This segment examines typical wildlife found in the swamp and covers the history of people who lived in the swamp. Don Berryhill, science specialist with the Okefenokee Regional Education Service Agency guides students in a canoe through the swamp and points out alligators, snakes, and insect-eating pitcher plants explaining their places in the food chain. Georgia is home to one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the country and it has a very specialized ecosystem. Bill Cribbs, a descendant of a subsistence farmer who came to Billy’s Island in the Okfenokee in the late 1800s and park ranger Pete Griffin describe life in the swamp when people worked at the Hebard Lumber Company cutting cypress trees. Following in the footsteps of the first human inhabitants of the swamp: the prehistoric Indian cultures, Timucans, Creeks, and finally the Seminoles, members of the logging community lived in the swamp until 1936 when the federal government bought it and established it as a national refuge. Like any mysterious place, legends abound, and Cribbs and Griffin have a few stories to tell.
Teacher tip: Show students a map to see the relative size of the Okefenokee Swamp and ask them to discuss the following: the physical characteristics of the swamp; how they think people used it (students will learn more about that in later chapters of Georgia’s history); reasons why the federal government would purchase the property; and the economic value of the swamp.