Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Visit to Georgia's Stephen C. Foster State Park

We took a trip up to Georgia's Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (swamp, for short).  Covering almost 680 square miles of Southeast Georgia we picked out the closest entrance to our Florida home. That is on the Southwest corner near the little town of Fargo.

Entering the park via Hwy 177 we stayed at Stephen C Foster State Park on Jones Island some 18 miles from Fargo in the middle of nowhere. Great park.  The staff and hosts are friendly, helpful people and keep the park well maintained.  The camp store has snacks and minimal camping goods, so be sure to bring your needs. It's a long drive to decent stores. There are virtually no communications to the outside world.  A few channels of TV are provided by park provided cable. Emergency 911 calls can be made on a public phone at the office/camp store. The comfort areas, restrooms/showers, laundry are a little dated, but well kept and clean.

The campground has 58 campsites available for RVs and tents in two paved loops.  All have 50/30/20 amp electric, water, fire pits and picnic tables. no sewage, but there is a dump station.  Our site was #6 in Loop 1. One I would definitely return to.  

The sites in Loop 1 are fully or partially shaded, packed dirt/sand, level and offer pretty good side privacy by foliage and/or space between sites.

The sites in Loop 2 are  are fully or partially shaded, grassy, level and a little more packed in.  Side privacy is not as good for the most part. Still not bad.


Additionally, the campground has 9 cottages, and an area for group primitive camping.

For campers and day visitors there is a real nice playground, with 3 large pavilions, grills,  the usual playground items, plus, corn hole game boards, horseshoe courts and volley ball court. Plus an ample open field for play.

 At the Trading Post/Office/Ranger station is a boat ramp and marina.  

There you can launch your own water craft or rent canoes, kayaks, and small motor powered boats and head out the canal to the river and it's various points of interest such as small lakes, island trails, and great swamp scenes and wildlife.  Notice the mirror effect of the still, brackish water.  Or, you can take a ranger guided boat tour.

Ominous warning sign.

Following are scenes along the river.

The shore as we head out the canal.

And, into the river.

Places to go. On Billy's Island there is a .75 hiking trail. Also, there is another trail about a mile and a half beyond Big Water which is 9 miles from the marina.

The shoreline along the river.

A Great White Heron stalks a morning meal.

Five Sisters. A group of five bald cypress trees clumped together in a cove along the river. I'm sure there is a story to this, but I haven't found it.

One of many alligators seen along the way.

Interesting ripples on an otherwise still river surface.

Bee Tree.  Don't know who named these things, nor why. Just reading the guide.

The Hollow Tree.

 A cormorant keeping an eye on us passing by the Hollow Tree.

Bladderwort. Traps minute water creatures in sacs on its leaves. The leaves also help stabilize the stem.

A blue damsel dragonfly graces a lily pad. They are very common in the swamp. Keep the mosquitoes at bay, maybe, as we noticed very few of those while on the river and in the campsite.
A couple of gators sharing a spot along the river. 

If you feel lost on the river look for this sign.

   Along the canal upon returning to the marina we spotted this little gator, about 2',  along with two others hiding in the lily ponds.  Momma was watching from the other side of the canal.

Adjacent to the marina is the trailhead for the .75 mile nature trail.
About a hundred feet into the trail it splits. To the left is a 2100' boardwalk into the swamp.
Views from the boardwalk follow.

 Definitely wet.

Great White Heron. 
A lot of underwater flora.
Red Choke Berries abound.
Climbing Fetterbush....I think.

Brown Water Snake
Dual-tailed Shrike

And, of course, an alligator (or two, or three...)

Another example of the water's reflectiveness and colors in the swamp.

The end of the boardwalk. Several years back a wildfire destroyed a section.  In the center of the photo is the continuation leading to an observation deck.  Unfortunately, there is no time frame to repair the boardwalk.

At the split go to the right and you are on a .75 mile nature hike starting on the boardwalk across part of the swamp and circling around to the island ending at the marina.

Looking into the swamp.

 More hardwoods and pines along the end of this trail as it loops onto the island.

This trail has two nice rest/observation areas.

The last third of the trail is on the island and is a dirt/sand trail.

There is a fitness trail starting at the marina parking lot and skirts along the edge of the playground and campground. An easy grassy trail that is not a loop. You return by this trail or the entrance road.  I'd guess about a mile one way. Today it was a little wettish due to recent rains.
Sign at the beginning of the fitness trail.

Near the canal were several turkeys.  One tom and about 10 hens. He was constantly "herding" his harem.

Not all alligators are in the swamp. This 3-4 footer was along the road skirting our campsite.