Okefenokee Swamp | Blackwater, National Geographic Magazine: Still Waters Of The Okefenokee

Mirror image in water of canoes stacked in deep blue hues.

Canoes stacked for the evening are reflected in the still waters of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.

Okefenokee holds many mysteries. It is a boggy wilderness tract 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.