Locate It: Folkston

Get on the Train to Folkston, Georgia, Gateway to the Okefenokee

Sportsmen have come from all over for the abundant fishing, hunting, hiking, paddling, bird watching, and golfing. And more recently, the town has become a magnet for train watchers and history buffs.

Families have come to Folkston for years to explore the Okefenokee Swamp, part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Sportsmen have come from all over for the abundant fishing, hunting, hiking, paddling, bird watching, and golfing. And more recently, the town has become a magnet for train watchers and history buffs.

Folkston is the main entrance to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge which offers something for everyone. Boating, birdwatching, hiking, cultural and natural history abound. Stop in the Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center, hike on the upland trails, take a boat tour, visit the Chesser Island Homestead and the Chesser Island Boardwalk. There are many ways to visit the Okefenokee, so plan to spend a day or more exploring one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders.

The Okefenokee is considered the headwaters of the Suwannee and St Marys Rivers. It provides habitats for many threatened and endangered species, such as red-cockaded woodpeckers, wood storks, indigo snakes, and a wide variety of other wildlife species. It is world-renowned for its amphibian populations that are bio-indicators of global health. Also, more than 600 plant species have been identified on refuge lands.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has 353,981 acres of National Wilderness Area within the refuge boundaries. In addition, the refuge is a Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR Convention – 1971) because it is one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems.

One way to explore the Okefenokee is with the help of Okefenokee Adventures, located inside the main entrance to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This outfitter offers guided-interpretive tours of portions of the refuge, canoe, kayak, and bike rentals., a café, and a gift shop. A secondary entrance to the refuge, Kingfisher Landing, is 13 miles north of downtown Folkston on U.S. 1/GA Hwy 121. This entrance offers a boat ramp, restroom facilities for day-use and overnight visitors, and access to the Red and Green trails.

If you’re ready to escape the demands of day

to day life, Newell Lodge and Resort at the Okefenokee Swamp is the place to do it. The lodge is a favored Southern hospitality destination for multigenerational horse and rustic living enthusiasts who want a memorable Okefenokee experience. Everyday activities may include board games after dinner, an afternoon carriage ride and picnic, settling down with a book, journal or paints, grilling today’s catch, morning yoga, exploring nature trails with the family dog, or adventuring on horseback. Visitors to Newell Lodge can experience the landscape of the Okefenokee region from horseback, with a member of the Carter family (owners) as one of the lodge’s highly qualified guides.

Another great outdoors experience in Folkston is the Okefenokee Sporting Clays Club where you can enjoy shotgun skeet shooting on a lakeside course on Saturdays and Sundays.

Golfers will want to check out the Folkston Golf Club, a public, 18-hole, par 72 course that offers a short front nine that features water hazards on three holes. The back nine plays longer than the front and features many man-made hills that can cause uneven lies. Pecan and cedars trees line the fairways, and numerous sand bunkers have been incorporated into the course design.

An increasing number of people are making their way to Folkston to experience the Folkston Funnel, where trains into and out of Florida “funnel” through Folkston to points elsewhere. Train watchers from all over the world come to watch the near 70 trains a day that lumber through Folkston. You can see six Amtrak trains each day passing through the Funnel, and the Tropicana Juice Train moves from Bradenton, Fla. to Kearney, N.J. five nights a week. Lights, electric outlets, picnic tables and grill are available for visitors. Visitors can also watch trains in the Model Train Room of the Train Museum and Model Train Display and see a one-of-a-kind radio exhibit spanning four decades. The museum contains railroad artifacts, genuine logbooks, and a model office used by train dispatchers years ago.

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