Okefenokee Swamp | Blackwater, National Geographic Magazine: Swamp Wilderness

Looking down from the air onto small island surrounded by deep blue water at sunset.

A mysterious aura surrounds the Okefenokee, wilderness of a boggy, unstable land in southern Georgia commonly known as “Land of the Trembling Earth.” More accurately translated, “Okefenokee” means “waters shaking” in Hitchiti, an extinct dialect in the Muskogean language family spoken in the Southeast by indigenous people related to Creeks and Seminoles.

The name refers to the gas that forms as submerged vegetation decomposes and bubbles up from the bottom of the swamp. Plants begin growing and clump together to form spongy little islands. The effect of walking on this unstable land is commonly joked about as allowing one to dance with a tree of similar weight.

Established as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937, the 402,000-acre Okefenokee is the oldest well-preserved, freshwater marsh in the U.S., the largest peat-based “blackwater” swamp in North America, and one of the largest in the world.