Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

okefenokee swamp paddle 2009


The Okefenokee Swamp, straddling the Georgia - Florida border covers 438,000 acres, is 38 miles long, and 25 miles wide at its wides point, for a total of approximately 700 square miles. Essentially a large depression or bowl, the swamp is approximately 7,000 years old and the peat can reach a depth of 15 feet in areas. Of the 438,000 acres, 370,000 acres classified as wetlands. Because of the depth of peat, the Choctaw Indians named it "Land of the Trembling Earth.", as the peat trembled when walked upon. It is the largest peat-based blackwater swamp in North America.

Spanish moss is an epiphyte (a plant that lives upon other plants; from Greek "epi"=upon "phyte"=plant), which absorbs nutrients (especially calcium) and water from the air and rainfall. Spanish moss is colloquially known as "air plant".
It can grow so thickly on tree limbs that it gives a somewhat "
gothic" appearance to the landscape, and while it rarely kills the trees it lowers their growth rate by reducing the amount of light to a tree's own leaves. It also increases wind resistance, which can prove fatal to the host tree in a hurricane.
In the southern U.S., the plant seems to show a preference of growth on
southern live oak and bald cypress because of these trees' high rates of foliar mineral leaching (Ca, Mg, K, and P) providing an abundant supply of nutrients to the plant[2], but it can colonize in other tree species such as sweetgum, crape-myrtle, other oaks, or even pine.
Spanish moss shelters a number of creatures, including rat snakes and three species of bats. One species of
jumping spider, Pelegrina tillandsiae, has been found only on Spanish moss.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Wilderness
A majority of the swamp is protected by the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Wilderness. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is the largest National Wildlife Refuge in the Eastern United States, and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is under the Department of the Interior. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is over 402,000 acres, and the wilderness area consists of 353,981 acres and was created by the Okefenokee Wilderness Act of 1974 which is part of the Wilderness Preservation System.

The Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) is a large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia.
The Sandhill Crane has one of the longest fossil histories of any extant bird.
[2] A 10-million-year-old crane fossil from Nebraska is often cited as being of this species,[3], but this is more likely from a prehistoric relative or the direct ancestor of the Sandhill Crane and may not belong in the genus Grus. The oldest unequivocal Sandhill Crane fossil is "just" 2.5 million years old,[4] over one and a half times older than the earliest remains of most living species of birds, which are primarily found from after the Pliocene/Pleistocene boundary some 1.8 million years ago. As these ancient Sandhill Cranes varied as much in size as the present-day birds, even those Pliocene fossils were sometimes described as new species.[5] Grus haydeni on the other hand may or may not have been a prehistoric relative of the living species, or it may actually comprise material of the Sandhill Crane and its ancestor.[6]

While most reptiles abandon their young or eggs immediately, the mother alligator will aggressively defend her offspring for up to two years after they hatch

Habitat Types
Eight habitat types are found in in the Okefenokee Swamp:
Shrub swamp (34%)
Mixed cypress forest (23%)
Prairies (21%)
Pure cypress forest (9%)
Swamp islands (8%)
Blackgum forest (6%)
Bay forest (6%)
There are 621 species of plants found on the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, including carnivorous plants including the golden trumpet, hooded, parrot and trumpet pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts.

Fire Regime
The typical fire regime for the swamp is a large fire every 20-30 years. In the past, the fires have created prairies and occasionally deep lakes, reversing or halting plant succession by preventing the conversion of marsh areas to swamp forest. After the fire, rain water replenishes the swamp, filling in the open spaces created by fire. Later cycles of drought lower water levels, causing vegetation and displaced peat blow-ups to cover the area again. Fire sweeps through the area once more and the entire process continues again.
[edit] 2007 Fire
Since the construction of the Suwannee River Sill in the 1960's, designed to to retain higher water levels in the swamp during droughts, there has not been a large fire. The FWS is considering removing the Suwannee River Sill or minimizing the effects on the water levels in the Okefenokee swamp. Despite the Suwannee River Sill, a wildfire which began near the center of the Refuge on May 5, 2007 has burned more than 212,000 acres (858 km²) in the region by May 12, 2007 before being extinguished in July 2007, with the total affected area approaching 600,000 acres. Essentially all of the swamp burned, though the degrees of impact vary widely, primarily due to drought conditions and resulting low water table (2 feet below normal) exposing and drying the peat.

The prairies are untimbered areas in the swamp and cover approximately 60,500 acres. The largest prairie is 6,600 acres in size, and under normal circumstances, all of the prairies are flooded with 6-18 inches of water.

Alligators are closely related to reptiles that lived between 65 and 225 million years ago. The name alligator came from the Spanish El Lagarto, which means "The Lizard."
The American alligator is the largest of all members of the crocodile order in North America, growing sometimes to over 14 feet, with the record being 19 feet 2 inches. General coloration is black but light markings of youth may persist into adulthood. Alligators can weigh over 500lbs. and live up to 50 years. The voice of an adult male is a throaty bellowing roar with great carrying power. The female grunts like a pig when calling to her young, which she actively protects from predators. Baby alligators make a high keyed umph-umph-umph with mouth closed. Alligators of all sizes hiss.


