Icebergs to Swamp, Trailhoncho covers it all

A nice day out paddling at Steven J Foster Swamp. Lots of gators!

Named after songwriter Stephen Foster, this remote park is a primary entrance to the famed Okefenokee Swamp and is one of the most intriguing areas in Georgia. Moss-laced cypress trees reflect off the black swamp waters, providing breathtaking scenery.

Visitors can look for alligators, turtles, raccoon, black bear, deer, birds and numerous other creatures while on the park’s elevated boardwalk trail or on a guided pontoon boat trip. More adventurous visitors may wish to rent motorized boats, canoes or kayaks for further exploration of the swamp, including a trip to historic Billy’s Island.  During low water levels, boating may not be available.

Perhaps the most famous inhabitant of the Okefenokee Swamp is the American Alligator.  Officials estimate that 12,000 of the country’s largest reptile live within the 402,000-acre refuge.  To safely view these creatures, visitors should admire them from a distance and keep hands and feet inside boats.  Pets are not allowed in boats, even privately owned vessels.  Children should not play near the water’s edge.  Feeding any wildlife is prohibited.  Following these guidelines will help visitors have a safe and entertaining experience in one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.

At the park’s Suwannee River Visitor Center in Fargo, visitors learn not only about the Okefenokee Swamp’s ecosystem, but also how buildings can be made from recycled car parts and plastics. Located off Hwy. 441 at the Suwannee River bridge, the center mixes environmental education with engineering showmanship. Inside, visitors learn that tannic acid produced by decaying vegetation is what gives the river its tea color, and that unlike other reptiles, mother alligators actively care for their babies. A third of the building materials was made from recycled content, including a retaining wall made from old dashboards and electrical cables.

Because Stephen C. Foster State Park is located within a National Wildlife Refuge, gate lock at closing and a $5 refuge fee is charged.

Park Hours:
7AM–10PM (gate locks at closing; no late entry)
Office Hours:
Fall/Winter 8AM-5PM; Spring/Summer 7AM-6 PM
Suwannee River Center Hours
8AM-5PM; Wednesday-Sunday (Access may be restricted after heavy rain. Call ahead to confirm operating hours.)
www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/StephenCFoster

FACILITIES:

  • 80 Acres
  • 64 Tent, Trailer, RV Campsites ($25-$28) – cable TV hookups, some areas closed for the season
  • 9 Cottages ($125) — #5 is dog friendly ($40 per dog, max 2)
  • 3 Picnic Shelters ($40-$50)
  • Pioneer Campground ($45)
  • Interpretive Center/Museum
  • 1.5-Mile Trembling Earth Nature Trail
  • 1.5-Mile Pine Upland Nature Trail
  • 25 Miles of Day-Use Waterways
  • Playground
  • Suwannee River Visitor Center

ACTIVITIES:

  • GeoCaching
  • Canoe, Kayak and Fishing Boat Rental (depending on water levels)
  • Guided Pontoon Boat Tours ($8-$12, depending on water levels)
  • Boating – ramp, 10 horsepower limit
  • Fishing
  • Birding

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

  • Boating activities may be restricted during low water levels.
  • The park is located 18 miles from Fargo and 50 miles from a major grocery store. Visitors should bring all supplies with them and have plenty of gasoline in their vehicle. The park office sells drinks, snacks, ice, books, gifts and t-shirts.
  • Cell phone service may be unreliable.
  • Late arrivals are not allowed due to NWR regulations. Gates lock at 10 p.m.

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