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by Coach Bear
June 11, 2002
Okeefenokee is an Indian term meaning "Land of Trembling Earth." Vegetation grows in the fertile water. As it dies and sinks to the bottom, bacteria help to decompose the plant material, producing more minerals and methane gas. This gas gets caught in the huge mass of vegetation that has accumulated over time and causes it to float in the water. Huge lumps, or mounds, of this vegetation appear almost solid. It gets so large that they become floating islands (called "batteries"). Plants begin to grow and animals make their homes on these batteries. Over time, more material is added to the floating islands and they become true islands. One of the neat things that you can do (if you dare take the chance) is to get out of your boat and jump on the islands. They will bounce with you.
We rented a small motor boat from the park rangers near Folkston and took a ride through the swamp. It is impossible to see the entire area, since it covers almost 700 square acres. It is entirely possible to get lost in the maze of passageways, so we stuck to the marked areas. We saw several people who were fishing, many who were canoeing, and several who were just enjoying the view.
We saw the famous cypress trees with their knees. There were many alligators. We even saw a brace of Sand Hill Cranes (an endangered bird species) and were able to get a photo of them. Thank God I didn't see any, but all four of the poisonous types of snakes found in the United States can be found in the swamp (Rattlesnake, Copperhead, Water Moccasin, and Coral Snake). I took a university course and visited the swamp a few years ago to study the various plants that grow in the area. We saw our share of pitcher plants, sundews, and others while my wife and I visited the swamp. She had never seen a pitcher plant.
When we returned the boat, we drove about 3 miles down the highway to an observation platform, from which we could see the swamp from a wider viewpoint. We could have spent more than a day, but with the time available, it was a pleasant adventure.
From journal "Swamp-Wise" in Waycross
September 7, 2000
From journal Waycross,Where the Ways Cross