Today’s Wonder of the Day is full of alligators…and turtles…and snakes…and fish…and trees…and murky water. Where are we headed? The swamp, of course!

Although the word “swamp” might sound ominous because of some of the creatures that live there, swamps are really just forested wetlands. That means they’re like lakes only much shallower. The water in swamps is usually shallow enough to allow plants and trees to flourish.

Swamps can often be found along large rivers or along the shores of large lakes. In fact, some of the world’s largest swamps can be found along the world’s largest rivers, including the Amazon, the Mississippi and the Congo.

Swamps can contain fresh water, seawater or a mixture of both. Some swamps are permanent, while others come and go with fluctuations in the local water level. Whatever type of water is present, it usually moves very slowly through a swamp, due to the presence of large amounts of plants and trees.

Although wetlands are very valuable because of the many types of plants and animals they support, swamps have often been drained throughout history to convert the land for use as farms. Some swamps were drained to reduce diseases caused by swamp insects, such as mosquitoes. Still other swamps were drained to allow logging of the trees in the area.

Drainage ditches, canals and levees would be built to drain the water. This process resulted in the loss of habitat for many plants and animals. In some areas of the world, such as Europe and New Zealand, drainage has been so widespread that 50-90% of wetlands have vanished.

Today, many groups are actively trying to restore wetlands. Scientists now understand how valuable swamps can be. In addition to a habitat for plants and animals, swamps help with flood control and water purification. Depending upon how the wetlands were drained, restoring them can be as simple as plugging drainage ditches or removing levees.

The largest swamp in the United States — Atchafalaya Swamp — sits along the end of the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana. The U.S. has several other famous swamps, including the Everglades in Florida and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

Even though scientists now recognize the value of swamps, these areas of land still tend to have lower property values than other types of land, such as woodlands and fields. Many people who live near swamps, though, do manage to make use of them by fishing and hunting animals that call the swamp home.

46 Join the Discussion

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    • Happy Friday, Laserdudle!! We’re glad you’re here today! Thanks for starting the morning with us, too! :)

      We are going to continue WONDERing all day long, and we’d LOVE if you re-read today’s Wonder and found the answers on your own. You can reply back with the information you found! We sure would love to see what you learned while visiting Wonderopolis today!

      Thanks for always doing such a great job of using your AWESOME imagination! :)

  1. We learned that there are turtles, snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and owls in a swamp.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder may be about a museum.

    • It’s a great Friday when Ms. Bayko’s WONDERful class is here! Thank you for sharing what you learned about animals who call the swamp their home! We think those animals would have to befriend the mosquitos in the swamp– hopefully if they’re friends, the mosquitos won’t bite!

      We hope to Wonder again with you tomorrow when we go on a geographical adventure! :)

  2. We liked today’s Wonder. We wonder if swamp water is clean. We also wonder if we could swim in a swamp. Also, is there catfish in the swamp?

    • Our Wonder Friends, the Third Grade All-Stars, are doing an excellent job of WONDERing with us today! HOORAY! Sometimes swamps can be stagnant environments, which means that the shallow water doesn’t always circulate like a river does. Therefore, some insects that like dark, damp areas (like mosquitos) enjoy living in swamp lands. We don’t think swimming in a swamp would be as run as a river, lake or ocean. The stagnant water can become dirty and could make you sick if you drank some!

      We think catfish like shallow water, as long as it’s moving around! Great job, Wonder Friends! :)

  3. We learned that swamps were made from fresh water, salt water or the combination of both. We know we will never have swamps where we live.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder is about a museum that is in a large city.

    • WOW, thanks for sharing what you have been WONDERing about today, Mrs. Karr’s class! Our Wonder Friends have been hard at work thinking about all the different types of swamps, and where they do and do not exist! Can’t wait to see you tomorrow– thanks for sharing your guess! :)

    • Hi there, Bryleigh, we are glad you’re WONDERing with us today! Even if you prefer dry land to wetlands, that’s okay, we are happy you’re here today! :)

    • Hi there, Chilly the Penguin! Thanks for stopping by and WONDERing with us today! You have a great question, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, The Pantanal Swamp covers almost 58,000 miles of swamp land! WHOA! :)

  4. I heard a lot of different sounds like frogs, crickets chirping, and then, I heard a little jam! Anyways, I hope I wonder again! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about the solar system.

