Suwannee River

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Suwannee River.jpg
Suwannee River, Florida
Country United States
 - left Santa Fe River
 - right Alapaha River, Withlacoochee River
Cities Fargo, Georgia, White Springs, Florida, Branford, Florida
Source Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
 - location Fargo, GA
Mouth Gulf of Mexico
 - location Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, Suwannee, FL
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 29°17′18″N 83°9′57″W / 29.28833°N 83.16583°W / 29.28833; -83.16583
SUWANNEE RIVER Latitude and Longitude:

29°17′18″N 83°9′57″W / 29.28833°N 83.16583°W / 29.28833; -83.16583
Length 246 mi (396 km)
Suwannee River Drainage Basin

The Suwannee River (also spelled Suwanee River) is a major 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.


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 1889 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 75'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"


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]


Crossing Carries Image Location 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
Line formerly known as Atlantic, Valdosta and Western Railway
Fargo, Georgia 30°41′02″N 82°33′34″W / 30.683964°N 82.559503°W / 30.683964; -82.559503
US 441.svg US 441
Georgia 89.svg SR 89
Georgia 94.svg SR 94
Edith, Georgia to Fargo, Georgia 30°40′51″N 82°33′36″W / 30.680902°N 82.559930°W / 30.680902; -82.559930


Turner Bridge NE 38th Trail (Closed late 1950s, defunct) 30°31′29″N 82°43′40″W / 30.524596°N 82.727892°W / 30.524596; -82.727892
Hamilton County Road 6 FL.svg CR 6 290027 30°30′26″N 82°42′59″W / 30.507345°N 82.716491°W / 30.507345; -82.716491
Cone Bridge Cone Bridge Road (Closed late 1960s, defunct) 30°26′42″N 82°40′16″W / 30.444933°N 82.671049°W / 30.444933; -82.671049
Godwin Bridge Godwin Bridge Road (Closed late 1950s, defunct) Big Shoals State Park 30°21′02″N 82°41′08″W / 30.350554°N 82.685593°W / 30.350554; -82.685593
Norfolk Southern Railway
Line formerly known as Georgia Southern and Florida Railway
30°19′34″N 82°44′18″W / 30.326129°N 82.738300°W / 30.326129; -82.738300
Ed Scott Bridge US 41.svg US 41 White Springs, Florida 290083 30°19′33″N 82°44′19″W / 30.325815°N 82.738476°W / 30.325815; -82.738476
J. Graham Black-Joseph W. McAlpin Bridge Florida 136.svg SR 136 White Springs FL SR 136 bridge02.jpg White Springs, Florida 290030 30°19′41″N 82°45′35″W / 30.328156°N 82.759784°W / 30.328156; -82.759784
I-75.svg Interstate 75 30°20′47″N 82°49′58″W / 30.346492°N 82.832868°W / 30.346492; -82.832868
Old US 129 Bridge 93rd Drive (Closed 1974) Suwannee Springs Bridge.jpg Suwannee Springs, Florida 30°23′44″N 82°56′09″W / 30.395418°N 82.935808°W / 30.395418; -82.935808
Old Suwanee Springs Bridge 91st Drive (Closed 1930s, defunct) Suwannee Springs, Florida 30°23′41″N 82°56′03″W / 30.394699°N 82.934293°W / 30.394699; -82.934293
US 129.svg US 129
Florida 51.svg SR 51
Suwannee Springs, Florida 320019 30°23′53″N 82°56′16″W / 30.398143°N 82.937750°W / 30.398143; -82.937750
Savannah, Florida & Western Railway (Closed 1988, now defunct) 30°24′33″N 82°57′07″W / 30.409236°N 82.951814°W / 30.409236; -82.951814
Nobels Ferry Bridge County 249.svg CR 249 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
Rail Bridge CSX Transportation
Line was formerly known as the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad
Ellaville, Florida 30°23′06″N 83°10′20″W / 30.385055°N 83.172333°W / 30.385055; -83.172333
Hillman Bridge(a.k.a.; Old Ellaville Bridge) Old US 90
(Closed )
Ellaville FL US 90 Hillman bridge north03.jpg Ellaville, Florida 30°23′05″N 83°10′29″W / 30.384711°N 83.174660°W / 30.384711; -83.174660
US 90.svg US 90 Ellaville FL US 90 bridge west01.jpg Ellaville, Florida 350062 30°23′05″N 83°10′33″W / 30.384719°N 83.175780°W / 30.384719; -83.175780
I-10.svg Interstate 10
Florida 8.svg SR 8
Suwannee River State Park 30°21′28″N 83°11′36″W / 30.357776°N 83.193314°W / 30.357776; -83.193314
County Road 250 Dowling Park FL CR 250 bridge west under01.jpg Dowling Park, Florida 370018 30°14′40″N 83°14′59″W / 30.244572°N 83.249696°W / 30.244572; -83.249696
Live Oak, Perry and Gulf Railroad (Closed) 30°14′36″N 83°15′03″W / 30.243270°N 83.250864°W / 30.243270; -83.250864
Hal W. Adams Bridge Florida 51.svg SR 51 Luraville FL Hal Adams bridge north01.jpg Mayo to Luraville, Florida 330009 30°05′57″N 83°10′18″W / 30.099254°N 83.171785°W / 30.099254; -83.171785
Drew Bridge Suwannee & San Pedro Railroad (Closed 1918) 30°06′04″N 83°06′51″W / 30.101030°N 83.114136°W / 30.101030; -83.114136
Frank R. Norris Bridge US 27.svg US 27 Branford FL Frank Norris Bridge01.jpg Branford, Florida 29°57′19″N 82°55′46″W / 29.955173°N 82.929550°W / 29.955173; -82.929550
W. O. Cannon - D. W. McCollister Bridge County Road 340
Florida 340.svg Former SR 340
Bell Cannon Bridge01.jpg Bell, Florida 310002 29°47′45″N 82°55′11″W / 29.795707°N 82.919843°W / 29.795707; -82.919843
Nature Coast State Trail
Formerly a rail bridge.
Old Town Nature Coast Trail SP bridge03.jpg Old Town, Florida 29°36′30″N 82°58′16″W / 29.608282°N 82.971233°W / 29.608282; -82.971233
Joe H. Anderson Sr. Bridge US 19.svg US 19
US 98.svg US 98
Alt plate.svg
US 27.svg Alternate US 27
Fanning Springs Park Suwannee03.jpg Fanning Springs, Florida 300031, 300061 29°35′29″N 82°56′15″W / 29.591323°N 82.937398°W / 29.591323; -82.937398


Suwannee ... River ...



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