Opportunities for enjoying the Okefenokee Swamp and its surroundings are as
numerous and varied as the more than 750,000 people who visit the area every
year. From educational programs and wildlife viewing to recreational camping
and fishing, the swamp and its visitors' facilities offer something for everyone.
Visitors planning a trip to the Okefenokee should note that hours at these facilities are seasonal and subject to change. Also, while the swamp can be enjoyed for an entry fee to each facility, most of the tours, rentals and other services require an additional fee.
Located eight miles southwest of Folkston, the east entrance is created by
the man-made Suwannee Canal and offers the most comprehensive facilities for
appreciating the Okefenokee Swamp. Visitors can enjoy the park in a number of
ways, ranging from the do-it-yourself - camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking -
to guided programs such as boat tours and educational films.
From the Visitor Center, one can venture into the swamp by car, bike, boat
or on foot. Swamp Island Drive is a nine-mile loop for cars or bikes culminating
in a .75-mile boardwalk into dense swamp growth, open prairie and ponds before
reaching a 30-foot observation tower.
A private concession provides the gamut of recreational services to visitors,
including rentals of boats (motor and paddle), canoes, bicycles, fishing/camping
equipment, as well as guided boat tours, souvenirs and snacks. Overnight camping
is allowed in the refuge, but only with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit
obtained through a phone reservation up to two months in advance (for information,
call 912-496-3331). There are seven designated camping areas in the refuge,
accessible only by canoe.
A fee is charged at the east entrance, which is open every day except Christmas.
The west entrance to the park is named for the songwriter who penned "Way
Down Upon the Suwannee River," and is located on Jones Island. Run by the
state which leases the land from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Stephen
C. Foster State Park offers visitors a variety of ways to enjoy the Okefenokee.
In addition to the Interpretive Center and Museum, visitors may walk the one-mile
Trembling Earth Nature Trail, picnic, or boat through the 25 miles of public
day use waterways. Tent and trailer camp sites are available, as well as cottages
for rental. Guided boat tours and other educational programs are also available.
Campers heading for one of the seven campsights accessible only by canoe may
use this park, but reservations must be made through the Okefenokee National
Wildlife Refuge office (see above).
A fee is charged at this entrance, which is open year-round.
Located 12 miles southeast of Waycross, the private, nonprofit Okefenokee
Swamp Park, which has no overnight or camping facilities, is more of a theme
park than the other Okefenokee entrances. Visitors may explore the swamp unguided
via the boardwalks or observation tower, or take advantage of the daily programs
or guided tours.
Live reptile presentations and videos are scheduled throughout the day; the
facility also includes a living swamp center, swamp creation center, serpentarium
and animal habitats on display. Guided boat tours are available, as well as
a 45-minute tram tour which takes visitors through historic and natural attractions,
including a pioneer homestead, honey bee farm and Seminole indian village.
A fee is charged at this park, which is open every day except Christmas.
The Waycross area is home to the north entrance to the swamp, as well as other
Okefenokee-related sites. Visitors seeking insight into pioneer swamp life and
cultural history should stop by Obediah's Okefenok or the Okefenokee Heritage
Center, while those wishing to relax can visit Laura S. Walker State Park.
Obediah's Okefenok, which is 8.5 miles south of Waycross, is a demonstration
of life in the swamp during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
A restored 120-year-old cabin, formerly the home of swamp settler Obediah
Barber, is the centerpiece of the settlement which is a popular site for school
groups. Visitors may take a self-guided tour along the displays which include
a sugar cane mill, smokehouse and turpentine exhibit. The park rehabilitates
wild and game animals, which are also on display, and nature trails are available
for walking tours.
A fee is charged at Obediah's, which is open every day except Christmas.
Located 9 miles southeast of Waycross, Laura S. Walker is a 630-acre park
managed by the Department of Natural Resources along Lake Laura S. Walker. Boating,
fishing, camping, picnicking and golfing are some of the activities enjoyed
by visitors to the park. A nature trail takes hikers on a 1.2-mile loop from
the visitor center through a sandhill community.
A daily fee or Georgia ParkPass is required for entrance to the park, which
is open year-round.
Located two miles west of Waycross, the Okefenokee Heritage Center features
exhibits on life in and around the swamp. Located adjacent to the Southern Forest
World, the center gives visitors an insight into forest management and the history
of the area.
A fee is charged for admission to the center, which is open every day except major holidays.
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