  5. We were so amazed to hear and learn about ALL of the different creatures that can live in a swamp. It is truly a wonder-ous place!

    We had many wonders and discussed the wonders that each of our classmates had.
    We also wondered how much area in the United States is covered by swamps.

    • WOHOO, our Wonder Friends in Mr. Carrico’s 3rd Grade class are here today! Thanks for sharing all the SUPER information you learned from today’s Wonder! We Wonder if any of you have pets that could live in a swamp?! :)

      It’s so exciting that you were doing some WONDERing on your own– keep up the WONDERful work! :)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We read your awesome article about swamps today in class. Below is one of the letters from the students in my class. We picked his as the best!!! Thanks for adding new wonders everyday!

    Dear Wonderopolis,
    My name is Elliot, and I am a senior in high school. I learned about the dirty water in the swamps. The alligators live in the swamps with fish. I learned that plants grow in the swamp. Plants like trees. Swamps are made of water. What is the name of the boat that travels on the swamp?

    Your friend,

    • Hello to all our friends in Ms. Mautone’s Reading Basics Class! We are thrilled that you are at Wonderopolis today, and your comment made us smile. Not just a little smile, one of those my-face-kind-of-hurts-from-smiling smile! :)

      We bet all of your letters were stellar, and we’re so happy that you shared Elliot’s with us!

      Elliot, you did an excellent job of summarizing what you learned in today’s swamp Wonder– and you covered the different organisms that call a swamp “home”! Usually smaller boats are used in swamp or shallow areas, such as airboats, because the boat moves forward by a large propeller on the back of the boat. The propeller is above water, so it moves the boat forward, but does not create a large wake in the shallow water.

      NICE WORK, Wonder Friends in Ms. Mautone’s class! Have a great weekend! :)

  7. I knew swamps had turtles, trees, snakes, and fish. I wonder what’s tomorrow’s I’m going to have a lot of time tomorrow because I’m out of school.

    • Very cool, Kamrom! We’re glad you already had an idea of the animals that call the swamp “home”! We hope you enjoy the next day’s Wonder on your time off from school! Have a SUPER weekend! :)

    • WOHOO, we are glad you liked our swamp Wonder, Skye! We think you’re in for a treat with the next day’s Wonder… super guess! :)

    • Great question, Chilly the Penguin! We can’t take credit for the video, but the person who filmed the swamps was near a low-lying swamp area that borders a small lake in southern New Jersey. :)

    • WOW, thanks for sharing your kind compliment, Kamron! We LOVE to Wonder with great friends like you– it makes learning so much fun! :)

    • Hi Wonder Friend Lily! We think it’s cool that you’ve visited the swamplands in the past! We bet you can do some WONDERing of your own to find out which state has the most swamps! We’d love to hear about what you find! :)

  8. “People who live in these areas often call these swamp areas bayous” — as someone who lives near the Mississippi River between a swamp and a bayou in south Louisiana, I can tell you that we never confuse the two.

    A bayou is like a small river. It starts at point A and ends at point B. Swamps just flow wherever the water can find low spots to continue flowing out to. We think of them more like shallow lakes.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a swamp?
  • What benefits can swamps provide?
  • Where is the largest swamp in the United States?

Wonder Gallery

swamp shutterstock_16786726Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to dive into the swamp? Well, not literally! But we do encourage you to learn more about swamps and the unique creatures that live in swamps by checking out the links below with friends or family members:

Would you like to visit a swamp? Why or why not? What do you think the most exciting thing about living near a swamp would be?

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Create a Wetland Scene lesson, children learn about the importance of wetlands.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes you on a trip to the Ice Age…in the middle of one of the largest cities in America!

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