Visiting Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Visiting Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 1

I recently visited the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and it was nothing like I expected. Here are seven surprising things that I did not expect from the swamp.

1. Okefenokee’s Open Spaces

Forget the typical swamp image. Okefenokee is more like a “Water Prairie” – wide open water with some trees and floating grass. I should have brought more sunscreen, a bigger hat, and better sunglasses.

2. Human History in Okefenokee

Visiting Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 2

Contrary to my expectations (that no sane person would try to make a living in the swamp…), the swamp has a history on constant human use. There are old cabins and homes from white settlers and evidence of Creek Indians and Seminoles who used the area. It was really fascinating to see where people lived in the swamp for generations and see how they got along.

3. Wildlife Abundance

Despite going in the middle of the day, we saw loads of birds, alligators, snakes, and more. The canal used for tourist boat tours gave us a front-row seat to Okefenokee’s diverse wildlife.

4. Okefenokee’s Immense Size

The swamp is massive. Our boat tour covered just a tiny part of it, and when you compare it to national parks, you realize its sheer size. I knew that it was the same size as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…but I don’t know, I though the being on a boat would make it more accessible?

5. Shallow Waters and Unique Experience

Visiting Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 3

The water wasn’t deep. It was weird. Falling out of the boat wasn’t as scary as I thought. The depth made it more treacherous and more safer in a weird way?

6. Wild and Challenging Terrain

I expected a boating or camping trip to be easy, but Okefenokee proved me wrong. Boating was slow due to the flat water and lily pads, and navigating without GPS would be a challenge with the ever-changing landmarks. I honestly do not know how people got around before GPS.

7. Weird and Wonderful Okefenokee

Okefenokee is weirder and more wonderful than I imagined. Floating and twisting trees on islands create a surreal experience. It’s a swamp, but there’s a unique charm that makes it clear why it’s preserved as a National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s absolutely worth a visit. And I know that I’m planning a canoe trip at some point.

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