Location: Waycross, Georgia
Years Active: 1946 – Active
Okefenokee Swamp Park, situated 12 miles south of Waycross, Georgia, is the gateway to the vast Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, North America’s largest blackwater swamp, spanning over 438,000 acres. Accessible via Vereen Bell Memorial Highway (Highway 177 South, Okefenokee Trail), the park serves as the headquarters for the Okefenokee Association, Inc., a nonprofit organization that has operated the park since 1946. The association’s mission is to promote ecological tourism and education by providing convenient access to the Okefenokee Swamp, drawing millions of visitors worldwide.
The park boasts a rich history, with structures dating back to the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 and improvements worth millions of dollars. In 1965, a 90-foot steel observation tower replaced the original, offering a breathtaking aerial view of the swamp. Visitors can explore the swamp’s beauty through boat tours, nature boardwalks, wildlife shows, live animal exhibits, and cultural displays. Additionally, a unique railroad system within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge opened at the park in 1999, allowing visitors to experience the swamp’s history and resources.
While overnight camping is not allowed at Okefenokee Swamp Park, nearby Laura S. Walker State Park offers camping accommodations. The park’s operations and development are funded through admission charges and donations from the Osprey Society’s members, ensuring its continued preservation and accessibility for nature enthusiasts and tourists alike.
What is special about the Okefenokee Swamp?
The Okefenokee Swamp is a remarkable natural feature located in the southeastern United States, primarily in Georgia. What sets it apart is its vast size and pristine wilderness. Covering over 700 square miles, it is one of the largest intact freshwater ecosystems in North America. The swamp is renowned for its unique ecology, characterized by cypress trees, blackwater rivers, and a diverse array of wildlife, including alligators, wading birds, and rare plant species. Its exceptional biodiversity and untouched beauty make it a special destination for nature enthusiasts and researchers alike.
What is the meaning of Okefenokee?
The word “Okefenokee” is derived from the Seminole language and means “trembling earth” or “Land of the Quaking Earth.” This name aptly describes the swamp’s unique geological characteristics, as the ground in certain areas can feel unstable due to the underlying peat deposits. The Seminole people, who historically inhabited the region, recognized and honored this distinctive aspect of the Okefenokee Swamp in their name for it.