- Okefenokee Swamp
The Okefenokee Swamp is a shallow, 438,000 acre (1,770 km²), peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia–Florida border in the United States. A majority of the swamp is in Georgia and 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 peat-based "blackwater" swamp in North America, and one of the largest in the world.
Location and history
The name comes from Hitchiti, an extinct Indian language related to the Mikasuki language spoken by the Miccosukee tribe and many of the Seminoles. The Hitichi original is okifanô:ki, meaning "bubbling water", or alternatively "trembling earth", a reference to its spongy bogs. Earlier, during the Spanish period, it was known as Lake Oconi, a reference to the Oconi, a Timucua tribe of the area.
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 5–10% 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", were 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 twentieth century. The Suwanee Canal was dug across the swamp in the late nineteenth century in a failed attempt to drain the Okefenokee. After the 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 (1630 km²) Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
There are four public entrances or landings to the swamp:
- 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
State Road 2 passes through the Florida portion between the Georgia cities of Council and Moniac.
A graded sand road, 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.
A wildfire which began with 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 due to a tree falling on a power line. By May 31, more than 600,000 acres (2,400 km2) had burned in the region, or more than 935 square miles (2400 km²), "an area greater than the State of Rhode Island".
The Okefenokee Swamp Alliance is a conservation group that works for continued preservation of the swamp.
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 guests from such distant locations 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 public–government opposition over the possibly disastrous environmental effects throughout 1996–2000 caused the company to abandon the project in 2000 and retire their mineral rights forever. In 2003, DuPont donated the 16,000 acres (65 km²) it had purchased for mining to The Conservation Fund, and in 2005, nearly 7,000 acres (28 km²) of the donated land was transferred to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
The Okefenokee Swamp is home to many wading birds, such as herons, egrets, ibises, cranes, and bitterns, though populations fluctuate with water levels. Okefenokee is famous for its amphibians and reptiles such as toads, frogs, turtles, lizards, snakes, as well as the abundance of American alligators; it is also a critical habitat for the Florida Black Bear.
Two recordings of the sounds of the Okefenokee Swamp were released in the 1970s on the Environments (series) LPs.
More than 600,000 acres (2,400 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.
History of the Okefenokee 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, Freddy Cannon's 1959 hit "Okefenokee", and Larry Verne's "Okefenokee Two-Step".
- 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.
- An episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had Krang accidentally sending a canister of mutagen ooze to the Okefenokee Swamp, mutating four frogs into superhuman creatures. Shredder trains the frogs in martial arts and give them names: Attila the Frog, Genghis Frog, 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, GA and the Okefenokee Swamp.
- The fictitious 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, Original Air Date—2 May 2010, Gene and Tony get 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.
- ^ Afable and Beeler (1996:191)
- ^ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuge Overview, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, .pdf, URL retrieved June 15, 2006
- ^ Worth, p. 157.
- ^ Cecile Hulse Matschat, Suwanee River: Strange Green Land (University of Georgia Press, 1938), page 7
- ^ "Georgia Forestry Commission Home Page". Gatrees.org. http://www.gatrees.org/. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
- ^ "Massive Blaze In S.E. Georgia Jumps Fire Lines". News4Georgia - WJXT Jacksonville - News4jax.com. 2007-05-25. http://www.news4jax.com/news4georgia/13390665/detail.html. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
- ^ [dead link]
- ^ [dead link]
- ^ The College Board. "AP English Language and Composition 1999 Free-Response Questions." Apcentral.collegeboard.com. The College Board. Web. 14 May 2011. 
- Afable, Patricia O. and Madison S. Beeler (1996). "Place Names", in "Languages", ed. Ives Goddard. Vol. 17 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
- Worth, John E. (1998). Timucua Chiefdoms of Spanish Florida. Volume 2: Resistance and Destruction. University Press of Florida. ISBN 081301574X. http://books.google.com/books?id=MRYBQtnEqQkC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- Nelson, Megan Kate (2005). Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (Athens: University of Georgia Press). This is a readable book from a professional historian that covers the history of the human interaction with the swamp from about 1700 to the 1940s, very good background for those planning a visit.
- 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
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