16 November 2007

Okefenokee Swamp Adventure

There's nothing better than spending a few days canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp. We packed up the car early Monday morning and headed to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. There we rented our canoes and headed out to our backcountry platform on the Suwannee Canal. You should have seen our canoes piled high with firewood, backpacks, and camping supplies. After last year's experience of not taking enough food, we definitely overcompensated this year. Our cooler was full of hobo packs, snacks, and adult beverages. Needless to say, we could have fed an army. Here's Mo and Hewy strapping our alligator mascot to the front of our canoe.

The first leg of our journey was spent lazily paddling down the Suwannee Canal. We enjoyed the beautiful weather (highs in the 70s) and listened for Sandhill Cranes. Last year's paddle concluded with over 300 alligator sightings but this year the water level was high and there wasn't enough room on the bank for them to bask. We only saw 5 alligators before we reached our campsite.

Half way to Canal Run Shelter there is a picnic area called Coffee Bay Shelter. This is a chance to stretch our legs, use the bathroom, and eat some lunch. Due to the wildfires last year, our bathroom was melted in a big lump (seen below). The trees were scorched but the prairie behind the shelter looked pretty healthy. Though fires can be dangerous to our personal homes, they really are beneficial to cleaning up the old growth of the swamp.

Preparing to leave Coffee Bay Shelter we were all smiles.

Before making it to Canal Run Shelter we took a side trip into one of the many prairies along the way. I love the water lilies and daisies that were blooming. You can almost hear the Sandhill Cranes in the picture below. On our way back home, we stopped at this location again and had a flyover by three Sandhill Cranes. They have a distinct rolling call that they use often while flying.

Once at our campsite we picked a spot for our tent, did a little cane pole fishing with Vienna Sausages, and relaxed to the sounds of owls calling and birds flying by. The swamp is so peaceful in the evening and the afternoon sun lights up the golden cypress trees.

We ate a delicious meal of sweet potatoes, squash, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, and cheese heated over the embers of our campfire. There was beer and wine and of course, wonderful conversation. After a day of paddling, we retired to our sleeping bags and slept in anticipation of another day on the water.

We paddled 20.4 miles round trip, not counting our little side adventures into the prairie. Along the way we were mostly greeted with Belted Kingfishers and a plethora of woodpeckers. In all we saw over 20 species of bird, including a dead Juvenile White Ibis that was banded. Thanks to Hewy, Kelly and Mo, it was another wonderful experience canoeing and camping in the Swamp.

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