Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/600

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596
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

OKEFINOKEE SWAMP
By ROLAND M. HARPER

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA

OKEFINOKEE Swamp, which covers about 700 square miles of territory on the southern borders of Georgia, is one of the least known areas of its size in the eastern United States. Its existence has indeed been known to white men ever since the eighteenth century, but very few persons capable of giving an intelligent account of it have ever explored it.

 

History

The earliest description of this swamp which we have is that of William Bartram. He never saw it himself, but passed near it in the spring of 1773, and seems to have gathered considerable information about it from the Indians and traders. In his celebrated volume of "Travels," published in 1791, we find the following description, which is such a curious mixture of truth and legend, and withal of so much historic interest, that it is worth quoting verbatim:

The river St. Mary has its source from a vast lake, or marsh, called Ouaquaphenogaw, which lies between Flint and Oakmulge rivers, and occupies a space of near three hundred miles in circuit. This vast accumulation of waters, in the wet season, appears as a lake, and contains some large islands or knolls, of rich high land; one of which the present generation of Creeks[1] represent to be a most blissful spot of the earth; they say it is inhabited by a peculiar race of Indians, whose women are incomparably beautiful; they also tell you that this terrestrial paradise has been seen by some of their enterprising hunters, when in pursuit of game, who being lost in inextricable swamps and bogs, and on the point of perishing, were unexpectedly relieved by a company of beautiful women, whom they call daughters of the sun, who kindly gave them such provisions as they had with them, which were chiefly fruit, oranges, dates, &c., and some com cakes, and then enjoined them to fly for safety to their own country; for that their husbands were fierce men, and cruel to strangers: they further say, that these hunters had a view of their settlements, situated on the elevated banks of an island, or promontory, in a beautiful lake; but that in their endeavors to approach it they were involved in perpetual labyrinths, like inchanted land, still as they imagined they had just gained it, it seemed to fly before them, alternately appearing and disappearing. They resolved, at length, to leave the delusive pursuit, and to return; which after a number of inexpressible difficulties, they effected. When they reported their adventures to their countrymen, their young warriors were enflamed with an irresistable desire to invade, and make a conquest of, so charming a country; but all their attempts have hitherto proved abortive, never having been able again to find that enchanting spot, nor even any road or pathway to it; yet


  1. According to Dr. William Baldwin, Bartram confused the Seminoles with the Lower Creeks.