The Suwannee watershed is one of Georgia’s major watersheds. Numerous channels converge at the southwest corner of the Okefenokee Swamp near Fargo to form the Suwannee River. It flows southerly to White Springs, Florida, and then forms a wide loop toward the west before continuing southward to empty into the Gulf of Mexico, 265 miles from its source. Read a Suwannee River Paddling Guide
See all of Georgia’s 14 Major Watersheds
The Suwannee Watershed System
Numerous channels converge at the southwest corner of the Okefenokee Swamp near Fargo, Georgia, to form the Suwannee River. The Suwannee drains about 800 of the 1,000 square miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, while the St. Marys drains the rest. The Okefenokee, or “Land of the Trembling Earth,” was so named by the Seminole Indians because of the unstable nature of its soil. The swamp is one of the largest freshwater swamplands in the United States and by far the most significant inland body of water in the Suwannee Basin. From its origin, the Suwannee River flows southerly 45 miles to White Springs, Florida, and then forms a wide loop toward the west, picking up, in turn, its principle tributaries – the Alapaha, Withlacoochee and Santa Fe rivers. Large springs occur in the limestone sinkhole area of Florida. Continuing southward, the Suwannee empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Short stretches of tidal marsh along the Gulf of Mexico are the only direct exposure to salt water.
How the Suwannee River Got Its Name
Suwannee comes from the Creek Indian word suwani, meaning echo.
Suwannee Watershed Experiences
Listed below are locations where you can see or experience the Suwannee watershed.
This park surrounds a 375-acre lake that is a popular boating and water-skiing attraction in South Georgia. The fishing for bass, crappie, catfish and bream is good. The Coastal Plains Nature Trail and Gopher Tortoise Nature Trail wind through a cypress swamp, pitcher plant bog, sandhill area and other habitats representative of southern Georgia. Watchful visitors may see the threatened gopher tortoise and indigo snake as well as waterfowl and other creatures. During summer, the butterfly and hummingbird garden is in full bloom.
The Suwannee Watershed Connection: The park’s lake is formed by scenic Little River which, below the park, continues south to join the Withlacoochee River near Valdosta. The Withlacoochee flows into Florida and merges with the Suwannee River before continuing its southward journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
Named after songwriter Stephen Foster, this remote park is a primary entrance to the famed Okefenokee Swamp and is one of the most intriguing areas in Georgia. Moss-laced cypress trees reflect off the black swamp waters, providing dramatic scenery. Visitors can look for alligators, turtles, raccoon, black bear, deer, 223 species of birds and numerous other creatures while on the park’s elevated boardwalk trail or on a guided boat trip. More adventurous visitors may wish to rent motorized boats or canoes for further exploration of the swamp, including a trip to historic Billy’s Island.
The Suwannee Watershed Connection: Located on the Suwannee River, this park is the ideal location to observe and experience a “blackwater” river characteristic of Georgia’s Coastal Plain and compare it to the “alluvial” rivers which originate in the Mountains or Piedmont.
This is a recreation of the 1800s homestead of Obediah Barber, a man known as “King of the Okefenokee.” The authentic homestead includes approximately 30 exhibits such as a cabin, sugarcane mill, potato house, turpentine exhibit, moonshine still and livestock barn.
The name “Okefenokee” is the white man’s rendition of the Indian words meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Only 5 percent of the Okefenokee is solid ground. The rest is a vast bog inside a huge, saucer-shaped depression that was once part of the ocean floor. The swamp now lies 103 to 128 feet above sea level. Peat moss grows in clumps throughout the swamp, and the clumps are so unstable that a person of average size can shake nearby trees and bushes by stomping the surface. Established in 1937, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge encompasses approximately 396,000 acres. It is one of the oldest and most well-preserved freshwater areas in America.
Okefenokee Swamp Park is a Disney-esque educational experience for the first-time visitor to the magnificent Okefenokee Swamp. The entry fees to the privately operated park allow visitors access to boardwalks, the Nature Center, and animal habitats. Boat tours are available for an additional fee.