We left Augusta, Georgia with one word on our mind, Okefenokee, and we had plenty of time to practice the pronunciation as we drove over 170 miles through the farmlands of Georgia. It was a real push day for the Fives as the temperature soared into the mid 90’s but we were all eager to get to the Northern edge of the massive swamp that is the Okefenokee Nationl Wildlife refuge. By early evening we had reached our goal and made camp for the night at the Laura S. Walker State Park (the closest campground to the refuge). To everyone’s great disappointment the swimming area was closed due to the resident alligators but the spacious playground and the massive pinecones made up for it in the end.
After observing lizards in the washroom we were all excited to break camp early the next morning and head straight to the Eastern enterance of the refuge just outside of Folkston, Georgia. On the half-hour drive we saw large tracks of land that had been burned and wondered if it had been a wildfire or an intentional burn. Once inside the Okefenokee Vistor’s Center we learned even more about wildfires and the importance of controlled burns in keeping the 438,000 acre swamp a wetland habitat for 300 various species of plants and animals. The Visitor’s Center had many interactive exhibits including an animatronic settler who gave a wonderful talk about the history of Okefenokee from his porch rocking chair. It took Five Ball a while to figure out that the old man wasn’t real and did a great job of keeping him listening intently just in case he was.
After soaking up all the information that we could we headed out to the trails to soak up some of the refreshing rain that brought the temperatures down into the 70’s. We chose the Canal Diggers Loop trail that highlighted the failed attempt to drain the swamp in the late 1800’s. It gave us our first close encounter with some of the native species including palmetto, tree frogs and mosquitoes. Unfortunately the mosquitoes chased us away from the potential alligator viewing areas but there’s always tomorrow. As a great wrap to our visit we participated in the Animal Olympics which increased our knowledge of animal behavior and tired out the younger Fives in preparation for our drive into Florida.