News @ Okefenokee

CHESSER ISLAND BOARDWALK REOPENS OCTOBER 26th 12:00 pm

The Chesser Island Boardwalk as well as the Owl’s Roost Tower will be reopened at 12:00 pm Saturday October 26th. We lost the boardwalk in the fire of 2011 it has now been rebuilt. This is at the East Entrance to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.Come spend the weekend in one of our deluxe cabins here at Okefenokee Pastimes, and enjoy doing a tour with us in the morning and walking the boardwalk in the afternoons.

General Swamp related News for  2013 & 2014

The big fire that started in the spring of 2011 was finally pronounced dead in early March of 2012. It burned in Okefenokee NWR for almost a year.

Because of bad publicity along with some incorrect negative public perceptions of past Okefenokee fires, it has not been that busy here. It has been a particularly nice time to visit for some lucky folks who come and enjoy the swamp, especially if they had booked our (Okefenokee Pastimes) cabins, guided tours or camping.

Fire is a healthy, regular, beneficial and a normal occurrence at Okefenokee Swamp. We have fires here in the swamp every year. The most recent big fires will greatly improve aquatic and upland habitats and the overall long term health of the Okefenokee ecosystem.

A WILDLIFE & WILDERNESS REPORT! At Okefenokee Swamp including some descriptions of current conditions. The aftermath of the big fires of 2007 & 11 continue natural alterations and is improving all aspects of wildlife and wilderness interactions here at Okefenokee.

Every season can be super in the swamp! We especially love the morning & evening times. Don’t miss out. In Fall the Cypress trees are turning their awesome fall colors again and in winter will be bald of cypress needles. In summer a cypress has a deceptively evergreen appearance but in fall and winter they show their deciduous nature with some beautiful fall colors, twice caught in the black water reflections. It all changes for every season. It’s always a new and totally different look, come and see it to believe it.

Golden Club (the never wet plant) flower in the millions are one of the first blooming (in January and February) aquatic plants of the approaching spring season. The Water Lily flowers start blooming in March and peak with flowers in July then as fall sets in you see fewer and fewer in the wet prairies. The Summer months can look like snow with a sea of white flowers that begin thinning as the seasons change. Reflections are incredible in Summer, Fall and Winter. Get a double dose of seasonal images, colors and swamp decorum because of the mirror-like reflections found here in this black water.

The sex life of our American Alligator is a very motivating factor in reptile activities especially during the Spring months. The Fall and Winter seasons are usually a little more subdued, unlike the Spring & Summer when stuff can get seriously interesting from an alligator watching and encounter perspective. Especially the way it was the past years with extreme low water conditions. A drought had created concentrations of alligators into the deeper water spots. It is always worth checking with us “Okefenokee Pastimes”  for “Gator watching current info” because water levels can change dramatically and gators can move in and out of the deeper waterway areas. Alligators can be concentrated into smaller aquatic habitats for long and short spells of time, making things really interesting. Things can and do change very quickly, so check with us for an up to the minute assessment.

Look for smaller groups of resident (Lesser or Florida) Sandhill Cranes in spring, summer and fall hanging out with their mates and getting ready for the annual winter onslaught of migratory Sandhill snowbirds. Also, look for some arrivals and departures of other migratory birds from other climates. Our Spring & Summer Caribbean part time resident of the near water shrubs the swamp canary “aka” the Prothonotary Warbler will all be gone in fall, heading back south for it’s winter digs. A nice assortment of migratory birds are arriving and leaving here at every different season. They too want some vacation time at Okefenokee.

Back and forth and extended dry weather like we have had at Okefenokee in the past years is a very special combination of circumstances and a vital part of the Swamp’s life cycle. When water levels rise and then drop dramatically, animals change behaviors. They tend to concentrate in areas where there is the most water and it makes for exciting wildlife observations during the drought times. Wildlife viewing can be a bit more challenging during higher water but access to remote and hard to get into areas is better. We can attest to spectacular wildlife viewing during the low water and drought times because alligator observations had been super good with large numbers of alligators congregating in and around the eastern canals and prairie areas. It can be, as many may attest, some of the best alligator and wildlife viewing ever to be seen in the Okefenokee.

During cooler and wetter times it may become tricky to spy alligators especially if we have had a cool snap, like a winter day where the sun has been hiding out behind cloudy windy cool weather. Every critter is still there when water levels are high or during cooler times. It’s just much harder to find them especially the reptiles and amphibians. You may want to be on the lookout for otters that sometimes enjoy showing off during the cooler seasonal times.

