Okefenokee self induced suffering needlessly, day 1, part 1

In 2024 I thought I would shoot for 700 paddling miles Thus I headed south from wv to get started on my goal. Okefenokee is a place I am well aquainted with, permits were available, thus my first stop (5 days) on a two week trip.

Driving south on I95 I get a call from Joy who works the permits for Okefenokee. She warns me about severe weather for the next day. I tell her I will check it out and make my decision . It looks like I can beat the worst of the weather if I can paddle 13 miles to maul hammock and ride the storm out on the chickee. So that is my plan.

Tues jan 9th, Plenty of gusts as I make my way to maul hammock but overall I make good time. Storm starts as I paddle the last 1/2 mile to the platform. (12:30) Amid lightning, thunder, rain, and hard winds I attempt to climb out of the kayak and onto the platform. The boat started to get blown away so I plopped in up to my armpits and pin it against the platform as I watch a nearby lightning strike. That motivates me to get out of the water quickly and get the pakayak onto the chickee. I tie it down and retreat to a corner of the platform which is partially dry from it’s roof but mostly wet from the open sides. The phone which was stowed in the pfd is still dry. Rain let’s up and I change into dry clothes, this was a mistake.

Within just a few minutes wind driven rain resumes and I’m totally soaked again. I spend the next hour feeling like I’m inside a commercial car wash, buffetted by wind and rain. I text Joy and let her know I’m safely on the platform, if one considers being under a tin roof with no sides (think picnic shelter) with lightning as being safe.

At around 3 pm the wind dies down enough to put up a tent. I climb in my warm sleeping bag and heat and drink warm hot chocolate in the vestibule of the tent. I read the platform register/notebook and drift off to sleep. I wake up to a beautiful sunset, take a few pictures with the phone and crash again. Some rain and wind resumes, at 3 am a tent pole breaks. I had previously tied the tent down. So now I hold up the tent pole from within the tent until the wind let’s up and I go out and tie the tent pole to a shelter support pillar. Back to bed.

The next morning the sun comes out, there is a light drying breeze, and all is good. Well almost, one broken tent pole, and the phone is now dead from storm moisture, it already had a crack from when I dropped it in Mexico a month ago. So it goes. Big take away- bring duct tape, still using the tent pole, but should have put duct tape over the crack in the phone housing. Now I have a new phone because the old one is dead…or you could just heed weather alerts but where is the fun in that?


Okefenokee part 2, the next 4 days much less eventful. The paddle from maul hammock to bluff lake was uneventful. I now smartly tied the kayak to the chickee before attempting to climb out, lesson learned. I enjoyed the Spanish moss draped on the mature bald cypress trees. The paddle from big water to canal run is perhaps my favorite. A morning weaving among large cypress trees, Billy’s lake and island and I especially like the attainment up canal run. No coons to harass me this time at canal run, the paddle to bluff lake gets narrow, perhaps favoring a canoe paddle over a kayak paddle as vines and vegetation get in the way. The paddle from bluff lake to kingfisher is more exposed and open but uneventful. 54 miles, 5 days, 1 storm. River otters, a couple of good-sized gators but much less wildlife than later in the year. Some egrets, cranes, and ducks still there. Warmer than wv!


It doesn’t sound like it was needless. It sounds like you had a great time in a wonderful place despite the temporary difficulties. Thanks for the report.

Some trips require advance planning. It makes decisions to cancel more difficult.

I had plans to paddle the Rio Grand R in Big Bend one Feb with my brother. Predictions of snow and highs in the 30s lows in the teens cancelled that trip in the dark canyons.

Another time we ran the John Day River in flood in Oregon. We waited 2 days for the water to start receding. We paddled the largest rapids of my life. We had some close calls with inexperienced peopld. The one trip I regret leading newbies into danger. We should never have done it.

I have canceled coastal trips because of high winds. I too love the upper Swannee River in the Okefenokee. Have paddled much of it. Bluff Lake was the first place I stayed. That narrow run to Bluff you did wasn’t open the time I was there I did paddle it part way to check it out and realize how narrow it can be. I was in a solo canoe that trip.

Any pics?

Here’s a pic from my paddle to Bluff Lake a couple of years ago.


I could take it all but the alligators, no, too many YTs

There are a few gators to be seen. the last trip we counted 378 of all sizes in 3 days of paddling.


So temps were cool, and gators aren’t active then. Just saw two but both were good sized. I saw three today on the Ocklawaha river in Florida. They were on the smaller side. I may eventually get a sunset pic or two off my dead phone.

I will sometimes do things alone or with a well known entity I wouldn’t do in a group. Racing the storm was one of those times. If I had a group I would have started a day later at Stephen foster, but it would have meant shuttling.


phone finally started drying out enough to retrieve photos


I’ve paddled a bunch of swamps. None are as “gatory” as the Okefenokee.

Great trip report. One of, (if not the) my favorite places. It has been decades, but Maul Hammock once had the 2nd largest gator I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of gators. The biggest one I’ve seen in the wild is now stuffed at Okefenokee’s swamp park visitor station.

Is the chickee still built as 2 layers? Used to be that they had a vulture poop problem there.
Oh. And I purposefully left behind some duct tape there so your story amused me.

Two thumbs up.