Okefenokee Adventures (Part 2)

April 27, 2008

Adventures, Family

okefenokemap Okay, hopefully I’ve got you curious about this experience. My mom and I got in our kayaks. So virtually we are sitting in a little plastic boat floating down a gator infested swamp. Actually, once you sit in the kayak, you’re partially below water level (for some reason my kayak sank a little lower into the water than my mom’s). So virtually we’re "in the water" with all the other swamp creatures. Exciting!

So, once we get into our kayaks, we’re in a little boat canal that feeds to the main river. (see location #2 on the map). We paddle just a few hundred yards into the main section which is called Billie’s Lake. It’s actually a flowing river. We turned right and headed upstream. We figured it would be a little easier to come downstream when we’re ready to come back. As we float down the boat canal, we’re scanning every bit of water… looking for any movement of any kind…. nothing. Then we reach Billie’s Lake and hang a right. This section of the swamp is about 50 yards wide… so it’s pretty big. The sides aren’t really land, but just swampy areas with trees, lily pads and other vegetation. We steer our boats to the middle of the waterway and paddle. After only a minute or two of paddling, we look ahead to see a dark spot on the water about 50 yards ahead… it was moving from left to right. It didn’t take but just a minute to see that it was in fact our first alligator! We speed up and steer to the left, making sure to put as much space between us.

A few minute later, we see more gators, usually floating or resting along the sides. Every time I saw one, my heart would stop beating for a few seconds and my body would tense up. I think what scared me more than anything was what I do if one surfaced close to my kayak. I was afraid that if one came really close, I’d over-react and fall out of my kayak. I don’t think I was ever afraid of being injured by a gator… I was afraid of being in the water with these fellas.

There wasn’t a lot of talking between my mom and I at this time. We saw many along the edges and every now and again we’d see one crossing the river. What freaked us out the most is when we’d see one crossing and midway through it’s course it would submerge under the murky waters. The only think worse than seeing a gator with a few dozen feet of you was not seeing a gator, but knowing it was within a few dozen feet of you. This caused me to reason. If many of the gators I saw would go underwater after I had seen them, how many gators are underwater now that I haven’t seen? Yikes!

We paddled a little more than a mile before turning left going up toward Minnie’ Lake. The rangers at the park office said this area was really pretty. They weren’t kidding. However, the prettier the swamp got, the scarier it got. What made this area so pretty was that the cypress trees really started to close in on you and where the main water way (Billie’s Lake) was 50 yards across, the area we were now in often closed in to about 3-5 yards. It was in this area that if we saw a gator, we’d be a LOT closer. And yes, there were plenty of gators on this route as well.

We got about another mile to mile and a half down this route before we decided to turn back. We were starting to get a little burnt from the sun and we were getting tired. Coming back was much easier as it was all downstream. In addition, we finally started to relax a little and enjoy our surroundings. It was really peaceful and the gators really were minding their own business. We finally pulled back into  the boat canal at 3:00, a full three hours after we had started. It also turns out that we had paddled six miles.

Here are some thoughts from this experience:

  • I figured that for every gator I saw, there were probably 6-7 that I couldn’t see.
  • Strangely, in a swamp, every floating log or stick looks like a gator.
  • While I was furiously scanning the waters for alligators, my mom was also scanning the limbs for snakes that might fall on us (yes, that kind of stuff happens… my brother Gary can tell you about that). She opened my mind up to all kinds of new things to be scared about.
  • Sometimes the things we put our confidence in are frail. My mom had done this before (which pretty much made her a pro). I didn’t really know until after we were in the water that she really did not want to do this and she was just as scared as I was. I told her later that there wall all kinds of wildlife in that swamp today: Gators, snakes and a couple of chickens.
  • I like to know my exit plan (yeah, when I get on airplanes, I do pay attention how many seats away from an exit I am). At every new bend of the river, I would decide where I would swim if I fell out and try to imagine how high I could climb a cypress tree and how long I could hug it’s trunk.

Well, it was an amazing experience. I feel I’ve concurred the Okefenokee. Sure, I’d go back, but I think I’d do a motorized boat. It’s a little less work and I’d prefer to have a thicker piece of metal between me and the swamp creatures. I think I’d really like to do the air boats down on the Everglades if given the opportunity. Amazon river? Not a chance!

IMG_2921 [Blog]IMG_2923 [Blog]

Going down boat canal and entering the main waterway.

IMG_2924 [Blog]IMG_2930 [Blog]

Cypress trees along the swamps edge and "do you see a gator here?"

IMG_2931 [Blog]IMG_2933 [Blog]

That one is only about 12 feet away from me. We also had to paddle around and among these huge cypress trees.

IMG_2935 [Blog]IMG_2940 [Blog]

The water is pretty dark and murky, but it reflects really well.


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

2 Responses to “Okefenokee Adventures (Part 2)”

  1. shelby Says:

    so scary!! i hope Kade, Ryker and i still take adventures when they are older. what a great time for you two!


  2. JD Stevens Says:

    Wow! I don’t know that I could do that. I have to give you big props. There are probably not that many people who are willing to kayak with gators.


Leave a Reply