Okefenokee Swamp | Blackwater, National Geographic Magazine: Canoe Trails Through Okefenokee Swamp

Aerial showing lush green vegetation with two boats on a black water path winding through landscape.

Canoers paddle through a path in Chesser Prairie that is thick with water lilies and small islands in the Okefenokee Swamp. The wilderness trip into remote parts of the swamp takes three days to complete, and are planned so visitors see no one else on the trails.

Established as a wilderness in 1937, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge protects the waters and wildlife of the 402,000-acre swamp.

The Okefenokee Swamp wilderness is in southern Georgia, and 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.