Black Water

Swamp 008Swamp 001Swamp 023The Great Okefenokee Swamp is one of North America’s most unspoiled and precious natural areas. It is the largest, intact, un-fragmented, freshwater and black water wilderness swamp in North America.

The slow-moving waters of the Okefenokee are tea-colored due to the tannic acid released from decaying vegetation. The principal outlet of the swamp, the Suwannee River, originates in the heart of the Okefenokee and drains southwest into the Gulf of Mexico. The swamp’s southeastern drainage to the Atlantic Ocean is the St. Mary’s River, which forms the squiggly part of the boundary between Georgia and Florida.

Swamp 045Swamp 009Swamp 015Swamp 002Hector and I first visited the Okefenokee in the 80’s with a group from Atlanta.  When we lived in Georgia we did a lot of river rafting and some canoeing and really enjoyed it.  And we really had a great time canoeing on the Okefenokee, even though the group had one “incident” where one of our friends, Lisa, fell out of her canoe into the alligator infested black water after it hit a cypress knee.  Somehow Lisa levitated out of the water and back into the canoe in what seemed like a split second.  All was well.

We’d been thoroughly enjoying kayaking in Florida so including the Okefenokee Swamp in our trip through the south was an easy choice.  Although it seemed a little nuts to go to yet one more place that has tons of alligators.

Swamp 020Swamp 041Having decided that we love kayaking and that our trip holds many great paddling opportunities, we purchased two matching sit on top solo kayaks in Jacksonville – an early 35th anniversary present.  Having solo kayaks gives each of us much more freedom to roam as we please, although Hector no longer has the benefit of my expert steering during his photography :-).  For now the Dolphin (our inflatable kayak) is being retired, she was a wonderful starter kayak though.

Swamp 025Swamp 026Of course we needed to name our new kayaks, since it’s bad luck to have a boat (or RV) with no name.  We’ve named our boats “Fuego” and “Caribe”.  See if you can tell which is which!

Swamp 007Swamp 031We took the Fuego and the Caribe out on three different days in the Okefenokee.  The swamp is surrounded by Cypress trees covered with Spanish Moss (which is neither moss, nor is it Spanish) and other interesting vegetation and is covered in many lily pads and flowers.

Swamp 027Swamp 012On our first outing, we went to Billy’s Island, an island that was inhabited by several hundred workers and slaves in the early 1800’s in a logging camp.  There is very little left of the community, and it’s hard to believe that people actually lived here in the heat, amongst the bugs and alligators.  It’s much like the stories we heard about the ten thousand islands in Florida.

Swamp 016Swamp 036Swamp 033Swamp 005Swamp 028Swamp 014As we left the island, a brief but pounding rain descended on us (fortunately we were prepared with rain jackets).  Then the sun shone much brighter than before.  Great outing.

Swamp 035On our second outing we went on a longer trek (about eight miles) where we spotted baby alligators that looked like lizards (I counted ten but saw no sign of mama).  Along the way, we met a wonderful young couple from Athens, Georgia.  We wound up having lunch together at a shelter.  Andie and Wick are both involved in environmental education and were skilled observers of nature. Swamp 034Swamp 021

Swamp 059Swamp 003Later at the camp we thought of our old friend Lisa again, as we heard that Wick and Andy also tipped their canoe and wound up in the black water!  Oops.Swamp 039

Swamp 011Swamp 066Swamp 061Swamp 060Swamp 064Swamp 069Swamp 056Swamp 024Swamp 063Swamp 038Swamp 044Swamp 058Swamp 017Swamp 062Swamp 065Swamp 047Swamp 046Swamp 048Swamp 052Our third outing to the other side of the river was slightly shorter and included a narrow portion of the river where I got pretty stuck between logs and branches on three sides.  Fortunately, with a little patience, I managed to get free, helping to build my confidence in dealing with different conditions.  On this outing we spotted two adorable juvenile Barred Owls and, of course, lots of alligators.Swamp 049Swamp 057Swamp 053Swamp 018

Swamp 013Swamp 040We were pleased to find that we could cover a lot more ground with our sleek new kayaks and are looking forward to more great outings.  And so, our brief return to the swamp was just as great as our first trip, even though an apple crashed in the swamp.

~ BrendaSwamp 004Swamp 037Swamp 019Swamp 070

12 thoughts on “Black Water

  1. I literally got goose bumps the second I saw the first picture of the swamp. The wildlife must be mesmerized by the bright colors of your kayak’s!

  2. Wow! Awesome photography and engulfing narratives. I want to go to the black water of Okefenokee!!! You two are just amazing! Thank you so much for bringing us along on your adventure. I still think I should have stowed away in the baggage compartment of Island Girl. ; ) Love you and thank you so very much for sharing…

  3. Great to see your blog! Your photos are absolutely beautiful (finally got to see those baby owls you were talking about…. so cute!).
    You might be happy to know that we (Andie and Wick) got engaged on our last night in the swamp!! such a wonderful and wild place. We hope to return, and maybe we’ll bump into you and your kayaks again. Enjoy the rest of your journey, you are an inspiration for Wick and I and the kind of traveling we would like to do throughout our lives. Safe travels!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this post and your beautiful photographs. Stephen C Foster is one of our favorite state parks and your photos make me feel like I am there again. I love the owls – we’ve never been lucky enough to see them there.

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