The Okefenokee Swamp is a shallow 438,000 acre peat filled wetland straddling the George and 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. It is also the largest backwater swamp is North America. The term Okefenokee in Native American is land of the trembling earth. The swamp was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974.
Backstory and Context
Longtime residents of the swamp. referred to as swampers are of overwhemingly English ancestry. Due to the isolation of relatives the inhabitants of the swamp used Elizabethan phrases and syntax, preserved since the early colonial period when speech was common in England, and into twentieth century. The Suwanee Canal was dug across the swamp in the late nineteenth century in a failed attempt to drain the Okefenokee. Once after the Suwanee Canal companys bankrupcy, that was then when the swamp was bought by the Hebard family of Philadelphia, who conducted extensive cypress logging operations from 1909 to 1927. Other logging companies ran railroad lines into the swamp until 1942, still today some of the remains are visable to 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 only 600 residents. Most of the Okefenokee Swamp is included in 403,000 acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
A wildfire begun by a lighting strike near the center of the Refuge on May 5, 2007eventually merged with another wildfire which began near Waycross, Georgia, on April 16 when a tree fell on a powerline. By May 31, more than 500,000 acres or more than 935 square miles. had burned in the region. The Okefenokee Swamp Alliance is a conservation group that works for contiuned preservation of the swamp. Many visitors vist this swamp each year, where it provides an important ecomic resource to southeast Georgia and northeast Florida. Around 400,00 people visit it annually with many from distant locations like Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, China, and Mexico. The Service providers at the Refuge entrances and several local outfitters offer guided tours by motorboat, canoe, and kayak.