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With West Mims fire 65% contained, parts of Okefenokee to reopen

Visitors still urged to remain cautious

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FOLKSTON, Ga. – After receiving significant rainfall over the last two weeks, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will resume nearly all visitor services Thursday.

Both the main entrance near Folkston, the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area and the Stephen C. Foster State Park will reopen on Thursday.

Fire personnel will remain working around the refuge, conducting suppression repair efforts on the over 500 miles of line constructed during the so-called West Mims Fire, which has burned 238 square miles since it was ignited by lightning on April 6.

The fire, which is 65 percent contained, will continue to be patrolled and monitored until it reaches 100 percent containment, but recent rainfall and decreased fire activity allow fire crews to conduct the necessary repair work on both the refuge and private lands.

Beginning on Thursday, the main entrance to the refuge near Folkston will reopen the public boat launch to day-use visitor access including launching a boat with small motor or canoes and kayaks. Visitors may also rent canoes and kayaks from the onsite concession, Okefenokee Adventures.

The Chesser Island Homestead and Chesser Island Boardwalk will remain closed until the structure protection equipment can be removed and the facilities inspected for visitor safety.

Boat access to the Okefenokee via the Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo will resume once water levels can support boat access. Please contact Stephen C. Foster State Park at 912-637-5274 for the most up-to-date information on visitor opportunities available at this location.

The overnight canoe stops will remain closed as water levels are still low in the Okefenokee, and reservations are not being taken at this time.

The burn ban has also been lifted on the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors can now use charcoal grills in designated picnic areas and are authorized to have campfires in approved campfire rings within Stephen C. Foster State Park.

All visitors should use extreme caution while visiting the refuge and adhere to all posted signs and information provided by refuge and concession staff as well as firefighters working in the area. Visitors should be aware that there is still active fire in portions of the swamp and firefighters will be working in and around the refuge entrance for the foreseeable future.