Time of day can contribute to your comfort with the weather but can be critical for wildlife viewing opportunities. Anhingas are usually an early bird, to cruise and hunt in the black water along with gators and fish that will hit the surface, all the while other birds soar overhead.

This entrance area of Okefenokee can be particularly exciting  because of the larger Wading birds like the Sand hill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Wood Storks. Unusually hot or cold weather in the spring, summer, fall or winter times of year can be challenging for wildlife observations. It is nice to be comfortable when you do things but nature does not necessarily work on our comfort timetables, so the time of morning, day or evening can sometimes really make a difference in wildlife observations.

Summer, Fall and Winter bird watching, especially during normal to low water conditions and particularly for wading bird species can be some of the best. Under varying circumstances it is possible to see a very diverse grouping of different species of wading birds and even some that we do not usually see in the Okefenokee, at least not often. Unusual numbers of Great Egrets and Snowy’s, multiple types of Herons, Wood Ibis (Wood Storks), White Ibis, Sandhill Cranes, Anhingas, Cormorants, and Kingfishers etc. etc. etc. All are being spotted regularly in the last several seasons and sometimes viewed in unusually large numbers out in the eastern prairies during the various water levels. This is what it is all about for birders. Sometimes, Rosette Spoonbills, a Golden Eagle, renegade raiding Black Bears or a Bobcat may be observed in or near the eastern prairies. At most times some of those are considered rarer sightings away from specific areas and circumstances. Currently as of this writing we are experiencing closer to normal water level conditions.

Changing water levels seem to vary the favorable habitats for many types of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and vegetation. Don’t miss out on an opportunity for some excellent Okefenokee plant and wildlife observation opportunities.

As time goes by after a fire, new growth will entice more and more birds and other wildlife into much of the previously burned areas. Water levels at any given time do seriously influence many species of wading birds and their feeding habits.

Extreme weather conditions foster wildlife migrations that are evident and underway throughout the 700 square mile swamp, whether it’s an alligator crossing a road in search of a better wetland, or Sandhill Cranes and their young moving throughout the prairies or even coming face to face with a pair of very large Black Bears foraging for food in the prairies. Lower water plus rising and falling fluctuations mean that there are usually interesting animal behaviors to observe in the Okefenokee but be aware, it can all change very quickly.

Please do not discount or ignore the fascinating array of plants and flowers and trees and other unusual vegetation that exist in the Okefenokee. From the fascinating numerous carnivorous plants to the abundant spectacular flowering aquatic species or the majestic towering conifer trees (Cypress) that show off some spectacular fall colors. The Botany of Okefenokee is nothing to dismiss lightly.  It all changes somewhat rapidly with each season, so unless you consider the natural world boring (and what a sad outlook that could be – you have our sympathies), it should never be a bad time to be here. Each distinctive season has some stellar show-offs and very distinctive flavors and visuals to present. On the other hand, seasonal comfort levels for human beings at Okefenokee do vary sometimes even in the extreme. Please get informed if you require ideal comfortable outdoor conditions and outdoor comfort at certain times of day is a serious issue for the timing your visit.

If you are staying as our guests here at Okefenokee Pastimes be sure to ask us when you set up your reservation, what are the current or expected conditions and circumstances for your specific interests and time period. Wildlife viewing here at the Okefenokee is rated by quality, frequency, success and consistency, it can and does vary with changes from day to day and/or week to week.

Special Okefenokee Pastimes “Guided Motorboat Tours” information

Water levels can change rapidly so this info may not be very pertinent at this time.

In the recent past you may have heard from friends or on the news about a drought or seriously low water levels that were happening at Okefenokee. In some locations of the swamp guided motorboat tours had been cut back or even eliminated.

We at Okefenokee Pastimes want you to know and understand that all during the recent past droughts we have been in full operation with our motorboat tours. The water is always a bit higher here on the east side (our location) plus we utilize a very shallow draft vessel uniquely outfitted for safe effective operation in super low water situations. We do better especially when there are fewer people (like a couple or small family with light weight kids and adults) in the boat, weight can be a determining factor sometimes.

Drought is serious business, but it actually will benefit the swamp’s future health. It has never negatively impacted our 3-4 hour tours at all and we do not expect problems in the future. We have been through droughts and fires many times over the 17 years we have been operating our business and are seriously prepared. We would hate for you to miss out on some of the best and most exciting wildlife viewing and interesting swamp times that can be experienced in and around our part of Okefenokee Swamp. Do not believe an over blown rumor mill, take the initiative to find out the factual situation.

