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Suwannee River

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Suwannee River.jpg
Suwannee River, Florida
Suwannee River Drainage Basin
CountryUnited States
, Georgia (U.S. state), Florida
CitiesFargo, Georgia, White Springs, Florida, Branford, Florida
Physical characteristics
SourceOkefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
 ⁃ locationFargo, Georgia
MouthGulf of Mexico
 ⁃ location
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, Suwannee, Florida
 ⁃ coordinates
29°17′18″N 83°9′57″W / 29.28833°N 83.16583°W / 29.28833; -83.16583
 ⁃ elevation
0 ft (0 m)
Length246 mi (396 km)
 ⁃ locationGulf of Mexico
Basin features
 ⁃ leftSanta Fe River
 ⁃ rightAlapaha River, Withlacoochee River

The Suwannee River (also spelled Suwanee River) is a river that runs through south Georgia southward into Florida in the southern United States. It is a wild blackwater river, about 246 miles (396 km) long.[1] The Suwannee River is the site of the prehistoric Suwanee Straits which separated peninsular Florida from the panhandle.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    209 499
    32 561
    9 493
    6 789
  • ✪ State Song of Florida
  • ✪ Florida Travel: Go Camping on the Suwannee River
  • ✪ A Quiet Tour Down the Suwannee River
  • ✪ Suwannee River Gulf Sturgeon
  • ✪ Suwanee River Springs




The headwaters of the Suwanee River are in the Okefenokee Swamp in the town of Fargo, Georgia. The river runs southwestward into the Florida Panhandle, then drops in elevation through limestone layers into a rare Florida whitewater rapid. Past the rapid, the Suwanee turns west near the town of White Springs, Florida, then connects to the confluences of the Alapaha River and Withlacoochee River.

Starting at the confluences of those three rivers, that confluence forms the southern borderline of Hamilton County, Florida. The Suwanee then bends southward near the town of Ellaville, Florida, followed by Luraville, Florida, then joins together with the Santa Fe River (Florida) from the east, south of the town of Branford, Florida.

The river ends and drains into the Gulf of Mexico on the outskirts of Suwannee, Florida.


The Spanish recorded the native Timucua name of Guacara for the river that would later become known as the Suwannee. Different etymologies have been suggested for the modern name.

  • San Juan: D.G. Brinton first suggested in his 1859 Notes on the Floridian Peninsula that Suwannee was a corruption of the Spanish San Juan.[2] This theory is supported by Jerald Milanich, who states that "Suwannee" developed through "San Juan-ee" from the 17th-century Spanish mission of San Juan de Guacara, located on the Suwannee River.[3]
  • Shawnee: The migrations of the Shawnee (Shawnee: Shaawanwaki; Muscogee: Sawanoke) throughout the South have also been connected to the name Suwannee. As early as 1820, the Indian agent John Johnson said "the 'Suwaney' river was doubtless named after the Shawanoese [Shawnee], Suwaney being a corruption of Shawanoese."[4] However, the primary southern Shawnee settlements were along the Savannah River, with only the village of Ephippeck on the Apalachicola River being securely identified in Florida, casting doubt on this etymology.
  • "Echo": In 1884, Albert S. Gatschet claimed that Suwannee derives from the Creek word sawani, meaning "echo", rejecting the earlier Shawnee theory.[5] Stephen Boyd's 1885 Indian Local Names with Their Interpretation [6] and Henry Gannett's 1905 work The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States repeat this interpretation, calling sawani an "Indian word" for "echo river".[7] Gatschet's etymology also survives in more recent publications, often mistaking the language of translation. For example, a University of South Florida website states that the "Timucuan Indian word Suwani means Echo River ... River of Reeds, Deep Water, or Crooked Black Water".[8] In 2004, William Bright repeats it again, now attributing the name "Suwanee" to a Cherokee village of Sawani, which is unlikely as the Cherokee never lived in Florida or south Georgia.[9] This etymology is now considered doubtful: 2004's A Dictionary of Creek Muscogee does not include the river as a place-name derived from Muscogee, and also lacks entries for "echo" and for words such as svwane, sawane, or svwvne, which would correspond to the anglicization "Suwannee".[10]


