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Okefenokee Swamp, how we loved you……

January 2022

As we rambled around in warmer climes this winter I booked us a stay at the Steven C Foster State Park in the heart of the Okefenokee Swamp. Jim grumbled about the extra miles and the circuitous path just to camp in a swamp but I was determined to see what there was to paint. Not only was I not disappointed but it turned out to be one of Jim’s favorite stays! The campground itself had small ovals of well shaded sites, each separated a bit by lovely foliage with tall, tall trees swaying over us. There were several nature trails around the sites for evening and morning rambles.

After we got the dogs their exercise we took a tour of the swamp down the boardwalk trail (where dogs are not allowed). The greens, the red berries, the brackish swampy water - I couldn’t wait to paint it! This was mid afternoon and although Jim saw a hawk and pointed it out to a birder couple I had no idea what’s awaited me in the morning - bird sound filling the air, rustles of feathers as birds fed etc. On our way out we saw our first alligator - a big guy who hangs out by the ranger station. Over the course of several days we would see foxes and river otters also around the campground and boardwalk.

The next morning I was up early and through the gate to the boardwalk as soon as the ranger opened it. I set up to try to quickly capture the swamp as it awoke. It was hard not to get distracted by they sights and sounds! I spent several hours completing then hurried back to the campsite to grab a quick lunch before our scheduled boat tour.

The ranger led boat tour was fantastic! We motored out onto the watery “roads” of the swamp, pulling over for the many alligators we saw relaxing on the banks. So many birds- kingfishers and buzzards, egrets and cormorants. Turtles and even a river otter swimming by. I was fascinated by the ‘road signs’. The ranger told us about the history back when there was a logging town on one of the islands and a train to take people there. Hard to imagine. Many people have made their lives in the swamp though starting with the native tribes.

The next day we drove around to the main entrance. At the visitor center Jim logged his river otter sighting with the ranger. I listened to an animatronic “swamper” tell about livying in the swamp in the thirties from a recreated cabin porch. We then drove the auto tour loop, viewing the sawgrass that had been recently burned in a planned event as well as sighting another alligator and a cormorant. But a highlight was the homestead of the family on that swamp island. The yard was clean swept sand, the better to see snakes and keep bugs away. There was also a long boardwalk on this side. Jim stayed with the dogs while I walked way out. At the end was a multi story observation tower. After I clumped up the metal steps I discovered a birding couple at the top, shooting men dirty looks for the noise. When I remarked on a large cormorant sunning it’s wings down below she said “Oh….a cormorant” as if I had pointed out a squirrel to someone looking for bobcat. Oh well- I’m afraid me tastes are indiscriminate. I find all the flora and fauna pretty cool.

At night back snug in our campsite we got a feel for why it’s a dark sky sanctuary And pretty special at dusk and dawn as well. The morning we left I started another painting on the other boardwalk but a large noisy flock of white birds (ibises?) had me so distracted taking photos I didn’t quite finish! Truly a special stop and one we plan to return to and do more paintings.

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