If you have any questions about any of this please give us a call. (912) 496-4472 - 2pm-6pm except Mon. & Sun. please note – office phone hours are different in Summer months June – Sept.

Please seeOutdoor Activities Posting on Home page and other pages for more detailed info on Paddling and Boating the East side of Okefenokee

FISHING: Fishing in the swamp is sort a mixed bag because of seasons and higher or lower water levels. Changing weather conditions definitely effect things too, it could and usually is different from day to day.  Spring, Summer and Fall the Bowfin are seen swirling at the surface food sources. In  spring and summer Jack fish are jumping into boats (it’s happened many times to me) and also jumping on surface lures. The usual suspect species of sunfish for table fare are being caught. Fishing picks up with the approach of Spring and is mostly pretty good until Winter, the slowest fishing season.

The overnight wilderness paddle trail system Some of it is shut down right now, due to aftermath of the fires and blockage of aquatic plants, not the water levels. Please check with officials representing the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Okefenokee N.W.R. for the most up to date info on hazardous or dangerous conditions relating to the wilderness overnight paddle trails.

Please check our outfitting pages for shuttle prices and boat rental info.

The close at hand St. Mary’s River that divides GA and FL can also be a great place to paddle nearby to our place (Okefenokee Pastimes). It’s a smaller and more intimate river but just as beautiful as the Suwannee River in FL or GA. Check our outfitting page for more info on our river paddling trips.

SUNSET & MOONLIGHT NIGHT TIME PADDLE TOURS PADDLE into the HEART of DARKNESS

We offer after dark guided kayak and canoe paddle trips into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on certain designated paddle trails or on the beautiful St. Marys River. For more information, prices and reservations call (912) 496-4472 during business hours.

Special circumstances (like severe weather, lightning, bugs, timing & other things) can seriously affect all aspects and particulars of a night tour during warm weather months. Call to discuss it.

SUNSET & MOONLIGHT NIGHT TIME MOTORBOAT TOURS of the OKEFENOKEE SWAMP and Saint Marys River.

Take a guided motorboat into the HEART of DARKNESS

We offer two after dark guided motorboat trips, one into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on certain designated water trails or the other on the spectacularly beautiful St. Marys River.  For more information, prices, and reservations call (912) 496-4472 during business hours.

Special circumstances (like severe weather, lightning, bugs, timing & other things) can seriously affect aspects and particulars of a night tour during warm weather months. Call to discuss it.

Alternative Overnight Options: consider the close by and beautiful St. Mary’s River for a tour or maybe an overnighter from Thompkins Landing to Traders Hill. If you’re interested in the river see outfitting for more details and options. A daylight paddle adventure through Okefenokee is no problem before or after an overnight wilderness paddle trip down the Swamps’ Atlantic Coast connection, the St. Mary’s River. Try it you’ll love it.

Okefenokee’s East side Fire Conditions in general year round

“This region was at one time a naturally fire dependent and fire tolerant ecosystem, fire was once the breath of life but… everything has been altered by man”. “The results created a much more serious wildfire risk for the area’s woodlands, rural residential and business areas”. “Everyone should be aware and use extra caution during times of high or extreme fire risk”.

Forests and native vegetation in this geographical region were once part of a naturally fire dependent and fire tolerant ecosystem. In modern times human activities have altered things so dramatically that as a result it created a much higher and a more serious risk of wildfire for this area’s woodlands. Existing natural conditions along with the intensely planted non-fire tolerant single species tree farms (the cornfield looking row tree plantations) are at risk of of wild fire. Along with trees are many man made structures like rural homes, businesses and even whole small towns and communities may become at risk during certain high and extreme risk fire season conditions.

Visitors as well as the local residents should be aware and use extra caution during times of drought and high fire risk. Tropical storm seasons of years ago and some other weather factors in the recent past had brought an abundance of rain and then just quit creating drought.  We had a serious rainfall deficit but present & future weather patterns may be changing on us again. We are now getting enough rain and the wild fire risk as of this writing is in the moderate/low risk category. This does not mean conditions cannot change in a very short period of time.

Please everyone be responsible, smart & safe with fire. We suggest you always check with us first before expecting to have a campfire or charcoal grill‚ here on our property {Okefenokee Pastimes} just to be sure.

THE HEAT, BUG & COMFORT REPORT - is moved to a post on the home page and other pages, please check it out there – thanks

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