Quick Facts about the River
- From its origin in the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast and south-central Georgia, the blackwater Suwannee River flows south 45 miles to White Springs, Florida and then forms a wide loop toward the west and empties into the Gulf of Mexico after traveling another 200 miles.
- The Suwannee River Basin drains approximately 11,020 square miles including part or all of 20 Georgia counties, with approximately half of the basin’s area in Georgia.
- Significant Georgia tributaries to the Suwannee River include the Willacoochee, Withlacoochee, Alapaha and Little Rivers.
- In 1974, the U.S. Department of the Interior recommended that the Suwannee River be included in the National Wild and Scenic River System to protect the river from dams, strip-mining and other industrial development.
- Fish populations in the Georgia portion of Suwannee River Basin are limited in productivity by acidic waters, low alkalinity, and extreme variation in flow.
- Blackwater rivers, like those in the Suwanee watershed, exemplify the image of world-famous South Georgia swamps with their alligators, snakes, and other spectacular wildlife communities.
- Drinking Water Uses
- The main source of drinking water in the Suwanee River Basin is provided by groundwater.
- Municipal and Industrial Uses
- NPDES Discharge Permits: As of 2018, there are approximately 48 facilities, including industries and municipalities, authorized to discharge wastewater into the Suwanee River Basin pursuant to NPDES permits.
- Agricultural Uses
- As of 2018, the EPD had issued 5,973 agricultural permits for water withdrawal.
- Commodity producers in the basin apply roughly 195.03 million gallons of water per day for supplemental irrigation.
- In 1995, animal operations used roughly 3.75 million gallons of water per day.
- As of 2013, the EPD had issued 5,285 agricultural water withdrawal permits in the Suwanee River Basin.
- The Suwanee River is a free-flowing river, unimpeded by dams.
- Forestry represents a major part of the economy in the Suwanee River Basin, with approximately 3,429,000 acres of commercial forestland.
- Agriculture accounts for almost 29 percent of the land use in the Suwanee River Basin.
- Okefenokee Wilderness Area Canoe Trails: The Okefenokee Wilderness Area offers over 40,000 acres of wetlands and swamps to explore with seven overnight shelters. For more information, visit https://www.garivers.org/oct.html.
- Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located in Lanier County and contains 1,500 acres of marsh, 1,549 acres of cypress swamp, and 1,000 acres of open water with fishing opportunities. For more information, visit https://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=41591.
- The Stephen C. Foster State Park is a primary entrance to the famed Okefenokee Swamp and is one of the most intriguing areas in Georgia.
- The Suwanee River Visitor Center, operated by the Stephen C. Foster State Park, is located west of the Okefenokee Swamp in Fargo, Georgia. The Center offers a boat ramp, picnic tables, and educational exhibits. The Suwannee River Eco-Lodge is also located in Fargo and is operated by the park.
- Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge encompasses approximately 400,000 acres and contains several open water lakes within the Okefenokee Swamp for excellent fishing opportunities.
- Reed Bingham State Park surrounds a 375-acre lake that is a popular boating and water skiing attraction in South Georgia.
Click on the name of the group to view additional details in our online group directory.
- 305(b)/303(d) Listings
- In the Suwannee River Basin, there are approximately 55 rivers and streams listed on the 2012 integrated 305(b)/ 303(d) list as waters not supporting their designated uses. These impaired waters include roughly 659 miles of rivers and streams in the Suwanee River Basin.
- Fish Consumption Advisories: View EPD’s “Guidelines for Eating Fish from Georgia’s Waters” online: https://epd.georgia.gov/fish-consumption-guidelines
- As of 2014, Spectra Energy’s proposed Sabal Trail pipeline’s 159-mile-long, 100-foot-wide path through Georgia would cut through at least nine counties. The project brings with it the risk of contaminating the region’s well water and rivers and streams through leaks. The pipeline’s proposed path would traverse southwest Georgia and require boring underground pipelines beneath the Withlacoochee, Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers as well as numerous smaller streams, and will course underground above the Floridan aquifer.
- “Old Folks at Home” – In 1851, Stephen Collins Foster wrote “Old Folks at Home” in which he immortalized the river that snakes through Florida’s Panhandle. The song became a symbol of love for home and inspired the Florida Legislature to adopt it as the official state song in 1935. Most people recognize the song by the opening line, “Way down upon the Suwanee River.”
- Excerpt from “Old Folks at Home” …..“As we shoved off in our rented canoe, the most noticeable feature of the river was its vertical limestone banks. It’s the same porous limestone characteristic of the huge Floridan Aquifer. Over thousands of years, the river has carved into the limestone to create the vertical walls and reveal springs — openings where the aquifer flows at the surface. In some places along the river, the slight wake of a passing canoe washes into the limestone holes, creating a musical sound behind the canoe. Trees send elaborate root formations through the limestone to reach water along the banks and appear fused into the walls. Sloping sand banks retain the footprints of turkey, deer and other animals that drink from the river.”