By Tony Cappasso
Just off Route 1 near Waycross, Georgia, is the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It covers nearly a half-million acres of untouched wilderness.
The Okefenokee has miles of hiking trails, opportunities to canoe or boat through the area’s waterways, and knowledgeable park rangers to guide you where you want to go and explain what you see when you get there.
On my Route 1 trip, I signed up for a 90-minute boat ride on the Sewanee Canal. This imposing waterway was built originally to float huge cypress trees that had been cut down by loggers out of the area for collection.
These trees, some of them a thousand years old or older, were fair game for loggers in the 1890s. The Okefenokee was declared a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Logging there was outlawed. While the oldest trees are gone, many of those remaining are more than 250 years old.
The water of the canal is a deep brown color, the result of tannins that leak out of vegetation that has fallen into the water. Alligators swam lazily out of the boat’s path. Boats on the canal are limited to engines of 10 horsepower or less to minimize the chances of collisions with these creatures.
Most of the gators in the canal are juveniles, according to our guide, but we did see a few really large males floating almost totally submerged with only their snouts showing. In winter, river otters make the Okefenokee their home. During spring and summer, however, the alligators are at their most active. Then the otters choose another river to seek their fish.
About the Author
Tony Cappasso is the author of the e-book America’s Highway: A Journey of Discovery Along US Route 1. In it Tony recounts his journey from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. You can learn more about Tony on his website America’s Highway US Route 1, his Facebook page, or in this video.