The Suwannee River area has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years. During the first millennium CE, it was inhabited by the people of the Weedon Island archaeological culture, and around 900 CE, a derivative local culture, known as the Suwanee River Valley culture, developed.[citation needed]

By the 16th century, the river was inhabited by two closely related Timucua language-speaking peoples: the Yustaga, who lived on the west side of the river; and the Northern Utina, who lived on the east side.[11] By 1633, the Spanish had established the missions of San Juan de Guacara, San Francisco de Chuaquin, and San Augustin de Urihica along the Suwannee to convert these western Timucua peoples.[12]

In the 18th century, Seminoles lived by the river.[citation needed]

The steamboat Madison operated on the river before the Civil War, and the sulphur springs at White Springs became popular as a health resort, with 14 hotels in operation in the late 19th century.[citation needed]


"Historic Suwannee River" sign with the first line of sheet music from "Old Folks at Home", at Interstate 10's crossing of the Suwannee.
"Historic Suwannee River" sign with the first line of sheet music from "Old Folks at Home", at Interstate 10's crossing of the Suwannee.

This river is the subject of the Stephen Foster song "Old Folks at Home", in which he calls it the Swanee Ribber. Foster had named the Pedee River of South Carolina in his first lyrics. It has been called Swanee River because Foster had used an alternative contemporary spelling of the name.[13] Foster never actually saw the river he made world-famous.[citation needed]

George Gershwin's song, with lyrics by Irving Caesar, and made popular by Al Jolson, is also spelled "Swanee" and boasts that "the folks up North will see me no more when I get to that Swanee shore".[citation needed]

Both of these songs feature banjo-strumming and reminiscences of a plantation life more typical of 19th-century South Carolina than of among the swamps and small farms in the coastal plain of south Georgia and north Florida.[citation needed]

Don Ameche starred as Foster in the fictional biographical film Swanee River (1939).[citation needed]

When approaching the Suwannee River via several major highways, motorists are greeted with a sign which announces they are crossing the Historic Suwannee River, complete with the first line of sheet music from "Old Folks at Home". This is Florida's state song, designated as such in 1935.[citation needed]

In 2008, its original lyrics were replaced[14] with a politically correct version.[15] There is a Foster museum and carillon tower at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. The spring itself is called White Sulphur Springs because of its high sulphur content. Since there was a belief in the healing qualities of its waters, the Springs were long popular as a health resort.[citation needed]

The idiom "up the Swannee" or "down the swanny" means something is going badly wrong, analogous to "up the creek without a paddle".[citation needed]

1908 postcard: "Away Down the Suwanee River"
1908 postcard: "Away Down the Suwanee River"


A unique aspect of the Suwannee River is the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, a cooperative effort by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Suwannee River Water Management District, and the cities, businesses, and citizens of the eight-county Suwannee River Basin region. The boating route encompasses 170 river miles (274 river kilometers), from Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park to the Gulf of Mexico.[citation needed]

The Florida National Scenic Trail runs along the Suwannee River's western banks for approximately 60 miles (97 km), from Deep Creek Conservation Area in Columbia County to Twin Rivers State Forest in Madison County.[citation needed]

The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge offers bird and wildlife observation, wildlife photography, fishing, canoeing, hunting, and interpretive walks. A driving tour is under construction, and several boardwalks and observation towers offer views of wildlife and habitat.[citation needed]

In recent years, the Suwannee River has been the site of many music gatherings. Magnolia Festival, SpringFest, and Wanee have been held annually in Live Oak, Florida, at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, adjacent to the river. Performing artists have included Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Allman Brothers Band, and the String Cheese Incident.[citation needed]


