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May 19, 2015
Just above the Florida border in southeastern Georgia, the Okefenokee Swamp stretches over 438,000 acres, with dozens of small streams meandering through pine forests and bog lands. It is the largest swamp area in North America, and when you're encased in it, it gives the impression of going on forever.
Out and About with Word and Image of Vermont
We visited there on May 16th, gaining entrance through the private park seven miles south of Waycross. When I was in college at Georgia Tech there were several students from the Okefenokee area in my dormitory, who I came to think of as the swamp guys. I've often wondered what made them the way they were, so I thought it was about time to go to the swamp to find out.
I can't say the experience taught me much about them -- truth is they were pretty much like the other south Georgia boys I came to know (people from outside the Peach State have it in mind that all Georgians are alike, which is a gigantic mistake), but leaving human sociology aside, the Okefenokee by itself is a fascinating phenomenon. More than any other place I've visited in America, the swamp speaks of ancient times. It conveys a sharp sense of what the world was like before the pollution of humanity began to take place.
There's probably nothing to say about nature that hasn't been said hundreds of times before. Taking in the intricacy of it, simply by being quiet and watching the profusion of minute events occurring within a couple dozen feet of where you stand, conveys a sense of immensity better than anything else I know, better even than gazing up into the stars. There's always something happening, most of which we never notice, living as we do. The Okefenokee forces you step out of normality and realize that nature is endlessly fascinating and, at the same time, endlessly boring. It that seems a contradiction, it's just one more lesson nature teaches us.
The creatures of the swamp fit there more perfectly than we humans can fit anywhere. When you stare down at a bunch of alligators and reflect that they have descended from ancestors who lived in places like the Okefenokee more than 200 million years ago, you realize they are much less an endangered species than we are. Maybe that's why they tend to give viewers a little chill.
The swamp's a fine place to visit, but I confess, the thought of staying there night after night gives me the creeps. Maybe there's just too much going on.