As mentioned in previous posts, we gave our children as their large gift for Christmas the gift of seeing the Seven Wonders of Georgia. Okefenokee Swamp is one of the seven and the forest on Jekyll Island at one time made the list. These were the focus of our visit this past weekend. We left Thursday morning about 9:00, carrying with us 2 sleeping bags, 2 pack-n-plays, 2 large portable foam beds (they fold up fairly small), 3 coolers full of our food for the next 4 days, 3 suitcases, 2 fans (for the white noise), and lots of other items. Needless to say with 6 children and 2 adults our 12 passenger van was packed to the max. I continually tried to maintain order during the adventure knowing that if I let go for too long-total chaos would result.
Here was our itinerary for Thursday and Friday:
Thursday: Drive to Okefenokee Swamp. Visit swamp from 3-6ish. Head to hotel for night. In reality, I didn't realize that the hotel I booked us at in Waycross was a good 45 minutes from the swamp. But someone at a gas station gave us directions to Okefenokee Swamp "park" which was more of a commercial park, not the actual State park. I don't even think it was actually in the official Okefenokee Swamp. But by the time we realized that it was 4:15 and we were too tired to think about driving the rest of the way to the "real" swamp. So we stayed for a train ride around the "swamp" and to see the various animals and exhibits. We did see our first alligators in the wild at this park which was fun for all.
Friday: We checked out of the hotel and drove to the "real" swamp :) We arrived just in time for a 90 minute boat tour of the swamp. I packed up our backpacks, and small cooler with lunch while the family explored the visitor center. Just as we were called to get on the boat we realized Benjamin had a rather large diarrhea that had leaked onto his clothes and Isaac's. Of course, I had already used Benjamin's spare outfit in his diaper bag so I dashed with Samuel in hand to the van and dug into the suitcase for spare clothes. After all was well we dashed into the boat and off we went!
Here is an example of how the early settlers in the swamp would gash pine trees and collect the sap to make into turpentine.
Alligators were plentiful at the park. I felt a little weary with my little ones toddling about in their midst!
This photo was taken inside an old swamper's homestead. The lighting was just beautiful-I had to take a picture!
They had a small assortment of animals, not sure why or how they acquired them, but this little river otter was especially cute and came up to visit us, chattering and hoping to be fed, I think. We couldn't stay long as we were being assaulted by seemingly hundreds of mosquitoes!
This was our last little walk at the park before we left. The mosquitoes were just brutal.
This picture was taken in the "real" Okefenokee Swamp during our boat tour, as are the rest of the photos.
I love dragonflies :) It was a delight to see them buzzing along with the boat. I was thankful to be stopped at one point and able to capture one through a photograph!
This is where our driver stopped the boat for a while to teach us more about the swamp. He said it is more technically a "peat bog". He hopped out of the boat which in this photo, onto the land to the right. In the below photo you can see a bit of the land he jumped onto. We had already learned that the name Okefenokee meant "Land of the Trembling Earth" yet none of knew why-until he demonstrated. On the "land", which really was a bog, he jumped up and down and we could see the earth tremble around him for about a 12 foot radius! It was so cool! The swamp is full of decaying plant matter that floats to the bottom and slowly decays. Due to the long length of time it takes for the plants to break down-the peat builds up. The decomposing peat releases tannic acid which turns the water of the swamp black. I think I forgot to get a picture of this but in many of the photos you can see the dark color of the water and how reflective it is. Our guide scooped out some water in a jug and showed us the actual color is light brown, like the color of tea. In fact, tea gets its color from tannins as well! It was all very fascinating!
If you look closely at this picture you will see the peat that has been worked up from the bottom of the swamp when he turned back on the engine and we began to work the boat out of the low-lying spot we had stopped in.
Sam-Sam enjoyed holding on to the sides of the boat! He was mostly fussy during the boat ride-but Steve graciously held him and let me take lots of pictures!
The best seat on the boat-right on the front!
We planned to leave the swamp right after the boat tour which was about 12:45 to head to Jekyll Island but we ended up exploring a fascinating homestead-The Chesser's. More on them next!