8 miles S of Waycross
This swamp is one of the largest preserved freshwater wetlands in the United States. Naturalists have hailed the wetlands as "the most beautiful and fantastic landscape in the world." It's unique on earth -- it was once part of the ocean floor -- and encompasses some 650 square miles, measuring 40 miles in length and 20 miles in width. The Creek Indians called it "land of the trembling earth" because of its many floating islands.
Okefenokee is one of the most ecologically intact swamps in North America. It takes in everything from tupelo stands to vast open prairies. A few acres fall within the northeastern corner of Florida. Runoff is discharged into the Suwanee and St. Marys rivers.
The swamp was inhabited as early as 2000 B.C. Many Native Americans, displaced from their homelands, settled here in the 1700s and 1800s. Beginning in 1909, the Hebard Lumber Company harvested some half a billion cubic yards of timber -- most of it cypress -- from the land before they went out of business in 1927. Virgin tracts of cypress still remain, however, and some trees are 6 centuries old. Conservation-minded advocates persuaded Franklin Roosevelt to designate the swamp a refuge area in 1937. Further protection came in 1974 when Congress added Okefenokee to the National Wilderness Preservation System. This system occupies some 90% of the swamp, home to such wildlife as alligators, deer, and bobcats. The swamp's bay trees bloom from May to October, with a distinctive white flower.
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