The Okefenokee Swamp is a shallow, 438,000-acre (1,770Â km2), peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgiaâ"Florida border in the United States. A majority of the swamp is protected by the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Wilderness. The Okefenokee Swamp is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia. The Okefenokee is the largest "blackwater" swamp in North America. Although folklore and many references state that the word, okefenokee, is a Native American word, meaning,"land of trembling earth," it is actually the anglicization of the Itsate Creek Indian words, oka fenoke, which mean "water- shaking." The swamp was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.
The swamp was formed over the past 6,500 years by the accumulation of peat in a shallow basin on the edge of an ancient Atlantic coastal terrace, the geological relic of a Pleistocene estuary. The swamp is bordered by Trail Ridge, a strip of elevated land believed to have formed as coastal dunes or an offshore barrier island. The St. Marys River and the Suwanee River both originate in the swamp. The Suwanee River originates as stream channels in the heart of Okefenokee Swamp and drains at least 90% of the swamp's watershed southwest towards the Gulf of Mexico. The St. Marys River, which drains only 5â"10% of the swamp's southeastern corner, flows south along the western side of Trail Ridge, through the ridge at St. Marys River Shoals, and north again along the eastern side of Trail Ridge before turning east to the Atlantic.
Longtime residents of the Okefenokee Swamp, referred to as "Swampers", are of overwhelmingly English ancestry. Due to relative isolation, the inhabitants of the Okefenokee used Elizabethan phrases and syntax, preserved since the early colonial period when such speech was common in England, well into the 20th century. The Suwanee Canal was dug across the swamp in the late 19th century in a failed attempt to drain the Okefenokee. After the Suwanee Canal Company's bankruptcy, most of the swamp was purchased by the Hebard family of Philadelphia, who conducted extensive cypress logging operations from 1909 to 1927. Several other logging companies ran railroad lines into the swamp until 1942; some remnants remain visible crossing swamp waterways. On the west side of the swamp, at Billy's Island, logging equipment and other artifacts remain of a 1920s logging town of 600 residents. Most of the Okefenokee Swamp is included in the 403,000-acre (1,630Â km2) Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
A wildfire begun by a lightning strike near the center of the Refuge on May 5, 2007, eventually merged with another wildfire which began near Waycross, Georgia, on April 16 when a tree fell on a power line. By May 31, more than 600,000 acres (2,400Â km2), or more than 935 square miles, had burned in the region.
The Okefenokee Swamp Alliance is a conservation group that works for the continued preservation of the swamp.
There are four public entrances
- Suwanee Canal Recreation Area at Folkston, Georgia
- Kingfisher Landing at Race Pond, Georgia
- Stephen C. Foster State Park at Fargo, Georgia
- Suwanee Sill Recreation Area at Fargo, Georgia
In addition, a private attraction, Okefenokee Swamp Park, provides access near Waycross, Georgia.
State Road 2 passes through the Florida portion between the Georgia cities of Council and Moniac.
The graded Swamp Perimeter Road encircles Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Gated and closed to public use, it provides access for fire management of the interface between the federal refuge and the surrounding industrial tree farms.
Many visitors enter the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge each year. The swamp provides an important economic resource to southeast Georgia and northeast Florida. About 400,000 people visit the swamp annually, with many from distant locations such as Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, China and Mexico. Service providers at the Refuge entrances and several local outfitters offer guided tours by motorboat, canoe, and kayak.
DuPont titanium mining operation
A 50-year titanium mining operation by DuPont was set to begin in 1997, but protests and publicâ"government opposition over possibly disastrous environmental effects throughout 1996â"2000 forced the company to abandon the project in 2000 and retire their mineral rights forever. In 2003, DuPont donated the 16,000 acres (65Â km2) it had purchased for mining to The Conservation Fund, and in 2005, nearly 7,000 acres (28Â km2) of the donated land was transferred to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
The Okefenokee Swamp is part of the Southeastern conifer forests ecoregion. Much of the Okefenokee is a southern coastal plain nonriverine basin swamp, forested by bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and swamp tupelo (Nyssa biflora) trees. Upland areas support southern coastal plain oak domes and hammocks, thick stands of evergreen oaks. Drier and more frequently burned areas support Atlantic coastal plain upland longleaf pine woodlands of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris).
The swamp has many species of carnivorous plants, including many species of Utricularia, Sarracenia psittacina, and the giant Sarracenia minor var. okefenokeensis.
The Okefenokee Swamp is home to many wading birds, including herons, egrets, ibises, cranes, and bitterns, though populations fluctuate with seasons and water levels. The swamp also hosts numerous woodpecker and songbird species. Okefenokee is famous for its amphibians and reptiles such as toads, frogs, turtles, lizards, snakes, and an abundance of American alligators. It is also a critical habitat for the Florida Black Bear.
In 1974, two recordings of the sounds of the swamp were released as disk 6 of the Environments LPs.
