokee we entered through the national wildlife refuge main entrance, Suwannee Canal Recreation Area, near Folkston, GA.
What to do?
Kayak ’round the swamp:
If you have your own kayak you can set off into the swamp at the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area.
However, if you need to rent one like us, you will find a visitor center that rents canoes and kayaks, as well as, offers different boat tours.
You can kayak for miles around the swamp and the visitor center can provide a map to help you guide your path. There are different routes you can take depending on how much time you have to spend.
Make sure you pay attention to where you came from so you don’t get lost.
When kayaking, you will come across alligators, please remember that this is there home and you are a visitor. Don’t bother them, just admire from afar!
As we mentioned above, the concession inside the visitor center offers boat tours. We visited the swamp on our anniversary and took the sunset boat tour. Our guide was extremely informational and we learned so much about the ecosystem and history of the refuge. The sunset tour was such a unique experience and absolutely stunning.
After dark, we shined flashlights out into the water to find the bright red eyes of alligators shining back us, it was really cool!
Walk the boardwalk and visit the lookout:
At the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area there is a boardwalk trail where you will find a historical homestead site and a lookout tower to get a great view of the swamp.
From the lookout tower, you can watch for wildlife and enjoy an almost aerial view of part of the swamp. From here we saw even larger alligators than we did while kayaking!
Need more insight to plan your trip? Check out the refuge’s website here
Things to Remember:
For a great experience at Okefenokee, make sure to check the weather. If it is going to be hot, dress appropriately and wear good walking shoes like tennis shoes or hiking sandals.
Pack some snacks and plenty of water, or bring a picnic lunch to eat outside the visitor center on a picnic table!
Bring sunscreen, bug spray, and a great attitude. Other items you might want to pack include a camera, binoculars, and a first aid kit.
Also, it is important to remember you are visiting a protected and threatened ecosystem. Please make sure to follow the Leave No Trace Principles and be careful not to disturb the wildlife you may see.
Take care of your trash properly and leave the environment the way you found it.