Part of my orientation to the Okefenokee NWR yesterday included a swamp boat tour with Okefenokee Adventures, a concessionaire that partners with the refuge to provide tours and rents canoes, kayaks, and boats.
In case you are ever in the area, these tours are available every day of the year except Christmas Day. It’s an hour and a half tour, and starts out down the Suwanee Canal. As a point of interest, any motorboats in the Okefenokee Swamp must have motors under 10 horsepower. No big motors allowed.
I believe our trip covered about five miles all together, and was very interesting. This canal was started in 1891 with the objective of draining the swamp. Thankfully, it was an unsuccessful endeavor! A short way into our journey we entered the National Wilderness Area, which means any travel into this area is very limited in number of people each day and any travel into it must be registered and reserved ahead of time.
After a couple of miles down the canal we took a side branch down a water trail toward the Chesser prairie. In my mind, prairie meant dry land with no trees, but in a swamp it means a wetland area with no trees. The water is shallow and the color of root beer due to all the tannin in the water, but it is very clear.
One of the major ingredients in this swamp is peat. Peat is partially decomposed remains of plant matter that accumulates on the bottom of the swamp. When enough methane gas accumulates in this decomposing peat, it rises to the surface and is called a peat blowup. It looks like solid mud to the eye, but if you grab a handful of it and squeeze the water out, you end up with a handful of plant matter. It doesn’t smell bad at all. If enough of these blowups accumulate, they become a battery, and other plants and trees begin to germinate in these dense mats. We stopped half way through our trip so our tour guide, Joey, could explain all of this to us.
I especially enjoyed learning about how the swamp changes and evolves and seeing some bladderworts and sundew plants. They are among the several different varieties of carnivorous plants found in the swamp. Today I went on a mission to find the two varieties of pitcher plants found on this refuge, but I’ll show those in a separate post. I was pleased with myself on the boat tour when I was able to identify the yaupon holly (ilex vomitoria) that I learned about at Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR in MS. Those are the red berries in the above collage.
Because of the very chilly and windy temperatures yesterday morning, we really didn’t expect to see any alligators on this tour. It was a surprise to all five of us on the tour when one of the women on the other side of the boat spotted one in the lily pads.
This fellow/gal was about five feet long, and I really liked the view as we floated past. All those ridges leading down its spine gave it a rather eerie look to me. Once the tour was over, I grabbed a quick lunch and then spent the afternoon learning about the operation of the visitors center (VC). There are a lot more steps opening and closing this VC compared to the other places I’ve volunteered at. It will take me a few days to get them all down pat. I think my biggest challenge is going to be unlocking and locking the money vault. My left and right don’t seem to be the same as the directions are.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy