April 2010
Canoe Trip to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Click the Map and the pictures for a larger view.
The planned route was from Stephen Foster SP to Canal Run to Round Top to Suwannee Canal

I flew from Rochester to Jacksonville and met up with Mike who flew from Baltimore.

Drove to Folkston Georgia and stayed at Okefenokee Pastimes Campground and Cabins.  The cabin was very comfortable and quite nice if primitive.

Went to the visitor center at the park in the afternoon then drove to St. Mary's for dinner and ate at Captain Seagle's  at the waterfront.
Started the day at the outfitter, Okefenokee Adventures where we picked up a canoe and a ride to the west side of the park.

The outfitter is located next to the park visitor center and at the exit point of the trip.
The west entrance is through Stephen Foster State Park
The trip started nicely paddling some open water.  As you can see the weather was perfect.
It's not long before you see alligators.  There are lots of alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp.
We had lunch at a place called Billy's Island.  The Okefenokee has three landscapes, flooded cypress forests, open bogs that they call prairies, and islands which is solid ground.
Mike enjoys a respite after lunch on Billy's Island.
After lunch the trip started going to the dogs or maybe the alligators.  Anyway, we were to follow the orange trail from Billy's Island to our camping platform at Canal Run, about 5 miles distance. 

I asked the outfitter whether we would have any trouble navigating the stretch which I knew would be a little rough.  No problem we were told by both the outfitter and the van driver who was also an outfitter.

"Just follow the signs and the trail" they said.  "You can't miss it", they said.  "You'll know right away if you get off the trail."  they said.
As you can surmise shortly after Billy's Island the trail disappeared into a tangle of brush as in the picture above and to the right. 

We assumed that if we pushed our way through we would pick up open water and the trail again. That didn't happen.  We search north and south to find the trail as we must just be off the trail.  Can't find the trail.  Finally we retreat back to Billy's Island to reconsider.

We tried three times to push our way through this brush or to find the trail through with no success.  Finally at 2 pm we gave up and retreated to the park entrance rather than compound our problems by pushing on.
Mike gets up close and personal with a gator in the brush. 

We frequently had to get out of the canoe and into the water to push and haul our canoes over logs and through the brush.  We assumed to gators, which we were told over and over gain are not very aggressive, would not be a problem. 

Then again we were told we wouldn't have any problem getting through this stretch of swamp.
We retreated back to Stephen Foster with hopes of finding someone to take up back to the east side of the park.  As luck would have it a group from our outfitter was being picked up just as we arrived.  The trip leader said his vans were full and he basically abandoned us.  The park office gave us a number to call for a shuttle to the other side.  Marty Johnson from Oke Trailmasters came to our rescue.  Of course this cost us $150.

When we got back to Okefenokee Adventures, our outfitter Randy was feeling somewhat embarrassed about abandoning us on the other side of the park.  He agreed to use a tour boat to take us near our camping platform.
Randy dropped us off on the Suwannee Canal about a mile from our camp.
Finally about 7:30 we get to our camping platform having had nothing to eat since lunch at 11 am.  The old freeze dried camp food tasted good that night.

In the end the day ended just like it was supposed to with us camping at Canal Run. 
The next day the weather was perfect once again.

The plan was to follow the blue trail and the green trail to Floyds Island and cabin.  Then backtrack on the purple trail to the Round Top camping platform for our second night.
We found a place with a number of baby alligators lying about.
We had lunch as Floyds Cabin.  Another group was there having camped there the previous night and getting ready to move on.  We lunched together and had an interesting conversation about canoe camping, where to go and how to do it.  They were a group a lot like the Canoe Voyageurs group. 
The round Top camping platform in Chase Prairie.

Click for a U Tube video giving a 360 degree look at Chase Prairie.
Sunset on Chase Prairie.

Everyone thinks places like the Okefenokee are just full of bugs.  Maybe in the summer but not many were about for our trip.  The mosquitoes kicked up and sunset so we had to hit the tens for awhile.  After dark they were gone so we came back out to watch the stars.
Sunrise on Chase Prairie. 
More alligators swimming around as we started to make our way out of the park.
So we're paddling along and alligators move out of our way or dive as we pass.   Logs of course don't move so naturally you come to understand that alligators move and logs don't.

So we run up over this log, and as the part of the log sticking out from under the canoe slides along the edge of the canoe, I think gee that log really looks like an alligator.   Well just before I pushed the log along with my paddle, an eye opens and stares right at me.  It was an alligator and we ran right over it and it was not happy.
Another day of lovely paddling as we made our way out of the park and back to Jacksonville for flights home.
The End