The Place to Share
Canoeing & Kayaking

Place Your Linked Ad Here - Current Bid: $10
Suwannee Canal, Okefenokee Swamp, GA
By reading further, you agree to our Terms of Use

Copyright 2000 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Art Littlefield, Village Outfitters, Cocoa FL
  • Date Submitted: 9/2000
  • Email:
  • Location: near Folkston, Georgia
  • Class: Typically flat water, protected from most wind
  • Distance Paddled: 6 miles round trip
  • Water: fresh blackwater
  • Wildlife: Egrets, Alligators, Turtles, Black Crowned Night Heron, Spiders, Dragonflies

Entry and Exit

  • Directions: On Georgia SR 121 about 8 miles south of Folkston Ga. or 35 miles north of MacClenny, Fl. (and I-10) you'll find a large sign on the east side of GA SR 121 which identifies the road leading to the east entrance of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Turn west onto this road and go 3.3 miles to it's end at the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area. You'll pass an administration office on the right, and an information center and a concession on the left. Just past the concession is the boat ramp.
  • GPS: N 30 degrees 44.29 W 82 degrees 08.47
  • Fee: $5 park entry
  • Description: Cement boat ramp, or optionally use the sandy beach area adjacent to it.
  • Parking: parking lot in front of the concession.
  • Facilities: There are restrooms at the concession, just east of the boat ramp

What We Saw

Obey the signs directing outgoing traffic to keep right, and paddle WSW along a wide shady canal. This canal is the product of the Suwanee Canal Company's ill-fated attempt to drain the swamp in 1891. Fortunately for us, they were unsuccessful. Although a ditch was cut through the ridge leading east to the St. Mary's river, it was never cut down to the water level of the swamp. The diggings exposed many small springs which created a flow of water running back into the swamp instead of away from the swamp. This discouraged the project, which also was poorly financed and mismanaged. The project was abandoned and the company turned to logging the swamp, digging more canals into it's interior, resulting in better access for present day paddlers.

The canal turns due West after a mile or so, and we passed several huge spider webs spanning the width of the canal above us. After about 1.5 miles we passed an odd sign "leaving Charlton county and entering Ware county". Apparently this is relevant information for boaters in this area. Lining the canal are mostly tall Pond Cypress and Pine with some low scrub as well. At 1.9 miles there is a signed fork in the canal. Follow the right fork toward Chase Prairie (this route will be returning by the left fork). Occasionally we saw trails of small bubbles coming up along the canal, and after watching a head surface at the end of one, we realized that these were Alligators maneuvering below us. We saw several along the route of varying sizes both in and out of the water.

At 2.9 miles you reach a four way canal junction. Turn left and follow the south canal to start the loop back. Continue SSE we saw many floating brown clumps which are partially decayed plant matter called Peat. During lower water, we were told that these can accumulate and clog the way in more narrow areas, but this route should be open in all but the most extreme droughts. The canal gradually turns SE and then East over the next mile. In this area you pass a canal leading south into Chesser Prairie (GPS: 30 44.21N 82 10.91W) and you don't have to go far down it to experience the much more open feel of the swamp prairie. Back in the canal continuing East, we passed more Alligators, a Black Crowned Night Heron and some Great Egrets.

Another canal leading south is passed shortly afterward with a sign indicating Boat Trail Grand Prairie, Chesser Prairie, Monkey Island, etc. Noting these options for the future, we continued ENE and after re-joining the main canal at the fork, we returned the way we came, again keeping to the right at the end where boat traffic is the heaviest. There are many other day trip options from this launch site, and you could even completely cross the Okefenokee to the Suwannee River. Longer trips into the interior and overnight trips require a permit however.

Contact the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge at (912) 496-3331 between 7 and 10 am weekdays to make reservations.