Environmental Education and Interpretive Programs
The staff of Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge encourages people of all ages to learn as they explore the Okefenokee, “The Land of the Trembling Earth”. A variety of interpretive and environmental educational activities and programs are offered for individuals and groups. To help you find your way to the east entrance of the refuge, an Okefenokee Area Map and Directions is available for printing. Trip Tips are also available for teachers and chaperones.
8 Easy Steps for A Successful Field Trip at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Step 1- Familiarize Yourself with the Refuge- Review the Environmental Education page shown below, its links and other webpage’s on this website to become familiar with the refuge and its activities. Share this information with those involved with the trip. If possible, have a teacher(s) visit the refuge before their field trip to become familiar with the activities and facilities.
Step 2- Schedule Your Field Trip- Contact a ranger at the Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center (912-496-7836) to schedule a field trip for your school group. You will also need to contact Okefenokee Adventures if you want your students to take a boat ride, use canoes, or have lunch prepared for them. If contact is not made with a ranger before the field trip, your school will have to pay the regular entrance fees and may not get assistance during their visit.
Step 3- Obtain a Fee Waiver- Fill out a fee waiver form, then fax or mail it in along with a copy of your school’s accreditation at least two weeks in advance of your field trip.
Step 4- Confirm Your Visit- Speak to a ranger at the Visitor Center to confirm any last details about your field trip. Go over the details including your trip schedule with all of your teachers and chaperones before the field trip.
Step 5- Prepare Your Students- Have each teacher review with their students acceptable behavior and the proper clothing to wear at the refuge. Have each student complete pre-activities about the refuge to prepare them for their visit. Print out any desired activity pages from this website and gather clipboards and pencils together for the trip.
Step 6- Arrive at the Refuge- Make sure that your students will arrive on time at the refuge so that all planned activities can be completed as scheduled. Use the directions from this website and make sure that your bus drivers know that you are going to the East Entrance (Suwannee Canal Recreation Area) near Folkston, not Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross.
Step 7- Encourage the “Spirit of Wonder”- Help your students discover some of the amazing things that are found at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. While we encourage field trips to be organized and structured, you should also make sure your students have some free time to just observe and explore nature in a contemplative manner.
Step 8- Continue the Learning- Review with the students what they learned on their field trip, and have them study an animal, plant, or natural process they discovered at Okefenokee.
To help you plan your field trip, here are three typical schedules many groups follow during their field trips.
Listed below are many of the activities and programs available.
At the visitor center:
- Experience the sights and sounds of the refuge during an award-winning 14-minute orientation film.
- Learn through exhibits about the formation of the Okefenokee Swamp, its five habitats, the importance of wilderness, and the National Refuge System.
- Enjoy hearing stories about the many different inhabitants of the Okefenokee from an animatronic storyteller.
- Listen to a jukebox that plays natural sounds heard in the refuge.
- Climb to the top of a tower to look at animals that live in the cypress canopy.
- See an underwater view of the swamp.
- Use interactive computer stations to view information and test their refuge management skills.
- See wildlife from the visitor center’s back patio.
- Shop at our bookstore.
- Time required: 30–60 minutes
Swamp Island Drive Self-guided Tour
Leading from the refuge entrance road is the Swamp Island Drive, a 9-mile scenic driving loop that winds its way through different habitats with wildlife openings, wetlands, and hardwood plots. Numbered posts correspond to paragraphs within a written guide that explain what can be seen along the drive. The drive also leads to the start of several walking trails and the Chesser Island Homestead.
Time required: 30-45 minutes
Chesser Island Homestead
Located four miles down the Swamp Island Drive from the Visitor Center is the historic Chesser Island Homestead. Rangers and volunteers lead individuals and groups through an authentic 1920's era homestead and out buildings as they explain how "swampers" once lived in the Okefenokee. Time required: 15-45 minutes
Walking and Hiking Trails
There are almost 10 miles of walking and hiking trails that allow visitors to see different habitats within the refuge. A trail guide is available that briefly explains each trail. A pamphlet for the Canal Diggers Trail explains the failed attempt by a group of investors to drain the Okefenokee Swamp in the late 1800's. Time required: 15-240 minutes
Okefenokee Adventures Inc., a cooperating partner at the refuge, offers guided boat tours for a fee on the east side of the refuge. These tours give visitors a memorable opportunity to travel in a part of the swamp that is inaccessible by car or foot. Knowledgeable guides provide information about the swamp's varied flora, fauna and rich human history. Okefenokee Adventures has a gift store and restaurant and can provide meals to groups. They also rent canoes, kayaks, motorboats, and bicycles. Guided half day, full day, and overnight swamp trips are available by arrangement. Time required: 60-75 minutes
During the year a variety of interpretive programs about the wonders of the refuge are offered to individuals and families. Time required: 10-120 minutes
Environmental Education Activities and Programs
Educators may print activity sheets for their students to complete before, during, and after visiting the refuge. A series of brochures and informational handouts about various refuge topics are also available. Time required: 10-30 minutes
Rangers also offer short introductory talks and longer curriculum-based environmental and cultural programs for students age 4 to 15. Time required: 15-90 minutes
Ranger-led programs for scouts are also available. Time required: 15-90 minutesWilderness
In 1974, U.S. Congress designated 353,619 acres of the 402,000 acres of Okefenokee NWR as wilderness. Educators may learn more about wilderness and curriculum activities by visiting the Wilderness Society website.
Special events are offered throughout the year.
How to Schedule a Group Visit
Please contact a Refuge Ranger at the Visitor Center to let them know your group will be visiting the refuge. Reservations for programs and tours must be made at least two weeks in advance of arrival. Call (912) 496-7836 from 9AM -5PM ET to make arrangements for your group’s visit. There is no charge for activities and programs except for boat tours. To schedule boat tours or to rent equipment for your group, please make reservations as early as possible by calling Okefenokee Adventures at (912) 496-7156.
Entrance fees are required at each entrance to the refuge. Groups visiting the refuge for educational or scientific purposes that meet all requirements may receive a fee waiver. To obtain a fee waiver, a group’s leader must complete an official fee waiver form and submit it and other required material to the refuge Environmental Education Coordinator at least two weeks in advance.