09:24:11, Georgia, 31° 2.105’N, 83° 5.816’W – One mile west of Lakeland, GA, along Hwy 122 is Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Banks Lake is a natural pocosin, meaning swamp-on-a-hill, created by titdal action of the ocean thousands of years ago. It’s a palustrine wetland with deep, acidic, sandy, peat soils. The locals call it a scrub-bog. I call it a kayaker’s wet dream. It’s 1,500 acres of marsh, 1,549 acres of cypress swamp and 1,000 acres of open water with standing trees dripping with spanish moss. OMG!
There’s a landing at the entrance to Banks Lake with free parking so throw your boat in the water and enjoy a day of floating through a beautiful, pristine cypress forest. But if you want to take the Seldom Seen South route then push directly across the lake to the scrub-bog. You’re getting close when it becomes harder and harder to paddle as the lake thickens with lilly pads.
Continue to plow forward and pretty soon your paddle will touch a cushy layer of peat moss a foot below the surface. The lake has completely given away to a vast wetland speckled with groves of cypress trees as far as you can see. You are now alone. At this point it impossible to paddle so get out and walk – yes, you heard me! It’s scary at first. With each step you sink into the spongey bottom. Your spidey sense warns you that with the next step you could fall into a bottomless pit of peat bog. It’s ok to feel that way. That kind of reasoning is what keeps your DNA on the planet. Be cautious and use your paddle to test the bottom. You’ll find it’s pretty consistent all around.
If you walk far back enough into the scrub-bog it turns into a forest of long leaf pines. I’m leaving that on the table for next time.