We arrived at Laura S. Walker State Park for a 3-night stay on a warm, sunny afternoon. Our campsite was large, the lake was within sight and hiking trails promised to keep us entertained…then the rain began. Hard rain. Dumping rain. Never-ending rain.
The first night it rained hard…all night long. It rained hard all the next day and night. Our last morning offered a tenuous break in the weather so we grabbed umbrellas and zipped over to the nearby Okefenokee Swamp Park to have a look around. Not knowing what to expect, Reg bought the coveted “E ticket” so we could see and do it all…boat ride, train ride, nature show and all the other displays scattered throughout the park.
We saw just two other guests while at the park but they left early. We had our boat and captain all to ourselves. She was a wealth of information concerning the 438,000-acre Okefenokee Swamp. Peat, at the bottom of the swamp, gives the water a brown color resulting in vivid reflections. It’s the largest black water swamp in North America. Indigenous people inhabited the Okefenokee in periods of Georgia prehistory. These days, visitors might see wading birds, amphibians, deer, Florida black bears and everything in between…and of course alligators.
After all the warnings posted throughout the past couple weeks, we were pretty excited to see our first real, live alligator in the wild. Our guide estimated this one to be about 8 feet long and noted it was sporting a yellow identification tag. Resident gators are all tagged and named. When we returned to the dock, we learned we’d met Sweetie.
The sky opened up again just as we boarded the Lady Suwannee train car for a short trip along the tracks. Again, we were the only riders but tour conductor kept up a steady stream of information as if she had a full train of passengers. We were impressed.
Old Roy lived in the Okefenokee Swamp for almost 20 of his 90 years. When he died of old age in 1972 he measured 12’ 10” long and weighed about 650 pounds. Roy had a reputation of attacking fishing boats and helping himself to strings of fish so he certainly made himself at home. He remains on display at the park, in a building named after him, where visitors are encouraged to touch and take photos…and so we did!
Some of you might remember the syndicated newspaper comic strip Pogo, published from 1948-1975. It was set in the Okefenokee Swamp and featured a menagerie of creator Walt Kelly’s colorful, animal characters. The park hosts a small tribute to both creator and characters.
When I saw this Swamp Girl movie poster, I thought it had to be one of those campy 1950s B-movies. After a little research I found that it was released in November of 1971, after a June premiere in Waycross, Georgia…the out-of-the-way town neighboring Okefenokee Swamp and just up the road from our campsite. Never mind that it scores a lowly 20% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Sometimes there’s just no accounting for taste!