Locate It: Waycross

Enjoy True Wilderness: Waycross and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Waycross, Georgia is the place for nature lovers to relax and enjoy the beauty of a true wilderness. Large alligators lounge in the sunlight on the banks of the black swamp. Cypress knees and draping Spanish moss complete the eerie picture of the Okefenokee Swamp, which covers almost a half-million acres.

Waycross, Georgia is the place for nature lovers to relax and enjoy the beauty of a true wilderness. Large alligators lounge in the sunlight on the banks of the black swamp. Cypress knees and draping Spanish moss complete the eerie picture of the Okefenokee Swamp, which covers almost a half-million acres.

Okefenokee Swamp Park is the Waycross entrance to the massive Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The park offers daily guided boat excursions into the refuge, railroad guided train tours, Eye on Nature shows, and several interpretive displays of native animals. The 1.5-mile train tour winds past a honey bee farm, turpentine site, Seminole Indian village, and moonshine still while a narrator tells stories that bring the swamp and American pioneer life into focus. There are also boardwalk trails, educational lectures, films, and exhibits that provide a window view into the swamp.

Only 10 minutes from Okefenokee Swamp Park is Laura S. Walker State Park, one of the few state parks named for a woman. The park offers excellent lakeside camping facilities, rental cottages, playground, picnic areas, and more. Bikes can the rented for the trails and kayaks for the water. Launch your boat and spend the day fishing or water skiing, or look for wildlife on the nature trail. For golfers, The Lakes at Laura S. Walker offers an 18-hole championship course and pro shop.

Waycross is the location of the 36,100-acre Dixon Memorial Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which offers opportunities for hunting deer, turkey, squirrel, dove, and waterfowl, a firearms range, and a boat launch. Camping, hiking, picnicking, canoeing, and other recreational uses are allowed year-round, unless otherwise posted. Horseback riding and bicycling are restricted to open, improved roads,

designated trails, or designated areas; horse and bicycle trails and area may be closed during hunting seasons. All WMA visitors are encouraged to wear hunter orange during hunting seasons. Access to the WMA requires a Georgia hunting license, fishing license, or Georgia Lands Pass, available from http://georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes.

Sporting types have a lot to love about Waycross. Have fun at the Trembling Earth Recreation Complex, where the famous “Shoeless Joe Jackson” played in 1925 for the Waycross Coastliners baseball team. The complex today features six youth baseball fields, four adult softball fields, one full-sized football field, and one multipurpose soccer field.

Rail fans flock to Waycross regularly to do a little train watching. Waycross is home to the largest CSX computerized rail yard on the East Coast, making the city a hub for much rail traffic coming through the Southeast. The Historic Passenger Rail Depot is a great place to see trains as they rumble through town. The Depot was built in the early 1900s, restored in 1998-2002, and now houses the Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce. Train enthusiasts also want to see Rice Yard, the largest of nine classification yards on the CSX network.

Use the Historic Rail Depot as the starting point for the Historic Downtown Walking Tour. Many of Waycross’ historic buildings exhibit Spanish Mission style architecture, reflected in stucco finishes, stylized gables, and clay tile roofs. This architectural style speaks directly to the influence of neighboring Florida and its Spanish influence. Walking Tour brochures can be picked up at various locations around the downtown area.

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