I’m proud to be an…
Folkston Georgia, the town that claims the Okefenokee Swamp is not large enough to have a Piggly Wiggly. There sure isn’t much there. Certainly less-than-auspicious for what is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia, visited by 400,000 people per year. But follow the signs and there it is: The Okefenokee Swamp.
I learned that the swamp was at one time part of the Atlantic Ocean. The land shifted and the water receded to where the salt water coast is now, and the Okefenokee, a basin, filled with water and peat. The swamp is only two feet deep. It’s sole source of water is rainfall. The swamp’s watershed drains into the St. Mary’s River and on to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Suwanee River, flowing into the Atlantic.
In the late 1800’s, the Swamp was sold by the State of Georgia to a private concern, the Suwanee Canal Company, for about twenty-six cents an acre, $6 million. Their idea was to drain the swamp in order to gain access to the bounty of Cypress trees. Leased convict labor was used, as well as anyone else who could swing a pick and shovel in the searing heat and mosquitoes that land on the trees and bark.
It really is quite a sight. However it’s a bit like a Christmas card picturing the landscape after a snowfall. Yes, it looks beautiful when your chestnuts are roasting by an open fire, but someone has to get out there and shovel the driveway and scrape the windshield with frozen fingers.
The Okefenokee is blistering hot and humid and the insects can carry you off.
In three years the Suwanee Canal Company had dug almost twelve miles of canal. Some say they ran out of money due to the slow work caused by poor engineering and bad weather but my guide told me that they discovered that instead of the swamp draining out into the rivers via the canal, the rivers would drain back into the canal and the swamp. Oops.
What surprised me where the settlers once lived was the complete silence. The air was still and there were no songbirds, no crickets nor cicadas.
You can take a 90 minute, guided boat ride through the swamp like I did, rent a canoe for the day or even camp overnight, where a campsite will be set up for you, with tent and provisions.
No extra charge for the alligators.