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Okefenokee Swamp

[oh-kuh-fuh-noh-kee]

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 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 one of the largest swamps in all of North America.

Location and history

The name comes from the Hitchiti okifanô:ki, meaning "bubbling water", or alternatively "trembling earth" , a reference to its spongy bogs. 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 Suwannee River both originate in the swamp. The Suwannee 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. 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 also ran train tracks into the swamp until 1942, remnants of which can still be seen crossing swamp waterways. On the west side of the swamp, at Billy's Island, logging equipment and other artifacts remain of a 1920's 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:

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.

Swamp Perimeter Road, as well, is a road that outlines the swamp from around all sides.

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 had burned in the region, or more than 935 square miles (2400 km²), "an area greater than the State of Rhode Island."

Tourism

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.

Wildlife

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; and it is a critical habitat for Florida black bear.

Recent events

More than 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 Pop Culture

  • In Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo, the characters made their home in the Okefenokee Swamp.
  • 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 fictitious 1947 Roger Rabbit cartoon, The Wet Nurse, is supposedly set in the "OkeyDokey Swamp", as a tribute to the Okefenokee Swamp.
  • A track called '3 AM at the Border of the Marsh from Okefenokee' is included on the 1976 album Stratosfear from electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream.
  • Over the 11 years M*A*S*H was on the air, the script made several references to the Okefenokee Swamp.
  • On the original Scooby Doo cartoons they showed the "Oke-Fu-noke Swamp"(as they spelled it)on several shows.
  • On August 24, 1959 Freddy Cannon had a Top 100 hit with the song "Okefenokee;" it Peaked at #43.
  • 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.
  • An episode of the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" had the Shredder sending a canister of mutagen ooze to the Okefenokee Swamp, mutating four frogs into superhuman creatures.
  • 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)
  • The David Allan Coe song, Just to Prove My Love to You, has a line that says the singer would "rustle alligators in the Okefenokee."

References

Bibliography

  • 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.

External links

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