Image Crossing Carries Location Opened Closed ID number Coordinates


Suwannee River Sill Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 30°48′14″N 82°25′04″W / 30.803778°N 82.417672°W / 30.803778; -82.417672
Norfolk Southern Railway
(Former Atlantic, Valdosta and Western Railway line)
Fargo 30°41′02″N 82°33′34″W / 30.683964°N 82.559503°W / 30.683964; -82.559503
US 441 / SR 89 / SR 94 Edith to Fargo 1952 30°40′51″N 82°33′36″W / 30.680902°N 82.559930°W / 30.680902; -82.559930


Turner Bridge (defunct) Northeast 38th Trail Cypress Creek Conservation Area late 1950s 30°31′29″N 82°43′40″W / 30.524596°N 82.727892°W / 30.524596; -82.727892
Rt-6 Bridge Hamilton-Co-FL.JPG
CR 6 Bay Creek Conservation Area 1951 290027 30°30′26″N 82°42′59″W / 30.507345°N 82.716491°W / 30.507345; -82.716491
Cone Bridge (defunct) Cone Bridge Road late 1960s 30°26′42″N 82°40′16″W / 30.444933°N 82.671049°W / 30.444933; -82.671049
Godwin Bridge (defunct) Godwin Bridge Road late 1950s 30°21′02″N 82°41′08″W / 30.350554°N 82.685593°W / 30.350554; -82.685593
FL US 41 Suwannee River RR bridge west02.jpg
Norfolk Southern Railway
(Former Georgia Southern and Florida Railway line)
White Springs 30°19′34″N 82°44′18″W / 30.326129°N 82.738300°W / 30.326129; -82.738300
FL US 41 Suwannee River bridge east01.jpg
Ed Scott Bridge US 41 White Springs 1980 290083 30°19′33″N 82°44′19″W / 30.325815°N 82.738476°W / 30.325815; -82.738476
White Springs FL SR 136 bridge02.jpg
J. Graham Black-Joseph W. McAlpin Bridge SR 136 White Springs 1954 290030 30°19′41″N 82°45′35″W / 30.328156°N 82.759784°W / 30.328156; -82.759784
I-75 1962, 1997 30°20′47″N 82°49′58″W / 30.346492°N 82.832868°W / 30.346492; -82.832868
Suwannee Springs Bridge.jpg
Suwannee Springs Bridge (closed) Former US 129 Suwannee Springs 1931 1974 30°23′44″N 82°56′09″W / 30.395418°N 82.935808°W / 30.395418; -82.935808
Old Suwanee Springs Bridge (defunct) 91st Drive Suwannee Springs 1930s 30°23′41″N 82°56′03″W / 30.394699°N 82.934293°W / 30.394699; -82.934293
FL US 129 Suwannee River bridge north01.jpg
US 129 Suwannee Springs, Florida 1971 320019 30°23′53″N 82°56′16″W / 30.398143°N 82.937750°W / 30.398143; -82.937750
Former Savannah, Florida & Western Railway line (ACL, SBD, CSXT) 186? 1988 30°24′33″N 82°57′07″W / 30.409236°N 82.951814°W / 30.409236; -82.951814
FL CR 249 Suwannee River bridge05.jpg
Nobels Ferry Bridge CR 249 1984 320052 30°26′14″N 83°05′30″W / 30.437103°N 83.091613°W / 30.437103; -83.091613
Old Nobels Ferry Bridge (defunct) 30°26′13″N 83°05′40″W / 30.436936°N 83.094566°W / 30.436936; -83.094566
Ellaville FL Suwannee River RR bridge03.jpg
CSX Transportation
(Former Pensacola and Georgia Railroad line)
Ellaville 30°23′06″N 83°10′20″W / 30.385055°N 83.172333°W / 30.385055; -83.172333
Ellaville FL US 90 Hillman bridge north03.jpg
Hillman Bridge (closed) Former US 90 Ellaville 1926 1986 30°23′05″N 83°10′29″W / 30.384711°N 83.174660°W / 30.384711; -83.174660
Ellaville FL US 90 bridge west01.jpg
US 90 Ellaville 1986 350062 30°23′05″N 83°10′33″W / 30.384719°N 83.175780°W / 30.384719; -83.175780
I-10 Suwannee River State Park 1971 30°21′28″N 83°11′36″W / 30.357776°N 83.193314°W / 30.357776; -83.193314
Dowling Park FL CR 250 bridge west under01.jpg
CR 250 Dowling Park 1955 370018 30°14′40″N 83°14′59″W / 30.244572°N 83.249696°W / 30.244572; -83.249696
Former Live Oak, Perry and Gulf Railroad line Dowling Park 1957 1977 30°14′36″N 83°15′03″W / 30.243270°N 83.250864°W / 30.243270; -83.250864
Luraville FL Hal Adams bridge north01.jpg
Hal W. Adams Bridge SR 51 Luraville 1947 330009 30°05′57″N 83°10′18″W / 30.099254°N 83.171785°W / 30.099254; -83.171785
Drew Bridge on the Suwannee River.jpg
Drew Bridge (closed) Former Suwannee & San Pedro Railroad line Mayo 1901 1920 30°06′04″N 83°06′51″W / 30.101030°N 83.114136°W / 30.101030; -83.114136
Branford FL Frank Norris Bridge01.jpg
Frank R. Norris Bridge US 27 Branford 1989 29°57′19″N 82°55′46″W / 29.955173°N 82.929550°W / 29.955173; -82.929550
Bell Cannon Bridge01.jpg
W. O. Cannon - D. W. McCollister Bridge CR 340 1965 310002 29°47′45″N 82°55′11″W / 29.795707°N 82.919843°W / 29.795707; -82.919843
Old Town Nature Coast Trail SP bridge03.jpg
Nature Coast State Trail
(Former CSX Transportation line)
Old Town 29°36′30″N 82°58′16″W / 29.608282°N 82.971233°W / 29.608282; -82.971233
Fanning Springs Park Suwannee03.jpg
Joe H. Anderson Sr. Bridge
US 19 / US 98 / US 27 Alt.
Fanning Springs 1963 300031, 300061 29°35′29″N 82°56′15″W / 29.591323°N 82.937398°W / 29.591323; -82.937398

