Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief, Senator Ossoff and others Honored at Georgia River Network Gala

Okefenokee Swamp Champions to attend the Georgia Rivers Gala on September 8

The Okefenokee Swamp is an unlikely crown jewel of Georgia. Its 440,000 acre expanse remains completely undeveloped since its formation, fostering a flourishing habitat of native and even some endangered species.

Preserving these unique wetlands is a long-standing effort from a number of groups who aim to uphold the sanctity of the swamp. Threats of mining loom over the undisturbed ecosystem, with potentially devastating effects.

Georgia Trend’s Publisher, Ben Young, weighs in on this issue in his column, “Murky Issue?” in the August 2023 issue.

State representatives, local leaders, researchers and educators passionately fight to protect Okefenokee’s ecological, historical and economic impact. Georgia River Network is set to recognize a few of these dedicated advocates for their efforts on the organizations 25th anniversary.

Below is a press release from Georgia Rivers Network – to learn more about GRN’s efforts to protect the Okefenokee Swamp, please visit their site  

ATHENS, GA, July 20, 2023 – Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief David Hill, Senator Jon Ossoff, Representative Darlene Taylor and other river protectors will be honored at Georgia River Network’s Georgia Rivers Gala in Atlanta on September 8.


Okefenokee Canal








Georgia River Network is the only statewide advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting Georgia’s rivers, is celebrating 25 years. During this milestone anniversary year, Georgia River Network will host the Georgia Rivers Gala to honor leaders who advocated for the protection of the economically vital rivers that flow through our state, including those currently fighting to protect the Okefenokee Swamp, one of the most endangered waterways in the United States.

Since 2019, Georgia River Network has helped lead the fight to save the Okefenokee Swamp from a proposed mine along Trail Ridge, the geological barrier that forms the eastern boundary of the swamp and maintains the swamp’s water levels. The Okefenokee Swamp is home to the headwaters for St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers, and made national news when American Rivers named it one of the Most Endangered Rivers of 2023. Leaders nationwide have spoken for the protection of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Chief David Hill

Chief David Hill

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief David Hill declared Trail Ridge from Hoboken, Georgia, to the St. Marys River, a Sacred Site.“The Okefenokee Swamp is a special place. Its ecosystem, much like the dawn of our Muscogee people, is unique and inherently found in southeast Georgia. It is special for many because of its role in our origins and what it means to the people of Georgia today. Honoring and protecting sacred places like this is why we are re-connecting with this region and moving forward together with our friends here,” said Chief Hill.

The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in North America, is one of Georgia’s top sites for outdoor recreation and tourism, and is one of Georgia’s most beloved and environmentally significant wild places.

Senator Jon Ossoff

Sen. Jon Ossoff

In February, Sen. Ossoff launched a bipartisan push with Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter to urge the Department of the Interior to formally nominate the Wildlife Refuge to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Representative Darlene Taylor

Representative Darlene Taylor proposed the Okefenokee Protection Act bill (HB71) to ban mining on Okefenokee’s Trail Ridge.

“The Georgia River Network works tirelessly to protect Georgia’s waters. The Okefenokee Swamp is a sacred and beloved place for all Georgians. Proposed strip mining around the swamp risks irrevocable damage and would be a grave mistake. While I deeply appreciate this award, we are far from victory in protecting the Okefenokee, and I will sustain my efforts to protect it,” Sen. Ossoff said.

Representative Darlene Taylor proposed the Okefenokee Protection Act bill (HB71) to ban mining on Okefenokee’s Trail Ridge.

After witnessing first hand the destruction of the Everglades, Rep. Taylor would not let the Okefenokee wilderness be threatened by a proposed mine. “There is a preponderance of scientific evidence that the proposed mining on Trail Ridge adjacent to the Okefenokee threatens to lower water levels – in the swamp, in neighboring wells, and in the St. Marys River,” Rep. Taylor said. “The amazing thing about these waters is that they are essentially intact. Nature as it exists in the Okefenokee today is essentially the same as it would have been when the first people beheld its dark, flowing waters.”

Rena Ann Peck - Executive Director of the Georgia River Network

Rena Ann Peck – Executive Director of the Georgia River Network

Georgia River Network is uniting these leaders championing the protection of the Okefenokee in celebration of their legacy as a network that has united river protectors for over 25 years.

“Georgia River Network has facilitated the growth of riverkeeper groups, guided watershed conservation groups and water trails organizations and protected countless Georgia rivers over our 25 year history – and we’re just getting started,” said Rena Ann Peck, GRN executive director. “We are building on our legacy as a statewide advocacy organization by protecting the Okefenokee Swamp, one of the most endangered waterways in Georgia, as well as the entire nation. As we reflect on our impact over 25 years, we look to the next 25 years to serve as Georgia’s only science-based non-profit conservation organization focused solely on protection of and access to our state’s waterways.”

The Okefenokee Swamp champions will gather with other outdoor recreation enthusiasts, conservationists, and leaders at the Georgia Rivers Gala. Guests will enjoy an opening cocktail reception with live music, a live auction and program, dinner, and live dance band.

Georgia Rivers Gala Banner

To become a sponsor or get tickets to the Georgia Rivers Gala, please visit the event webpage at

Georgia Rivers Gala

September 8, 2023, 7pm – 10pm

42 West, 1088 Huff Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

About Georgia River Network:

As the voice of Georgia rivers, Georgia River Network is a statewide 501c3 organization with the mission of helping everyone enjoy, connect with and advocate for economically vital and clean flowing rivers. GRN maps rivers and provides the free Georgia River Guide App as GA DNR’s non-profit partner running the GA Water Trails Network. Visit to learn more about paddle trips, water trails and ways you can protect Georgia rivers.

About Protect the Okefenokee:

The Okefenokee Swamp, the largest blackwater swamp in North America and wetland of international importance, is threatened by a proposed titanium mine.The Okefenokee is one of the greatest remaining natural treasures in the world. It is the ancestral home of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe and holds significant economic, ecological, and cultural value for the people of Georgia. Citizens can text SWAMP to 52886 to send letters to Georgia leaders to save the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge from mining effects.

Learn how you can take action to save the swamp by visiting this site.

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