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The Okefenokee Swamp, A Special Place

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History of the largest swamp in America. It's like going back in time, venturing into the Okefenokee Swamp.

Map of Okefenokee Awamp

Okefenokee Swamp

Okefenokee Swamp

First Inhabitants of Okefenokee

First Inhabitants of Okefenokee

History of the Okefenokee Swamp

Formed some 5-7,000 years ago after the water tables rose and flooded the area, peat began to build, which the Timucuan Indians called it "land of the trembling earth." A million years ago, the Trail Ridge formed a barrier island when the tectonic plates were still moving. The St. Mary's and the Suwanee Rivers originated from the swamp.

There were at least two Timucuan tribes and a Spanish mission living within the swamp. The Creek Indians used the bayou as a hunting ground. During the Seminole Wars, the Seminole Indians hid in the swamp but were finally driven out and headed to the Florida Everglades. They were the last of the Native Americans to live in the swamp. History went on to define them as the only Native American tribe to refuse to sign a treaty with the U.S. government.

The swamp was a refuge for escaped slaves, deserters of the Civil War, and a few white settlers called "crackers" were scratching out a living away from others.

Diversified wildlife of Okefenokee

Okeefenokee Alligator

Okeefenokee Alligator

Okefenokee Black Bear Ursus Americanus

Okefenokee Black Bear Ursus Americanus

Okefenokee Wild Pigs Susscrofa

Okefenokee Wild Pigs Susscrofa

Birds and Plants of Okefenokee Swamp

There are countless species of wildlife within the swamp. Listed here are some of the species:

234 Species of birds

37 Species of fish

34 Species of snakes

12 Species of wild pigs

Among plants, carnivorous plants such as the hooded pitcher flower and abundant water lilies.

Wildlife Species of Okefenokee Swamp

Hooded Pitcher Flower Sarraccnia Minor

Hooded Pitcher Flower Sarraccnia Minor

Ibise

Ibise

Bird of Okefenokee Swamp

Bird of Okefenokee Swamp

Hebard Lumber Company

In 1901, the Hebard Lumber Company began building lumber mills and a small railroad to transport the lumber. They also built turpentine mills within the swamp and a cabin on Billys Island for their personal use. The company would become known as the "cypress kings" harvesting over 400 million board feet of lumber removed.

By the end of 1926, the lumber company ended its operations.

Francis Harper, a naturalist, who was friends with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, convinced him of the necessity to preserve this unique part of America to preserve the swamp. And Executive Order #7593 was signed into law forming the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge of 1937. It was an all-black Civilian Conservation Corp that built the trails and developed the area from 1937-1941.

Harper, who visited the swamp during the years 1912-1951 wrote his book, Okefenokee Album, University of Georgia Press, 1981. He filled it with his observations, illustrations, and the lives and folklore of the people of the swamp. Harper is credited with the preservation of the Okefenokee Swamp and its history.

Fires of the Okefenokee Swamp

In 2007, a downed power line started the Sweat Farm Road fire. By May, lightning strikes on Bugaboo Island sparked another fire and it soon merged with the Sweat Farm Road fire making it the largest fire in Georgia;'s history burning over 564,000 acres. Interstates I-10 and I-75 had to be shut down. Fortunately, no lives were lost but nine homes were destroyed and thousands of dollars spent containing the fire.

2007 Okefenokee Fire

2007 Okefenokee Fire

2007 Okefenokee Fire

Okefenokee Swamp Turned Over to State of Georgia

In 1938, the federal government formally turned the Okefenokee Swamp management to the State of Georgia. Georgia has made the swamp a tourism attraction with millions visiting each year to see this unique and historical piece of serene beauty and wildlife.

There are four public entrances into the swamp, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo, Georgia, Suwanee Sill Recreation Park, Fargo, Georgia, Okefenokee Park, Waycross, Georgia and Folkston, Georgia.

There are hiking trails, boarding, fishing, kayaking, and canoe rentals. Guided tours are offered, and day and night trips can be booked. The Stephen C. Foster Park can be reached at 912-637-5274 for reservations.

Several films have been made of the swamp. The 1941 movie, Swamp Tales, starring Walter Brenner. In 1952, Tales of the Wilderness, starring Jeffrey Hunter.

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 23, 2020:

Thanks for reading.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 21, 2020:

Like Jurassic Park all over again. Amazing what our earth was like. Thanks for reading.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 20, 2020:

This is an interesting and well-illustrated article. This swamp has a fascinating history.

Rosina S Khan on May 19, 2020:

Looks like the Okefenokee Swamp is a great historical piece, formerly lived by Native Americans with varieties of wildlife species. The credit really goes to Harper for preserving the swamp and its history, who also wrote the book on it. Other than the fire in 2007, the State of Georgia seems to be doing a good job making the swamp a tourism attraction. Great hub, Fran.