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed April 18, 2011
  2. ^ Brinton, Daniel; Brinton, Garrison Brinto Daniel Garrison (2016-10-10). Notes on the Floridian Peninsula. Applewood Books. ISBN 9781429022637.
  3. ^ Milanich:12-13
  4. ^ Johnson, Byron A. "THE SUWANNEE - SHAWNEE DEBATE" (PDF). Florida Anthropologist. 25 (2, pt. 1, June 1972): 67.
  5. ^ Gatschet, Albert Samuel (1884-01-01). A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians. D.G. Brinton.
  6. ^ Boyd, Stephen G. (1885-01-01). Indian Local Names with Their Interpretation. author.
  7. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905-01-01). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  8. ^ "The Suwannee River, Exploring Florida: A Social Studies Resource for Students and Teachers". College of Education, University of South Florida. 2002. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  9. ^ Bright, William (2004). Native American placenames of the United States. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 466–467. ISBN 978-0-8061-3598-4. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  10. ^ Martin, Jack B.; Mauldin, Margaret McKane (2004-12-01). A Dictionary of Creek/Muskogee. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803283024.
  11. ^ Worth vol. I, pp. 28–29.
  12. ^ Milanich, Jerald T. (1996-08-14). Timucua. VNR AG. ISBN 9781557864888.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Summary of Bills Related to Arts, Cultural, Arts Education. Or Historical Resources That Passed the 2008 Florida Legislature May 5, 2008", Retrieved on 2011-12-14 from
  15. ^ Center for American Music. "Old Folks at Home". Center for American Music Library. Archived from the original on 2009-01-11. Retrieved 2012-10-01.


External links

Further reading

  • Light, H.M., et al. (2002). Hydrology, vegetation, and soils of riverine and tidal floodplain forests of the lower Suwannee River, Florida, and potential impacts of flow reductions [U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1656A]. Denver: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
This page was last edited on 7 November 2019, at 09:30
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