Reconstructing the history of fire in the Okefenokee Swamp from anecdotal sources [abstract]
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): C. T. Trowell
Editor(s): Sharon M. Hermann
Publication Year: 1991

Cataloging Information

  • charcoal
  • droughts
  • Georgia
  • histories
  • human caused fires
  • lightning
  • lightning caused fires
  • litter
  • logging
  • marshes
  • Okefenokee Swamp
  • post fire recovery
  • prehistoric fires
  • swamps
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 34075
Tall Timbers Record Number: 8272
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Tall Timbers shelf
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Fire is a process that both changes and maintains the character of the Okefenokee Swamp. In the Okefenokee area, fire is, and has long been, employed as a habitat management tool. Wildfires also occur frequently. Erdman (1957), Cypert (1961), Cohen (1973), Duever (1979), Rich (1979), Izlar (1984), and Trowell (1986) have established this fact and examined the role of fire in the Okefenokee Swamp. They list the existence of charcoal deposits, buried burned stumps, and references from memoirs as evidence of historic and prehistoric fires. Most studies link extreme drought conditions with wildfire occurrence and most studies assume that there is a predictable cycle of drought, and by linkage, fire. But how useful are these assumptions for understanding when and where wildfire has occurred or will occur in the Swamp? Historical documents have been examined as a test of the 'Okefenokee drought-fire cycle' hypothesis.Anecdotal records on wildfire and drought in the Swamp, such as statements gleaned from 19th and 20th century newspapers, diaries, government reports, memoirs, books and interviews, have been compiled during the past decade. The general locations of the fires have been mapped. The record is and will always be both fragmentary and biased. Nevertheless, these records suggest that the assumption that droughts and fires have occurred in cycles, such as 1844, 1860, 1910, 1932, and 1954-55, may need to be reexamined, or at least more precisely defined.A preliminary examination of Okefenokee drought and wildfire records reveals that historically: (1) drought has occurred frequently; (2) fires occurred during some droughts, fires did not occur during some droughts; (3) drought and fire are usually spatially and temporally patchy; (4) fires occurred during all seasons; (5) fires originated in all areas of the Swamp; (6) fires were ignited by lightning and people, accidentally or intentionally; (7) fires since 1910 have occurred most often in areas of fuel concentration, such as logging debris and in times of fuel concentration, such as following a freeze.This investigator needs help. How do you recognize an anecdotal description of a post-fire landscape in cypress, bay or black gum swamps, or freshwater marshes, two, five, or ten years after the fire?

Trowell, C. T. 1991. Reconstructing the history of fire in the Okefenokee Swamp from anecdotal sources [abstract], in Hermann, S. M., Proceedings 17th Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference. High intensity fire in wildlands: management challenges and options. Tallahassee, FL. Tall Timbers Research, Inc.,Tallahassee, FL. p. 421-422,