Just a couple of weeks after Tallulah Gorge will be our second campout of the year on March 2 – 5 at Okefenokee Swamp. Chris May will be taking the lead on this campout and has reserved the group pioneer campsite at Stephen C Foster State Park, which is the southern entry to the swamp.
Just a heads up that this will be around a 5 hour drive, so Scouts likely would need to miss some school to attend (to allow time for travel).
We want to be clear that there are two separate events during this campout. Please read the details around each trip/experience below.
Main Okefenokee Camping Event:
We will be at the pioneer campground facilities at the state park, which has the following facilities: 2 pit toilets, grill, firepit, covered picnic area with tables, 2 adirondack style shelters, lots of flat area for tents.
It’s a clear cut field, so there may not be many hammock options along the edge of the clearing. There are regular bathrooms and showers at the main campground nearby. We can expect the temperatures will be around a low of 45 and a high of 70.
In addition to exploring the swamp and wildlife, the park is also a designated “Dark Sky” area. The lack of light pollution makes it a great location for stargazing. Bring binoculars, telescopes and tripods for your cameras (to take long exposures). The website for the park has a separate pages dedicated to astronomy, so this would be a great place to work on the Astronomy MB.
There are about 2 miles of hiking trails – they will be flat but muddy. Just outside the park is a 3-4 mile hike along the Suwannee River Sill, a 5 mile Earthen dam. Bikes are welcome on the trails within the park except on any of the boardwalks.
Boat Tours – 1.5 hrs guided motorboat ride into the swamp. Reserve up to 7 days in advance. For age 5-11 $15 per person, 12-older $22.50. Boats hold 10-12 people. It’s a good tour that gets you out in the swamp, informative and you’re sure to see some amazing wildlife. It is a bit pricey. There are also educational programs for students, which we may be eligible for and are a little cheaper. Please let Chris May know if this is something you’re interested in. The tours leave from the main park office, which is maybe a 1 mile walk or drive from our campsite.
Finally, canoe/kayak rental is also available. For 2 hours it’s $20, 4 hours it’s $26.50 and overnight it’s $50. These are rented from the main park office on a first come first serve basis.
Smaller Excursion Group (Friday Night in the Swamp):
The excursion group will leave from the main park office by noon Friday. We are required to do so by the permit rules. For those participating, Chris May would like everyone to met by 11 am. Expect to likely be camping Thursday night at the pioneer site, since it would be too long of a drive to arrive by 11 am Friday morning. Anyone attending the campout that weekend is welcome to also stay on Thursday night (March 2), since the pioneer site has been reserved.
We are spending the night at Mixons Hammock, which is a small island. The distance to paddle is only 2 miles, however the bulk of the trip is across a broad area that can be very windy, particularly in March. If we make great time, we can set up camp, jump back on the boats and explore. There is some hiking on the island and a fire pit, but really there is nothing else.
In order to join the excursion, you must have completed the BSA Swimmers Test. Anyone that has completed the Swimming MB is cleared. If you’re not sure, check with Chris May. Additionally, Scouts attending will need to review and complete (if not already done so) the Aquatics sections of 2nd & 1st Class Ranks. We’ll either take some time from the weekly Troop meeting or we may schedule another time to go over these Aquatic sections, techniques, nuisances of paddle camping, meals, etc. For this excursion, we are asking for only experienced paddlers. It’s not a good trip for people that aren’t already comfortable canoeing or kayaking.
Here is an excellent pdf covering many details of paddle camping in the Okefenokee Wilderness: [Canoe Guide]
Currently, we have a total of 10 slots, and they are all filled. There is still plenty of room for the pioneer site though (for anyone who still wants to attend).
This group will join the “Main” group to camp in the pioneer site on Saturday afternoon/evening.