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Explore the Okefenokee Swamp - USA
Laid back alligator lounging on a log in the Okefenokee ~
Be adventurous and cautious ~
To explore the Okefenokee Swamp is a very unique and wild adventure. It is a place where one has to be very alert to the surroundings. Going through the swamp is fascinating and hard to not look at everything around -- but, always be alert to your surroundings, for there are wildlife species you do not want to come in contact with.
Swamps seem to have mysterious and dark histories from legends and lore of the local people who live near or in such lands. Yet if one can ignore the ghost stories and creatures who prowl through the mists and murky waters, there is a lot of beauty and natural wonder to be found. The Okefenokee Swamp is one such place where vacationers and campers will find some very unique experiences.
The Okefenokee, covering approximately seven hundred square miles, is the largest swamp in North America. It lies on the border of Georgia and Florida. Most of the swamp is part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge which covers 403,000 acres of peat filled bog land.
So, what does one do in a swamp, besides watch carefully for the wildlife and do not interfere with it -- or stay clear of the carnivorous plants, such as the giant Sarracenia minor okefenokeensis, (also known as the Hooded pitcher plant)? In the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Swamp there is a lot to do.
Would you go into the Okefenokee Swamp?
History of the Okefenokee ~
The history of the Okefenokee is very interesting. It began forming during the Pleistocene period, 1.806 million years ago. It was the sixth and last epoch of the Cinozoic Era which is referred to as the Age of Mammals. Mammals began to populate the earth prolifically at that time because the extinction of larger species, such as the very large reptiles. Some birds at that time were larger than the normal human and were ferocious predators.
The Earth then started a time of cooling and drying, which led into the Pleistocene Epoch, the last glaciation period. This also when the continents began moving and what we now know as the Appalachian area slammed into North America.
So, the Okefenokee swamp is basically in the area that is a relic of the last glaciation and continental mergers.
Two major rivers, the St. Marys River and the Suwanee River have their headwaters in the Okefenokee. In the heart of the Okefenokee is where the Suwanee begins with channels of streams and flows south to drain eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. The St. Marys flows south then north and on the eastern side of what is called Trail Ridge, eventually finding the Atlantic Ocean.
Wildlife viewing is phenomenal and changes every month of the year due to the many different species and their time of activity. The variety of birds to be found is amazing. Herons, egrets, ibises, cranes, bitterns, a well as numerous smaller birds have made the Okefenokee home.
American alligators are prolific throughout the swamp. The swamp is also a home to the Florida Black Bear -- it is a habitat that is critical for the survival of this bear. There are also different species of wild pigs and numerous amphibians, reptiles and rodents.
And without a doubt some spiders ~
Cuddly looking, but stay clear, for there most likely will be a very protective mama pig near ~
Great White Heron ~
Florida Black Bear ~
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake ~
Carnivorous plants ~
Among the numerous variety of plant life are the carnivorous plants.
Carnivorous plants can be found throughout the swamp and there are many varieties. Most of these plants are described as 'pitcher plants'. The normal size plants trap insects, but some of the larger ones will capture and devour rodents and reptiles. Below are photos of just some of these hungry carnivorous plants. Many are quite pretty in their own way.
The swamp is a part of the Southeastern conifer forest ecoregion, which contains the bald cypress. Further upland the southern coastal plain has oaks and hammocks.
Hooded Pitcher ~
The hooded pitcher sends up new plants from the mass of rhizomes, which are stems of the plant that grow underground and stores nutrients such as starches and proteins. The plant is a perennial, native to the Western Hemisphere.
This particular species has pitchers of 10 to 12 inches high, and is small compared to a larger form with pitchers that are 3 to 4 feet high and grows in the marshes between Georgia and Florida.
The carnivorous Hooded Pitcher ~
Darlingtonia californica, the cobra plant ~
The cobra plant has deceptive exits in its balloon aperture. The colorless spots are translucent to allow light through. This confuses the prey trapped inside. The insects become exhausted trying to get out through the false exits and eventually fall into the tube.
Cobra plant ~
Cephalotus follicularis ~
The leaves of this carnivorous plant resemble moccasins which lie close to the ground. A spiked arrangement at the opening of the pitcher allows insects inside, but prevents them from escaping. The insects are trapped in the digestive enzyme fluid and consumed by the plant.
This carnivorous Cephalotus follicularis looks rather wicked ~
Special events ~
Approximately 400,000 people from around the world visit the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge every year.
There are tours, with guides, that can be taken, using motorboat, canoe or kayak. Some other adventures include hiking, hunting, fishing, boating and boat tours, canoeing, bicycling (on paved roads only), and an excellent opportunity for the nature photographer. Nature Photography workshops and contests are also available. The Chesser Island homestead is on the eastern edge of the Okefenokee and a must see, must learn about attraction. Their family history is very interesting.
Special events are planned throughout the year. You can easily go online to Okefenokee Swamp for more information on the animal refuge information and lodging.
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Note from author ~
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Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor
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© 2014 Phyllis Doyle Burns