More than 600,000 acres (2,400Â km2) of the Okefenokee region burned from April to July 2007. Essentially all of the swamp burned, though the degrees of impact vary widely. Smoke from the fires was reported as far away as Atlanta and Orlando.
Four years later. in April 2011, the Honey Prairie wildfire began when the swamp had been left much drier than usual by an extreme drought. As of January 2012, the Honey Prairie fire had already scorched more than 315,000 acres (1,270Â km2) of the 438,000-acre (1,770Â km2) Okefenokee, sending volumes of smoke across the southern Atlantic seaboard and with an unknown impact on wildlife. With the drought still continuing, the massive Honey Prairie fire continued to burn at only 75% containment.
On April 17, 2012, the Honey Prairie Fire was declared out. Thousands of firefighters, refuge neighbors and businesses contributed to the safe suppression of this fire. At the peak of fire activity on June 27, 2011 the Honey Prairie Complex had grown to 283,673 acres and had 202 engines, 112, dozers, 20 water tenders, 12 helicopters, and 6 crews with a total of 1,458 personnel assigned. Over the duration of the fire, there were no fatalities or serious injuries. Firefighters did an excellent job containing the fire within the boundaries of the 402,000 acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Only 18,206 acres burned outside the refuge
In popular culture
- The name "Okefenokee" has appeared many times in American pop culture, including Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo, where the characters made their home in the Okefenokee Swamp.
- The 1941 movie Swamp Water, directed by Jean Renoir, starred Walter Brennan and Walter Huston, and based on the novel by Vereen Bell, was shot on location at Okefenokee Swamp, Waycross, Georgia.
- The 1952 movie Lure of the Wilderness, a remake of Swamp Water that starred Jeffrey Hunter, Walter Brennan (reprising his Swamp Water role), and Jean Peters, was set in the Okefenokee Swamp as well as being filmed there.
- In Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, the fantasy realm of Xanth is a parallel universe of Earth's Florida, and includes a mirror of the Okefenokee, called the Ogre-fen-ogre Fen.
- The Okefenokee Swamp is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.
- The episode "Invasion of the Punk Frogs" of the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon has Krang accidentally sending a canister of mutagen ooze to the Florida part of the Okefenokee Swamp, mutating four frogs into humanoid frogs. Shredder trains the frogs in martial arts and give them names: Attila the Frog, Genghis Frog, before the turtles convert the frogs to their own side, Rasputin the Mad Frog and Napoleon Bonafrog.
- On the original Scooby Doo cartoons they showed the "Oke-Fu-noke Swamp"(as they spelled it) on several shows. It was the home of Scooby-Dum
- On August 24, 1959, Freddy Cannon had a Top 100 hit with the song "Okefenokee"; it peaked at #43.
- In 1960 Larry Verne released the song "Okefenokee Two-Step".
- "3am At The Border Of The Marsh From Okefenokee" is a track on Tangerine Dream's 1976 album Stratosfear.
- The theme song for the motion picture Gator, sung by Jerry Reed, was titled "The Ballad Of Gator Mcklusky" which is about the "Okefenokee Swamp".
- Some of T.C. Boyle's novel East is East is set in the Okefenokee Swamp.
- The Okefenokee Swamp is a playable map in Tom Clancy's Endwar.
- Gucci Mane mentions the Okefenokee in his song "Big Cat (LaFlare)".
- The Okefenokee Swamp Alliance is a conservation, protection and advocacy group with international membership and is dedicated to the continued preservation of this wetland ecosystem bordering Georgia and Florida.
- Bobby Bare sings a song titled "Miller's Cave" based on Waycross, Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp.
- The 1947 Roger Rabbit cartoon, "The Wet Nurse", is supposedly set in the "OkeyDokey Swamp", as a tribute to the Okefenokee Swamp.
- Over the 11 years M*A*S*H was on the air, the script made several references to the Okefenokee Swamp.
- Gene Simmons: Family Jewels season 5, episode 10: "Gene the Croc Hunter", which originally aired on May 2, 2010, featured Gene and Tony getting sucked into a Bayou adventure while in the swamp. Gene makes reference to the people from the Okefenokee Swamp.
- On episode #144 of Cash Cab the video bonus question at the end of the show was about the Okefenokee Swamp. (The couple answered the question correctly and doubled their money)
- When the online game site Pogo.com started, they had a table in the roulette section named Okefenokee Swamp. When EA bought the site the table name was changed.
- On the 1999 Advanced Placement English Language and Composition Exam (written and provided by The College Board), the essay prompt for rhetorical analysis consisted of two passages about Okefenokee Swamp.
- Okefenokee Swamp is referenced in the television commercial for the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder.
- Gram Parsons mentions the "trembling earth" aspect of this area in the opening verse of "A Song For You" on his album GP.
- Natural History of the Okefenokee Swamp
- Okefenokee Adventures home page
- Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
- Okefenokee Pastimes home page
- Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge
- Okefenokee Swamp Park home page