Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Georgia Coast & Okefenokee
[Fig. 23(8)] This park is one of two that offers a wilderness adventure in the refuge. Visitors can explore the swamp on their own by car, bike, boat, or on foot, or take a guided nature tour offered from the concessionaire. Suwannee Canal Recreation Area, located on the eastern side of the swamp, was known for years as Camp Cornelia, the scene of "Jackson's Folly." Thanks to the captain's failed canal-building efforts, sightseers have excellent water access to the eastern prairies of the Okefenokee Swamp.
On the upland portion of the park, the lazy can drive the 4.5-mile Swamp Island Drive. Cyclists may want to bike to trailheads and hike from there. Recommended is the 4,500-foot boardwalk to Seagrove Lake and the 50-foot Owl's Roost Tower where quiet observers may see the endangered Florida sandhill crane during winter and early spring. Other trails lead through pine flatlands typical of the swamp's boundary. At the boat basin, a concession offers guided boat tours, motorboats, canoe, and bicycle rentals as well as supplies and souvenirs. A popular activity is wilderness canoeing and camping on the area's 120 miles of canoe trails. Yellow and orange wilderness canoeing trails begin and end here.
The canal penetrates 11 miles into the heart of the Okefenokee, where boaters can access Chesser, Grand, and Mizell prairies, the swamp's most extensive open areas. These shallow, flooded marshlands are covered with waterlilies, neverwet, pipewort, ferns, maidencane, and a variety of sedges and grasses. During late spring and early summer, visitors will hear the dinosaur rumblings of male and female alligators, and wading birds are very common. The park is on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail established by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Of interest to historians is the Chesser Island Homestead, the authentic homesite of the Chesser family for almost 100 years. The family's cabin and grounds are open to tour. An Indian mound is located nearby. Other attractions include Swamp's Edge Information Center, with exhibits, books, and information on the Okefenokee, and a picnic area.
Fishing is a popular activity, with largemouth bass, bluegill, warmouth, catfish, and pickerel being the most common catches. No live fish may be used as bait, and boats are limited to 10 horsepower engines.
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