We spent Monday exploring the Okefenokee Swamp. Okefenokee is the corruption of a Creek Indian word that is said to mean "land of trembling earth". The name comes from the fact that much of the "solid land" in the swamp are actually peat islands that move when you stand on them. It's the largest "blackwater swamp" in the US. The black water is derived from tannin extracts from the bald cypress that are prevalent throughout the swamp.
In the morning we walked a nature trail out into the swamp. Most of it is on an elevated boardwalk and extends about a half-mile into the swamp when it abruptly ends at a stairway into the water. From this point the boardwalk burned away after a 2011 fire that swept the area and has not been rebuilt. The walk gives a good idea of the wet and dry areas that characterize the swamp. The 2011 fire consumed over 300,000 of the refuges 440,000 acres. Signs of the fire are still visible, but much of the areas understory has grown back.
In the afternoon we took a guided boat tour out onto Billy's Lake which is part of the Suwannee River that stretches some 240 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The tour was led by a Georgia State Park ranger and got us up close and personal with some of the big (10-15 ft) alligators in the refuge. According to the ranger the alligator population is more than 450 in the refuge. They stopped counting after that. We also took an excursion into one of the side-channels to see the bald cypress swamps that make up a lot of the refuge. There's not much hard ground in this area as it is dominated by floating peat islands. Some are thick enough to support a person, while other will not. We shared the boat with some locals that were related to one of the other park rangers so there a lot of joking being left in the swamp and inside baseball stories about the refuge going on. All in all, it was an enjoyable 2-hour tour.
Okefenokee has applied to the International Dark Sky Association to be a certified Dark Sky Place meaning that there is very little light from civilization that impedes viewing the sky at night. I tried some night sky photography and you can see from one of the pictures it is a dark area.
I'm going to post a lot of pictures with this entry. Hope you enjoy them.