Okefenokee Adventures

April 26, 2008


IMG_2919 [Blog] Well, yesterday my mom and I went to the Okefenokee Swamp located in the South East corner of Georgia. It’s a massive swamp. Okefenokee was named by the Native Americans which means "land of the trembling earth." If I remember correctly, it was because so much of the network of little islands were in some part floating on the swamp waters. They were held in place by the giant cypress trees, but the land would give to some extent when you walked on it. All I know is that I’m glad I visited this place in my car and explored in a modern boat. I can’t imagine being the first to explore this place on foot.

Okay, my mom and older brother explored the Okefenokee about 5 years ago. They visited the east side of the swamp by kayaks. Ever since hearing about their adventure, I knew that I had to conquer the Okefenokee. Now that the weather was right and tax season was over, I had a small window of opportunity. So, yesterday morning my mom and I make the 50 mile trip from Valdosta to the Stephen C. Foster State Park, which is on the west side of the swamp. I’ll be honest. I was very excited to do this, but at the same time scared to death. To be in a little boat, just inches above the water filled with alligators who many were longer than my kayak was not my idea of fun. This trip wasn’t really about fun… it was about an adventure. Oh, and did I mention all the water moccasins. Yeah, one of the most common snakes in the Okefenokee. Yeah, this wasn’t about fun.

Certainly there has to be risk here. No matter how you might try to convince me, humans were not intended to live in swamps. It’s a haven for some of the scariest (and creepiest) living things. Yeah, a person could certainly die in this swamp. It’s not a "safe" place. So when we get to the park office, we ask if they offer the kayaks. The park ranger cheerfully replies, "Oh, ya’ll wanna go out today?" There was no dread in her voice. I guess I expected something different. Maybe a "Wow, you guys are really brave! I have an amazing amount of respect for people like you, people who look death and danger in the face and laugh!"

No, she promptly went to a closet and pulled out two kayak paddles. She handed us a map and told us to go to the next room to grab a life vest. We asked if we’d see many gators. She laughed. "Oh yes, you’ll see some gators," she said with a smile.

Now let me repeat "verbatim" the safety instructions for this death-defying adventure we were about to take. Okay, here it is:






Are you a little confused? Yeah, I was too. Yup, there were no safety instructions or demonstrations. Not even a departure party to wish us well. We just grabbed out vests and made the lonely walk to our kayaks.

I had so many questions. But the very fact that they made no attempt to explain how I remain safe in the swamp made me a little nervous about asking them. Question included:

  • How many people have been killed by gators here?
  • How many people were killed this week here?
  • If a gator floats up to my kayak, what do I do? Do I stay still? Do I paddle away? Do I attempt to kill the gator with my paddle? If I survive the encounter, how do I clean the mess is just made while in the kayak?
  • If I fall out of the kayak, what do I do? Do I try to get back in (I have a feeling the gators would have a laugh watching me try to get back in while floating down the swamp)? Do I swim to the shore? Do I float carefully down to a tree along the edge? Do I swim like a crazy mad man afraid for his life?
  • How many people were killed by gators this week?

Yes, I was a little disappointed in the lack of instructions. Didn’t they know they were sending me out to my death? A little help would have been greatly appreciated!

Okay. All I can say is that three hours later, my mom and I paddled back to the boat return. We weren’t wet. We still had all our limbs. Other than a little sunburn, we were all in one piece. We faced death and lived to tell about it. We had conquered the mighty Okefenokee and lived to tell about it.

I’ll post tomorrow with detailed information about our three hour adventure… with pictures.


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