Okefenokee Swamp

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Okefenokee Swamp
Map showing the location of Okefenokee Swamp
LocationSouthern Georgia
Northern Florida
Coordinates30°37′7.56″N 82°19′15.5″W / 30.6187667°N 82.320972°W / 30.6187667; -82.320972Coordinates: 30°37′7.56″N 82°19′15.5″W / 30.6187667°N 82.320972°W / 30.6187667; -82.320972
Area438,000 acres (1,770 km2)
Designated:1974
 
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Okefenokee Swamp
Map showing the location of Okefenokee Swamp
LocationSouthern Georgia
Northern Florida
Coordinates30°37′7.56″N 82°19′15.5″W / 30.6187667°N 82.320972°W / 30.6187667; -82.320972Coordinates: 30°37′7.56″N 82°19′15.5″W / 30.6187667°N 82.320972°W / 30.6187667; -82.320972
Area438,000 acres (1,770 km2)
Designated:1974

The Okefenokee Swamp is a shallow, 438,000 acre (1,770 km²), peat-filled wetland straddling the GeorgiaFlorida 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. The term Okefenokee in Native American is "land of trembling earth". The swamp was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.[1]

History[edit]

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", 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 twentieth century.[2] 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.

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 (2,400 km2), or more than 935 square miles, had burned in the region.[3][4]

The Okefenokee Swamp Alliance is a conservation group that works for the continued preservation of the swamp.

Access[edit]

Map of Okefenokee Swamp

There are four public entrances

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.

Tourism[edit]

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[edit]

A 50-year titanium mining operation by DuPont was set to begin in 1997, but protests and public–government opposition over possibly disastrous environmental effects throughout 1996–2000 forced 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.

Environment[edit]

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).[5]

The swamp has many species of carnivorous plants, including many species of Utricularia, Sarracenia psittacina, and the giant Sarracenia minor var. okefenokeensis.

An alligator lounges on a log in the Okefenokee Swamp.

The Okefenokee Swamp is home to many wading birds, including 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, and an abundance of American alligators. It is also a critical habitat for the Florida Black Bear.

Two recordings of the sounds of the swamp were released in the 1970s on the Environments LPs.

Recent events[edit]

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.

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 of the 438,000-acre 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[when?] to burn at only 75% containment.[6]

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 [7]

History of the Okefenokee in popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Okefenokee Swamp". nps.gov. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Cecile Hulse Matschat, Suwanee River: Strange Green Land (University of Georgia Press, 1938), page 7
  3. ^ "Georgia Forestry Commission Home Page". Gatrees.org. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  4. ^ "Massive Blaze In S.E. Georgia Jumps Fire Lines". News4Georgia - WJXT Jacksonville - News4jax.com. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  5. ^ "Land Cover Viewer - Map". National Gap Analysis Program. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "Honey Prairie Complex". InciWeb Incident Information system. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
    "Honey Prairie Complex Fires". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
    "Okefenokee's birds undeterred by fires". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  7. ^ http://www.fws.gov/okefenokee/PDF/honey%20prairie%20fire%20declared%20out.pdf
  8. ^ "Lure of the Wilderness". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  9. ^ "Lure of the Wilderness (1952) - Filming Locations". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ [2][dead link]
  12. ^ The College Board. "AP English Language and Composition 1999 Free-Response Questions." Apcentral.collegeboard.com. The College Board. Web. 14 May 2011. [3]

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Okefenokee Swamp at Wikimedia Commons