We are volunteers at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and on our days off we have the opportunity to explore the refuge and the surrounding areas. On a beautiful spring day in April we went for a day paddle with another volunteer couple, who are also Minnesotants. In Minnesota we have lots of lakes and rivers to kayak, but no alligators. But we weren’t afraid.
Alligators are not generally aggressive towards humans and in over eighty years there has never been an incident at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge with an alligator and a visitor.
Whereas, in Minnesota we had to contend with inclement weather. The record temperature is -60 below. Snow, the record 28.4 inches in a three day period and while we are kayaking in shorts and t-shirts, Minnesota is experiencing the snowest April on record, 26 inches since April Fools Day.
We put our kayaks in at the East Entrance of the Suwannee Canal at the Recreation Area. Okefenokee Adventures the concessionaire is located next to the visitor center and supplied the kayaks, life vests and paddles.
We had already planned our route and if you wanted to plan your own trip you can stop by the visitor center to pick up a canoe trail map (visitor center is open 9AM to 4PM), or you can download a map from the fws.gov website, or download the app Discover Nature Wilderness. All options have the overnight and day use trail system marked, but only the app will show you real time location along the trail without cellphone coverage.
We had a leisurely four hour paddle. We followed the orange trail until we came to the sign for Tater Fork Run, turned left, looped through the Chesser Prairie and returned to the boat landing.
Besides alligators we spotted a barred owl and her two owlets in a tree next to the canal, lots of turtles, water lilies, golden club, a carnivorous hooded pitcher plant, and more.