Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Georgia

(912) 496-3331

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Okefenokee NWR, located about 11 miles southwest of Folkston, was established in 1937 to preserve the 438,000 acre Okefenokee Swamp. The refuge encompasses approximately 396,000 acres with 353,000 acres designated as a National Wilderness Area. Swamp habitats include open wet "prairies," cypress forests, scrub-shrub vegetation, upland islands, and open lakes. Wildlife species include wading birds, ducks, alligators and other reptiles, a variety of amphibians, bobcats, raptors, white-tailed deer, black bears, and songbirds. The swamp has a rich human history including Native American occupation, early settlers, a massive drainage attempt, and intensive timber harvesting. Glimpses of the past are visible at Chesser Island Homestead, Billy's Island, Floyd's Island, and Suwannee Canal. The prosperity and survival of the swamp, and the species dependent on it, is directly tied with maintaining the integrity of complex ecological processes, including hydrology and fire.

Map of Okefenokee NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 30.813644, -82.350739

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Activities

  • Boating

    Of the 120 miles of boat trails in the swamp, 70 miles of trail are also open to day-use motorboats 10 horsepower and under.

    Privately owned boats, canoes and kayaks are permitted with no launch fee, however an entrance fee is still required. Motorboats with valid registrations and engines 10 horsepower and less may be used on specified trails within the refuge.

    All boat users are required to sign in and out.Concessioner Okefenokee Adventures offers 90-minute guided boat tours that take visitors on a tour of the Suwannee Canal and Chesser Prairie, where one may see swimming alligators and wading birds in a primeval habitat. They also rent canoes, kayaks, and motorboats to take out on your own.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Please contact park services for more information.

  • Fishing

    The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a vast network of interconnecting habitats that support a large number of plant and animal species. This primordial landscape depends upon water to exist and within the tea stained waters rest dozens of species of fish. These offer a great opportunity for anglers of all ages and abilities to enjoy the thrill of fishing in a unique and beautiful landscape.East Entrance - The habitats at this entrance consist primarily of shallow water prairies littered with dense and low vegetation. This entrance also contains the Suwannee Canal which offers deeper water than is traditionally found in many other places in the swamp. Fishing here is best from a boat or along the Cane Pole Trail, which parallels the canal. Exploring the east entrance by boat provides access to many different natural lakes and prairies to fish among; including Chesser Prairie, Mizell Prairie, Grand Prairie, Gannet Lake, Monkey Lake, and Buzzard's Roost Lake. Refuge concession Okefenokee Adventures rents motor boats, canoes, and kayaks that can be used to travel into the swamp to find the perfect fishing hole.

    West Entrance - At this entrance one can fish in open water lakes and down winding water trails that are bordered by massive Cypress trees. The fishing here can take you into areas with deep pools filled with many worthy catches. This entrance also features Stephen C. Foster State Park, where fishing is also allowed from the dockside. The staff also rent motor boats, canoes, and kayaks that can be taken into the swamp for fishing and recreation. The west entrance offers some of the larger open areas to fish in the swamp. This entrance is home to Billy's Lake, Minnie's Lake, Big Water Lake, and the Suwannee River Recreation Area. These places characterize the best places to fish on the west side of the Okefenokee.

    Kingfisher - This entrance is characterized by a mixture of open prairie lakes and water trails that can be explored by boat. The Kingfisher entrance offers access to many different lakes including; Flag, Elder, Duck, Trout, Double, Pond, and Maul Hammock. This string of lakes affords the angler a very nice experience. This entrance also offers the opportunity for bank fishing.

  • Hiking

    Hiking Trails into the Okefenokee NWR offer hiking trails through upland pine forests and across transitional wetlands. These trails offer visitors unique hikes through natural habitat; with opportunities to view deer, squirrels, gopher tortoises, box turtles, snakes, and a wide variety of birds.

    East Entrance offers a variety of trails, most of which meander through the refuge's upland habitat:

    • Phernetton Trail is a 1.3 mile hiking trail loop near the East Entrance Road, off Highway 121. This trail offers a walk through a managed section of the refuge's upland habitat.

    • Longleaf Pine Interpretive Trail is a 4 mile trail that begins off East Entrance Road, approximately ¾ of a mile from its junction with Hwy. 121. This trail weaves through upland property belonging to both the refuge and International Paper. Exhibit panels discuss the Longleaf Pine Forest, Sustainable Forest Initiative, and the historic Suwannee Canal. This trail merges into the Canal Diggers Trail.

    • Canal Diggers Trail is a .65 mile interpretive loop that begins and ends in a small parking area, about ¼ mile onto Swamp Island Drive. This short walking trail offers visitors a self-guided walk through a small riparian habitat, which has developed inside the old canal. Wildlife observation and photography opportunities exist for both upland and riparian-dependent species.

    • Upland Discovery Trail is a short .2 mile loop walk, taking visitors through a naturally occurring red-cockaded woodpecker colony. Observation and photography opportunities exist for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and other upland dependent species.

    • Ridley Island Trail is a 1.75 mile trail that takes visitors from Swamp Island Drive through a mosaic of upland and wetland habitats to Chesser Island. A diverse variety of wildlife and plant life can be found along this trail.

    • Chesser Island Homestead Trail is a .7 mile loop around this historic property. Visitors can observe and photograph a variety of native and non-native plants. Many of the present plants and trees can trace their origins back to the property's historic "Swamper" homestead period.

    • Deer Stand Trail is a .5 mile trail connecting historic Chesser Homestead to Swamp Walk Boardwalk. This trail wanders through a mixed longleaf pine and oak forest.

    • Cane Pole Trail is a .35 mile trail, which runs along the Suwannee Canal, leading to Mizell Prairie education and observation platform.

    Bicycling is permitted on the paved roads only, and not on designated hiking trails. All hikes should be planned with the Refuge opening and closing times in mind. Pets are permitted on trails, however they must be restrained on a 6-foot or shorter leash.

  • Historic Sites

    Native Americans inhabited Okefenokee Swamp as early as 2500 B.C. Peoples of the Deptford Culture, the Swift Creek Culture and the Weeden Island Culture occupied sites within the Okefenokee. The last tribe to seek sanctuary in the swamp were the Seminoles. Troops led by General Charles R. Floyd during the Second Seminole War, 1838-1842, ended the age of the native americans in the Okefenokee.

    The Suwanee Canal Company purchased 238,120 acres of the Okefenokee Swamp from the State of Georgia in 1891 to drain the swamp for rice, sugar cane, and cotton plantations. When this failed, the company began industrial wetland logging as a source of income. Captain Henry Jackson and his crews spent three years digging the Suwannee Canal 11.5 miles into the swamp.

    Economic recessions led to the company's bankruptcy and eventual sale to Charles Hebard in 1901. Logging operations, focusing on the cypress, began in 1909 after a railroad was constructed on the northwest area of the swamp. More than 431 million board feet of timber were removed from the Okefenokee by 1927, when logging operations ceased. Tours are offered at the NWR.

  • Hunting

    Okefenokee is one of over 550 national wildlife refuges in the United States, many of which offer hunting programs. The primary objective of a national wildlife refuge is to provide habitat for the conservation and protection of all species of wildlife. The harvest of surplus animals is one tool used to manage wildlife populations at a level compatible with the environment, provide recreational opportunities, and permit the use of a valuable resource. Public hunting on the Okefenokee NWR is permitted in three areas, the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area (Eastside), the Pocket (Westside), and the Cowhouse Unit (Northside) at certain times of the year. See the brochure for the hunt you are interested in below.

    All hunters must possess a State of Georgia hunting license to hunt on the refuge. In addition to Federal laws and regulations, State game and fish laws apply unless they have been further restricted by Federal laws and regulations. The regulations for each hunt area are listed in the brochures below, and in regulations which govern hunting on wildlife refuge areas as set forth in Title 50, Code 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Hunting will be in accordance with applicable State of Georgia regulations: http://www.georgiawildlife.org/hunting.aspx Hunting laws and regulations are designed to protect the sportsmen and wildlife populations.

    To report a hunting or other refuge violation, contact Law Enforcement Officer Jim Shelton at 912-288-7481 or the Refuge Administration Office at 912-496-7365 ext.0.

Seasonality/Weather

Summer days can be hot and humid with high temperatures and humidity and warm nights. Winter days range from the teens to 80 degrees, but mostly in the 50s and 60s. Night time temperatures can be near or below freezing and wind chills have reached -22 degrees.

Spring and fall are unpredictable - be prepared for any weather extreme. It is recommended that you check local forecasts before leaving. Be aware that tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean will often affect weather in the swamp.

The rainy season is normally from June through September. Many summer afternoons end with localized thunderstorms. Lightning is probably the most dangerous feature of an Okefenokee experience. If you are in an exposed area, seek shelter immedately on a nearby shrub island without trees. Get away from the boat and stay low under the canopy.

Park Partners

Okefenokee Adventures

None of Chip and Joy Campbell's friends and family were surprised when they chose to leave North Carolina's vibrant and bustling Research Triangle area to move to south Georgia's famous Okefenokee Swamp.

Chip, a Georgia native, has been exploring the Okefenokee since he was a 12-year-old Boy Scout. Chip introduced Joy to the region during their college days at North Carolina State University.

The couple honeymooned in the swamp in 1984 and have explored the Okefenokee and many other Southern wetland ecosystems extensively in the years of their life together.

Both Chip and Joy worked at Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina before coming to Charlton County to take over the sole concession inside the Opens in new windowOkefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Chip has also worked as manager with Pro Canoe and Kayak, and both Chip and Joy have guided excursions for Rock Rest Adventures in the Okefenokee, Roanoke River and Black River swamps, many of them in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy.

The Campbells started Okefenokee Adventures in the Summer of 2000, and look forward to serving your needs as you visit the incomparable Okefenokee Swamp!

(866) 843-7926

Directions

Driving

Okefenokee NWR has 3 primary and 2 secondary entrances. The main entrance is located 11 miles southwest of Folkston, GA off Highway 121/23, 912-496-7836. The west entrance is located 17 miles east of Fargo, GA off Highway Spur 177, 912-637-5274. The north entrance is located 8 miles south of Waycross, Ga off Highway 1, 912-283-0583. Secondary entrances are located at Kingfisher Landing, off Highway 1 north of Folkston, and the Suwannee River Sill, accessed from Highway Spur 177 east of Fargo.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(912) 496-3331

Links