Inger and Jeff Latreille
Swampiness in the Okefenokee
~Thursday, February 11, 2021~
If someone asked us today what is the most memorable, fun thing you’ve done on the trip so far, today’s event would have to be one of them. We’re nearly 8 months in and so beyond grateful for being able to see this beautiful country of ours. It’s been awesome getting out of our West Coast bubble.
We were greeted to a warm, sunny day in the Okefenokee Swamp, luring us to explore, which meant a trip to the visitor center/general store to sign up for a riverboat tour. Unfortunately, they were booked solid until next Thursday. With the high demand of touring the swamp by boat, and smaller boat capacities due to COVID, it makes sense that they’d be sold out. Should have booked that when we made our camping reservations. 😩Though there were other options of seeing the swamp, we decided to wait and think about those.
In the meantime we needed to pick up a few things in Fargo (the closest town which is about 18 miles away). Their Dollar General is almost like a grocery store, with the exception of no meat or produce. The friendly clerk said she was happy that their well stocked, organized, clean store was our first impression of this retail chain. It would be California’s version of The Dollar Store or The Dollar Tree, but better. I even scored a free shipping box to mail a few things back to California.
From there, we stopped to top off some diesel. At $2.60/gallon, that price isn’t bad for a small, remote town. I think the lowest price we’ve paid so far on the trip was in New Mexico at around $1.90/gallon. For some weird reason, diesel is always the most expensive.
Getting back to the boat launch area, and the afternoon passing quickly, we jumped on the opportunity to take a 2 hour motor boat ride on our own. And in the end, it turned out to be the best way to tour the Okefenokee. The weather was forecasted to be lightning and rain for the remainder of time we’re here, so it was as good of a time as any. Being in an aluminum boat in a lightning storm is probably not a good idea, right? Yes, this was one of the best things we’ve done on the trip so far. For Jeff, it was a little bit intimidating to take out a boat on our own. He didn’t want to admit to the park attendant that he’d never driven a motorboat before, for fear they wouldn’t let us go out on our own. “You’re in boat #9. Life jackets and paddles to your left. Be back by 5:00”. No introductions, no guidelines. After finally finding the choke on the motor, we were off. Jeff did a fabulous job of steering keeping to a minimum wake. The slower the speed, the harder it is to steer with the steering bar which I quickly found out as I had my try at it. A steering wheel would have been more up my alley.
It appears that the Suwannee River starts at the Okefenokee and flows all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Amazing to think we’re at the beginning of the Suwannee. There was much more opportunity to witness wildlife here than what we experienced on the airboat ride in the Everglades. Though the two have their own uniqueness, we’d say renting your own motor boat in the Okefenokee is a more authentic, less commercialized experience. We just wish we had started earlier. Evidently, the deeper into the swamp you go, the more scenic it becomes as the waterways narrow leaving your boat to touch the bald cypress trees at times. We must have seen at least 20 gators,
some quietly napping, unconcerned about our presence while others decided to swim in to get a closer look. (o.k. honey, you can step on the gas now!) It’s also interesting to note that, like the Everglades, just a few inches in elevation gain can change the landscape. Meandering through canopies of cypress with the glassy, calm water was simply gorgeous! We weren’t
happy when our “turn around” alarm went off. We could have easily been out there for half a day. There’s always next time. Arriving back at the launch site was just like departing; completely lax and an honor system of parking your boat and putting away your gear. They must have seen us coming into the pond area as we got back right at their clock out time of 5:00. Or maybe we could have stayed out longer? 😉🚤
Since we couldn’t bring Sadie on the boat trip, it was her turn for fun. We went back to get her to take a little stroll on the park’s boardwalk.
At 2,100 feet long, this promenade abruptly ends with steps that lead right into the swamp with rotted out piers beyond that. Very strange. Sadie has done quite well taming her temptation of jumping into any water since we’ve been in the South, as she prefers the clear, less marshy bodies of aqua, thank goodness! 😳🐊