Monday, January 19, 2009
Florida's Historic Suwannee River
Stephen Foster's haunting melody Suwannee River sparked the tourism industry that is the bread and butter of modern Florida.
The 19th century composer's lyrics about a place "way down upon the Suwannee River" that he had never actually seen evoked images of homes "far, far away" for millions of people around the world. Suwannee River is the state song of Florida today, one of two official state songs that Foster penned. The other, My Old Kentucky Home, is the official song of Kentucky.
The popularity of Suwannee River (also known as Old Folks at Home) prompted people to head South to Florida in search of the river made famous by the song and the beautiful river in North Florida did not disappoint.
The Suwannee River rises in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp and flows south to the Gulf of Mexico. The water is almost black as it emerges from the swamp, thanks to harmless tannic acid from decaying leaves and trees in the Okefenokee, but gradually lightens as it flows to the Gulf. Numerous crystal clear springs add to the flow of the river in Florida, turning the Suwannee into a significant stream by the time it reaches the coast.
Now a major eco-tourism destination for people who love canoeing, hiking and other outdoor activities, the Suwannee River is also a major heritage corridor in Florida. Parks such as the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs and the Suwannee River State Park near Live Oak help interpret the rich heritage and history of the river.
To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/suwannee.