Sunday, December 26, 2004

Escape to the Swamp for the Holidays

Visitors will find numerous ways to unwind during the busy holiday season at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Boating and paddling trails meander through open prairies past flocks of sandhill cranes. Hiking trails of less than one-half mile to four miles offer chances to see endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, pine warblers, black bears, and fox squirrels. Bicyclists may see alligators sunning along roadside ditches. The sounds of nature replace the noise of civilization in one of the largest wilderness areas east of the Mississippi River.

There are three main entrances into the Okefenokee Swamp. Entrance fees are required and may be purchased at each location. The main entrance to Okefenokee NWR is located 8 miles south of Folkston, Georgia, off Highway 121/23. Stop by the Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center to plan your day. Walking trails, a ¾ mile long boardwalk and observation tower, boating trails, fishing, guided boat tours, motorboat, canoe, and kayak rentals, and a restored swamp homestead await visitors. This entrance is open from one-half hour before sunrise until 5:30 p.m. daily; but will be closed for Christmas Day. For additional information, contact the Visitor Center at 912-496-7836 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Located 17 miles east of Fargo, Georgia, on Highway Spur 177, Stephen C. Foster State Park offers a boardwalk, boating trails, fishing, guided boat tours, motorboat and canoe rentals, camping, cabins, and a museum. The State Park is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., including Christmas Day. The new Suwannee River Visitor Center, located on Highway 441, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call 912-637-5274 for more information.

The entrance to Okefenokee Swamp Park is located 8 miles south of Waycross, Georgia, on Highway 1. Visitors may enjoy the train ride past special lighted Christmas exhibits created throughout the Park. Normal visiting hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Extended hours through 9:00 p.m. are in effect for the train and other exhibits from December 18th through 23rd and December 26th through 31st. The Park will be closed on December 24th and 25th.

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