Nearly a half million acres in size, Okefenokee Swamp is a magnificent environment to explore, with something for travelers of all abilities. Choose from hiking trails and wildlife drives to boardwalks and canoe or motorboat trips through some 120 miles of prehistoric canals. Look for movement between the carpet of green lily pads and you might clap eyes on Georgia’s living dinosaurs: alligators. Otters, water moccasins, anhingas, osprey and black bears also share this wilderness.
There are three main entrances to Okefenokee Swamp. The Kingfisher Landing entrance is just south of Waycross, the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area is in Folkston and the Stephen C. Foster State Park entrance is in the west. The Kingfisher entrance includes a 1.5-mile railroad system, with train tours on a replica steam engine. The Suwannee entrance has a self-guided 7.5-mile wildlife drive through the park leading to the Chesser Homestead, where early settlers named ‘Swampers’ lived in the mid-19th century. From the Stephen C. Foster entrance, visitors can reach the 5-mile wide Billys Island, which is only accessible by boat or canoe through ‘gator-infested waters. Settlers here date back to 1200 A.D., today the only trace of former inhabitants is a modest cemetery. Boat tours, kayak and bike rental can be prearranged with Okefenokee Adventures, located inside the park at the Suwannee (Folkston) entrance. Wilderness camping is possible inside the park if a permit is applied for at least two months in advance (visit www.recreation.gov to apply). For boat tours, hiking and board-walking, wear closed-toed shoes. A hat and insect repellent are also a must.