Sarracenia 'Okee Giant'
Most species use a combination of scent, drugged nectar, waxy deposits (to clog insect feet) and gravity to topple insect prey into their pitcher.
Coniine, an alkaloid drug narcotic to insects, has been discovered in the nectar-like secretions of at least S. flava. Once inside, the insect finds the footing very slippery with a waxy surface covering the walls of the pitcher. Further down the tube, downward-pointing hairs make retreat impossible, and in the lowest region of the tube, a pool of liquid containing digestive enzymes and wetting agents quickly drowns the prey and begins digestion. The exoskeletons are usually not digested, and over the course of the summer fill up the pitcher tube.
S. psittacina, the parrot pitcher, uses a
lobster-pot style trap that will admit prey (including tadpoles and small fish during floods) but not allow it to find its way out; and sharp inward-pointing hairs force the victim gradually down to the base of the pitcher where it is digested.

The water in the Swamp looks dirty, and is a very dark brown color. Even though it looks unclean, it is actually pure and safe to drink. There is tanic acid in the water (the acid comes from the peat), and that makes it dark, but it doesn't hurt humans or animals to drink it. The water also looks a lot like a mirror when the sun reflects on it.

From Round Top, it is an easy paddle to Floyd's Island, although the canal to the island can also be difficult in low water. Yellow flies and mosquitoes are a real problem in that stretch.
The island requires portaging the canoes and gear across the island, but there are carts there to make the task easier. The run from Floyd's Island is through a mostly forested area, and it joins the Red Trail for its final miles to Stephen Foster Park.

None of Chip and Joy Campbell's friends and family were surprised when they chose to leave North Carolina's vibrant and bustling Research Triangle area to move to south Georgia's famous Okefenokee Swamp.
Chip, a Georgia native, has been exploring the Okefenokee since he was a 12-year-old Boy Scout. Chip introduced Joy to the region during their college days at North Carolina State University.
The couple honeymooned in the swamp in 1984 and have explored the Okefenokee and many other Southern wetland ecosystems extensively in the years of their life together.
Both Chip and Joy worked at Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina before coming to Charlton County to take over the sole concession inside the
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Chip has also worked as manager with Pro Canoe and Kayak, and both Chip and Joy have guided excursions for Rock Rest Adventures in the Okefenokee, Roanoke River and Black River swamps, many of them in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy.
The Campbells started Okefenokee Adventures in the Summer of 2000, and look forward to serving your needs as you visit the incomparable Okefenokee Swamp!

The Barred Owl, Strix varia, is a large typical owl. It goes by many other names, including eight hooter, rain owl, wood owl, and striped owl, but is probably known best as the hoot owl.
The adult is 44 cm long with a 112 cm wingspan. It has a pale face with dark rings around the eyes, a yellow beak and brown eyes. It is the only typical owl of the eastern United States which has brown eyes; all others have yellow eyes. The head is round and lacks ear tufts, a distinction from the Short-eared Owl. The upper parts are mottled gray-brown. The underparts are light with markings; the chest is barred horizontally while the belly is streaked lengthwise. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons.[2]

It was the strangest sight. I'll have to do some studying on their behaviour. They would all gather in this one bushy area for several seconds and then ...pooof take to the air.

Baldcypress is a long-lived, deciduous wetland species that grows along rivers, streams, and creeks as well as in swamps with slow moving water. It can live up to 600 years old. It is a legendary tree of the Deep South known for its "knees," moss-draped crown, and buttressed trunk. It occurs in the coastal plains along the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean and north up through the Mississippi River Valley.

Baldcypress is a very important tree in the

swampland ecosystem. It is valuable for wildlife food and cover. Canadian geese migrating to the south feed on the seeds. Swamp rabbits and other birds, such as Florida cranes and ducks, also feed on baldcypress. White-tailed deer escape to the cover of baldcypress swamps during hunting season. Many animals find shelter in and around the base of large old-growth trees

Knees" are present in both pondcypress and baldcypress root systems when they are growing in water. Cypress "knees," or pneumatophores, are cone-shaped extensions of the root system protruding from the ground. Pneumatophores are thought to function as the trees' means of obtaining oxygen for the roots during flooded conditions. Baldcypress and pondcypress are "Trees with knees."

Jody and Ray are the 'proud parents' and founders of Kayak Amelia

Pam and Craig

The Round Top Shelter -- one of five wood shelter campsites throughout the refuge -- is a roomy wooden platform built a few inches above the water line, complete with partial roof, a large picnic table and built-in benches around the perimeter plus a very clean composting toilet.
The shelter at Round Top is in good repair, and gives a beautiful view of the sunsets and sunrises. The sight of sandhill cranes flying against the colorful sky is one to remember.

Round top is one of the nicest overnight stops in the swamp.However, because it sits out in the middle of the prairieit does not offer much protection from wind and blowing rain.Strong winds should be expected,so tie your tent down well and keep your gear and loose items secured.Also do not depend on the platform roof to keep you dry in a leaky tent. Wind can blow rain right under the roof,drenching the entire platform.

Reservations for a swamp?! Yes, it's true. The Okefenokee is a popular place, potentially too popular for its own good. Call ahead --way ahead. And don't be surprised if they're all booked up. For peak periods, especially March and April, every available spot is usually taken within 15 minutes after the phone line opens in the morning.
When making reservations, consider the skill level of individuals in your party before choosing a trail. The swamp terrain is flat; there is no fast water and very little dry land. Your paddle will be used every inch of the way as you wind through cypress forests or cross open "prairies" exposed to the sun and wind. Paddling can be slow-going and strenuous on shallow and/or narrow trails. You may have to get out of your canoe and push across peat blowups or shallow water.

Locations of visitors to this page