Saturday, February 16, 2013

Off to the swamp!

Yesterday, 12 volunteers and two staff headed off for a day long fieldtrip into the swamp.  Our destination was Big Water which is reached through the west entrance.  It’s a 70 mile drive from the east entrance, so we packed lunches and dressed in multiple layers for this on the water adventure.


After many days of overcast skies, Friday dawned clear and cold.  By a little after 10:00, we were on our way in three refuge boats to enjoy the cypress swamp area of the refuge.

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-1341

We motored our way through Billy’s Lake to then thread our way through the canoe paths.  One of the pluses of volunteering at this refuge is the number of fieldtrips that we are able to do so we get a true feeling of the swamp that we can relate to visitors.

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It’s hard to explain the beauty of traveling through this wilderness.  Alligators lurk around many corners, and I find the cypress knees especially wonderful to look at.


After several miles of travel, we arrived at our lunch stop.  Connor, the new biology intern, was in the front of the boat I was in and scooped up this turtle as we arrived at the shelter.


Little did any of us know, but the poor turtle had a fish hook through his lower mouth that had fish line wound around a large tree branch.  It was trapped, and surely would have perished if we hadn’t come upon it.


Within minutes, a set of dikes was found, and the operation to free this guy began.  What else could all of us wildlife loving people do?


         It wasn’t long, and the surgery was over.  Can you believe the size of those claws on its feet?


In short order, it gave us one last glance, and dove into the swamp with, I’m sure, a new sense of freedom.  Why is it that unthinking fishermen don’t understand the consequences of leaving their tangled lines in the swamp?  How much effort could it have taken to clean up their tangled line?  After all, the only way they got here in the first place was by using a motor less boat that could be maneuvered to retrieve the line.  I’m happy we arrived in time to provide a happy ending to this situation.


After our turtle rescue, we tied up the three boats to the shelter dock, and some of us went through various contortions to make our way up to the picnic table and porta-potty.  I thought better of taking pictures of that hilarious situation.  Flirt male  My seat for this excursion was on that middle board of the lower right boat.  Thank goodness there were plenty of hands to help me out.


There are several of these shelters provided in the wilds of the swamp wilderness.  I know all of us appreciated being able to get out and stretch our legs, use the facilities, and enjoy tasty packed lunches.  What a peaceful place to sit back and enjoy.  I think sandwiches always taste better surrounded by the wonders of nature. 

We weren’t even half way through our travels for this day, but I think I’ll save the rest for tomorrow’s post.  This is long enough for one post.  I will say that the second half of the day was even better for me as I not only got to check something off my bucket list, but there was also a moment when we thought perhaps we were lost in the swamp.

Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy