OKEFENOKEE EAST SIDE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES, PADDLING & BOATING INFO
The East side Okefenokee Paddler & Boater Scouting Report:
We have received rain over the last couple of months and swamp water levels are more normal now but it could get more rainy in the near future, so predictions are very difficult. The future may be a little drier again for us because really big rains are not in the forecast, so things may be looking tough if we head into a more dry than wet time period. At this writing water based activities are very doable but are somewhat challenging in some areas from a paddler and a boaters perspective.
At Okefenokee Swamp, water levels are determined by about 80 to 90% rainwater, which means an active hurricane season is vital as a source of primary rainwater recharge. Because the past several years have been a very dry, the water levels had really dropped. The swamp needed some serious rain to help make paddling and boating happen again in a good way on many of the water trails. We are now finally getting enough rain although, who knows what the future might bring.
Motor boating and Paddling is still dicey in many places along the east side’s waterways. Good amounts of rain could change things some more in a good way. Some of the tough places where it might not be passable or easy paddling are; the prairie lakes trail, Cooter Lake Trail and the Cedar Hammock Trail and the Air Boat (day use paddle boat) Trail. The trail cutter has helped this and made it passable to an extent in most of those areas but it needs more work unfortunately. Some parts of some paddle trails may still be reasonably passable. Some other scattered dicey spots like where fire had killed lots of trees that are rotting and will be coming down. Those areas might be dangerous and quite impossible, so be careful. Especially on windy days along the just burned waterways.
The day use toilet at Monkey Lake day use shelter is reachable but can be hard going so be prepared if you attempt to get there. The day use platform toilet along the canal near the 2 mile marker on the orange trail is usable on this side of the swamp right now. The orange trail for a mile after the toilet is very matted with floating vegetation but has been cleared with the trail cutter.
The east side concessionaire is not renting motorboats now but who knows and may be in the near future. We can’t always figure out timing and sometimes thought processes affecting their boat rental circumstances. It changes with water levels and other factors so we don’t know or can’t figure out for sure.
The government (USFWS) contracts with a private business, to be their concessionaire within the Refuge. They have not been around here as long as we have (Okefenokee Pastimes) but they have picked a very similar business name to ours, so it can be confusing. They are the only available boat rentals on the water for this entrance within the boundary of the wildlife refuge. The concession is also the only option for the public to rent a motor boat on the east side (so you should check with them on this matter).
To keep from being surprised or disappointed you should contact a local source of current information before making any big motor boating or paddling plans. We would be more than happy to provide that information for you……..but. We are a very small and limited personnel business also sometimes very overworked. So, we must limit our extensive information and valuable local assessments to our customers. If you will help support us by using our services in some way, Cabins, Camping, Shuttles, Outfitting or Guiding, then we are able to afford the time involved to answer your questions and share our intimate knowledge of the local Okefenokee water scene.
As time goes by, aquatic conditions at the Okefenokee may actually change on a daily and/or weekly basis. Keep in mind the swamp’s water level can drop dramatically during warm weather and/or long periods without rain and it can rise incredibly fast with serious rainfall amounts at any time of year.
The Fall & Winter daytime highs are usually around the 50s – 60s or 70s and are sometimes pretty warm like up into the 80s but lows at night can drop into the 30s – 40s or 50s. The Spring & Summer daytime highs are usually around the 70s – 80s or 90s and are sometimes pretty seriously hot like up into the high 90s, lows at night can drop into the 50s – 70s or 80s meaning a cooler early morning start to help make it some really great outdoor pastimes. At most morning times in all seasons, it is wonderful for wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, paddling, boating or any activities on or around the water at Okefenokee. Winter temps are a little cooler than in Fall. Late Spring and Summer season is of course much warmer.
Our amazing amigos the Alligators are lurking all around Okefenokee and given their adventurous nature & mobility, they make all water activities at Okefenokee more interesting. If you are really lucky and are here under just the right timing (spring & summer are prime time) and circumstances you might get to listen to or on rare occasion even see “alligators bellowing”. This is a loud very eerie unusual and somewhat unnerving low rumbling roar that can reverberate across the swamp at particularly exciting times like especially the Spring and Summer times. Think about not passing up some great overall wildlife viewing times like during low and high water conditions.
During the Fall and Winter this is not alligator mating season and gators are becoming less active. It can still be a very interesting time to be around these big reptiles. Many females that were looking to hook up and had been hanging around the males for sexual activities in Spring and Summer, had become pregnant and began to lay eggs and guard the nest. They will soon be new moms. The mom gators are on a mission of nest and baby hatch-ling protection. Those little buggers are hatching out, trying to survive and to get bigger fast. They cannot make it without their mom’s help and protection as seasons change and weather changes loom on the horizon at Okefenokee.
Alligators lounge around in many different locations when it is sunny and calm. These ancient reptiles tend to pull themselves up onto small clearings and blow ups or out in open sunny areas throughout different parts of the swamp. When it is sun shiny they might want to warm themselves and gator nap unless it gets too warm. Gators might then like to head for some extra protection from the heat and sometimes seek the security of the deeper cooler or shaded waters and bushy areas. In colder Winter times gators may move into the prairies to bury their bodies in the peat at a favored spot in order to escape any extreme cold air and weather conditions. In hot times they do not like to get overheated so they may look for shady cover or cooler spots.