Working on planning a Feb trip to the Okefenokee. Any advice?


make reservations as early as you can.

– Last Updated: Dec-16-09 5:29 AM EST –

Now that almost all the trails are open again for the first time since the fire, the reservations are harder to get than ever. People that have been waiting for 3 years to see some parts of the swamp just got the green light last month. You may need a chem toilet because some of the composting toilets that burned down haven't been replaced.
Your best chance for a permit is to call at 7 am and pretty much plan on doing it 60 days in advance. From what I understand, all of the trips are reserved by 7:30. Good luck.

Try to time your trip with a new moon. The night sky is almost unbelievable. The light pollution is at a minimum compared to most of the eastern seaboard. I think we counted 17 billion stars on the last trip.

You could spend time on day trips (no permit needed) and retreat to the parking lot before it gets dark but you would be missing the most beautiful times to be in the refuge. The early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to be viewing wildlife. The huge variety of birds and bugs and small critters all take turns in revealing themselves at different times of the day and if viewing wildlife is a priority for you, do a 3-4 night trip and travel slow and quiet and you will appreciate what a wonderful place this can be. You will encounter very few people, if any, along the way and feel like you are pretty much alone.
If you do go for day trips, stay on the western side of the swamp. In my opinion the eastern side is less scenic and rather dull.
The paddling is easy and uncomplicated except for negotiating through some of the tangled vegetation that occurs but the refuge seems to do a fine job keeping the trails open.
I have made several trips to the swamp during mid winter driving 1000 miles from the snow covered north and have enjoyed my time in the refuge greatly. It is one of the few destinations I don't mind returning to again and again. Especially when all the water around here has two feet of ice on it. ;)

I like the swamp because it forces me to slow down and relax. The tent platforms are roughly ten miles apart and while ten miles may seem like nothing, you can take a good portion of the daylight hours traveling slow and taking in the sights and sounds of the swamp. On almost all of the trails there is no ground to get out and stretch on. If you must exit your boat, you will be clinging on to tree limbs or standing in 3 feet of water that is home to large alligators. If you go with a large group you will still see wildlife (10,000 alligators inside the refuge) but not nearly as much as if you could travel quietly.

If you do an overnight trip be prepared for the 15-18 hours a day you could spend on a tent platform. It gets dark early and gets light late.
You may want to bring along lots of alcohol or a good book or something. Bring good food. A small telescope. A kick ass light or two. Bring a large tarp to keep wind blown rain off you because most of the platforms are exposed and while they do have roofs the addition of a wall or two might be comforting. Bring a decent camera.
You will have a good time.
The raccoons in the area are well trained. So are the gators. Store your food well. Looks like many people in the past have not.

Which trail will you going on?
Skeeters shouldn’t be a problem but the ants are a year round P.I.T.A. When cooking clean up immediately, if you wait till after you eat you will find ants crawling over everything in those corner cooking areas. Also hang your trash from the rafters instead of the nails in the posts.

I use the water out of the swamp to wash with (me & the dishes) but use water we bring to rinse with. There is too much sediment in the swamp water to try to filter.

All the camping sites I have been to have Port-A-Let type toliets. We bring stuff to clean the toliet seat and flat surface areas up some before using them.

If you have problems finding someone to go with you give me a holler, I love camping out there.

Looking at Stephen Foster to Floyd Island, then to Canal Run, and back to Foster. I’m not heading up the trip, got invited to tag along. Never paddled there and was looking for advice as to what to pack/expect. Thanks for the tips

For the sites with composting toilets…
it is real handy to have a can of air freshener. Those outhouses can be absolutely nasty smelling. It is a lot more tolerable with a shot of Fabreeze. The Refuge website indicates that chem toilets are required for some post fire trips which leads me to believe that some of the outhouse toilets were burned so it may not be a problem for a while.

We do only day trips, and have been
out on the trails in late afternoon, and fairly early in the morning. I admire those who want to put up with the uncertainties and hassles of overnight trips, but anyone who hits the trail early in the day can make deep penetrations to wonderful areas on day trips. This is particularly true from the Stephen Foster State Park access. We saw few other canoes or other craft once we were a mile from the park.

The obvious advantage of day tripping is not just no permits, but no need to endure bad weather (or be weathered out) in lockstep with the permit system.

Points well taken
On my first trip into the swamp we endured near hurricane winds and several inches of rain in a very short period. We were warned by a park ranger at the launch of a possible tornado heading our way but a bunch of us headed out the orange trail anyway. Soon we encountered massive lightning bolts. Trees swaying violently overhead. Raining so hard I could barely pump it out of the canoe fast enough. That was very intense. Your thoughts on being able to pick your weather are solid. For us that day it was go in bad weather or don’t go at all. I should add that that trip we took in the worst weather I have ever paddled in is etched into the back of my brain forever. It was super scary and altogether beautiful at the same time.

I guess I was just thinking that for me the overnight trips feel a bit more out there and adventuresome. The swamp at night is just as interesting as it is when you can actually see all the stuff making noise. That time between light and dark is just awesome.