Are you planning to travel to Okefenokee Swamp anytime soon? The Okefenokee is your ultimate vacation spot, covering more than 400,000 acres of land on the Georgia-Florida line. It is home to over 12,000 alligators! They are everywhere you look and are definitely a sight to see. In addition to the abundance of wildlife, there are plenty of activities for you to immerse yourself in and sites to visit. It is also one of the seven natural wonders of the state of Georgia.
What is the Best Time to Visit the Okefenokee Swamp?
One of the best times to visit the Okefenokee Swamp would be the period of late spring and early summer. The weather during this period is just perfect — warm and breezy. Plants happen to bloom during this period, making it a colorful and beautiful place. Animals in Okefenokee Swamp are also more active during this period. You will be able to make the most out of your trip and get to explore the entirety that Okefenokee Swamp has to offer.
However, when it comes to the wildlife, each season is different. For the best wildlife observation experience, early mornings or late evening is the best time. This is because they are up and about. It gets scorching hot during the summer. Therefore, if you intend to make your way to the Okefenokee Swamp during the summer, ensure that you make an early morning trip.
Another great time to visit is fall. During this time, Okefenokee sees fewer crowds. The majority of guests flock to the Okefenokee camp during spring break. You’ll also get to see the migrating Sandhill Cranes in autumn!
What to Do While at Okefenokee Swamp
Boat riding is one of the main activities in the area. It would be best to make it a top priority to ensure that you get on one of these guided boat rides. During the tour, you also get the opportunity to climb the 90-foot tower, where you will be able to get a panoramic view of the swamp, and see gorgeous native plants and wildlife.
The boat rides cost between $22 and $27. Group tours are also available upon request and you may be able to get a discounted rate and longer trips with larger groups. This generally means you have 12 or more people in your traveling group.
At times, though, it can be challenging to go out for a boat ride as it really depends on the water level. In most cases, no refunds are made because of unfavorable weather conditions.
Natural Wonder Special Programs
Most people visit the Okefenokee Swamp for its rich history, alligators, and cypress trees. Through the natural wonder special program, you will get to learn all about the swamp’s wildlife. Okefenokee Swamp is widely recognized because of its wildlife diversity. The United Nations even refer to it as a wetland of international importance. The programs available for you to take part in include:
The “Eye on Nature” Program
This program serves as an educational offering for all ages. You will get the opportunity to learn about all the animals present in the swamp. This presentation takes around 25 minutes. Moreover, it can be viewed all year round.
The “Can I See” Program
“Can I See” allows tourists to look at the variety of wildlife in the Okefenokee swamp from designated observation areas. You are also allowed to bring your camera with you to capture amazing shots of the wildlife.
Seasonal Light Show
The Okefenokee Swamp is quite magical, especially during the festive season! If you intend to make your way here during the holidays, then be sure to get on the train ride. You will get the chance to explore the park while enjoying the fabulous display on the trees. It is indeed an excellent time to be in Okefenokee Swamp, especially if you are traveling with your entire family.
There are light shows that take place throughout the day and Christmas songs can be heard in the area. Santa is also present, so be sure to bring your children along to give them their Christmas lists. It is the perfect way to spend the holiday with your family.
Birdwatching can be rewarding at the Okefenokee area, especially if you do it in winter. Many species of birds winter in the Okefenokee Swamp area after spending spring and summer further north. This creates a unique concentration of birds that you might normally have to travel to many different places to see.
Unique Facts About Okefenokee Swamp
The Okefenokee Swamp is the headwaters of the St. Marys Rivers and the Suwannee. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is constantly making efforts to conserve the unique qualities to ensure that the generations to come also get to enjoy it.
The swamp is home to endangered species such as the wood storks, red-cockaded woodpecker, and indigo snakes, among other wildlife species. It is densely populated with amphibians, which is a bio-indicator of the globe’s health. In addition, over 600 plants have been found and identified on the refuge lands.
Within the refuge land, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has 400,000 acres of wilderness nationally. It is one of the few and largest intact freshwater ecosystems.
While the Okefenokee Swamp is only about 1/4 the size of the Everglades in Florida, they share many similarities and wildlife. An effort is underway to try to link the two through protected lands, which would create a long swath of preserved habitat through central Florida up through the southern tip of Georgia.
What You Need to Watch Out for While Visiting
Swamps are unique, and the Okefenokee requires different hiking skills or camping skills than other types of environments. We recommend planning ahead for things that you may very likely encounter.
During your visit to Okefenokee Swamp, you will encounter countless alligators. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that you keep your guard at all times. You are most likely to find them by the banks of rivers and streams. Alligators will often slip away at the sight of humans because of their natural fear.
Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you treat them with respect. You can do this by not feeding them or harassing them. You should also only swim in designated areas. Failing to follow the posted rules can result in fines.
Pests and Insects
During your visit to the swamp, you will encounter a lot of pests. Therefore, you should be very vigilant, especially if you are outdoors. It is essential to carry insect repellent to keep bugs at bay.
Always check for ticks. A tick bite makes you susceptible to Lyme disease. Some of the Lyme disease symptoms include fever, fatigue, a skin rash, and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor.
Black bears are a sight to behold. From time to time, you may encounter them in the swamp. While it is a sporadic and memorable experience, the excitement should not be a reason for you to throw caution to the wind. The black bears often keep their distance. However, they might at times approach humans. In such instances, it is essential to seek refuge and leave them alone. Some preventive measures that you could also take include:
- Avoid feeding the bears. Scented items and food should be stored in secure structures. Never keep any food in your camping site or cabin to avoid any bear attacks.
- Do not play dead with black bears.
- If a bear approaches you, do not turn and run. Back away and keep your eyes on the animal. Talk in a firm voice.
- If it continues following, yell, raise your arms, and throw items at it. You may have to get more aggressive if it continues following you.
- Keep bear spray on you.
- Fight back if the bear attacks you. Thankfully, black bear attacks are much rarer than grizzly bear attacks. They can be more likely to attack if they have cubs, however.
Where to Stay While on Your Trip to the Okefenokee Swamp
The closest town to Okefenokee Swamp, Fargo, is 18 miles away. This is why most of the guests prefer to stay in the cabins or campgrounds in the park. The prices for the cottages around Okefenokee Swamp vary, but you are sure to find something for your budget.
How Did the Okefenokee Swamp get its name?
So how did the Okefenokee Swamp get its unique name? Like with many notable place names around the country, Okefenokee has Native American roots, but probably with some Americanization added along the way. The Choctaw tribe has a presence in the southern Georgia area, and Okefenokee derives it name from some Choctaw terms. Loosely translated, it means quivering or trembling earth. The peat in the area would “float” on top of the swamp, creating a sensation that you were on solid ground when it was actually suspended and moving.