The Okefenokee Flush
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
While Amelia Island is where the population lives, there are several surrounding islands that are noteworthy and hold their own unique population. One of which has a particularly odd disposition; one we are going to discuss. Tiger Island is a small island that has acquired a nickname over the years that will put you on the edge of your seat…”Snake Island.” Obviously, it is not inhabited by a streak of Tigers that would be ridiculous. The name comes from the Spanish translation of “Isle Del Tigre.” The first Europeans to explore the island were the Spanish. Upon their arrival, they were overwhelmed by the amount of bobcats they encountered. Having never seen them before, they deemed it appropriate to call them Tigers. They continue to share the plot this day with the dense snake population. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s one slice of our little paradise I’ll just have to miss out on.
Growing up in Mississippi, I encountered almost all of the species of poisonous snakes that inhabit that area. One thing always rings true, they all make my skin crawl. Tiger Island has an especially dense population of snakes. The island plays host to the densest population of rattlesnakes on the entire eastern seaboard. That little fact leads us to ask the question “why.” The Okefenokee Swamp is the culprit in this case. Let’s get a little background on the landmark swamp. The Okefenokee is truly an American treasure. It is the largest fresh water and black water wilderness swamp in all of North America. “Okefenokee” was the name used by the indigenous Creeks and was believed to mean, “Land of Trembling Earth”.
While it sounds really cool, the truth is many people of academic note believe that to be an incorrect translation. “Oka” means water in the Hitchiti Creek language and “Fenoke” means shaking in Hitchiti. So many people say the Okefenokee literally means “Water Shaking.” There’s over 100 miles of paddle and motor boat-accessible trails for the outdoorsy folks! Tiger Island is suspect to the aftermath of the all the hurricanes and major storms that hit during the hurricane season that starts June 1st. When the Okefenokee floods, the snakes and other wildlife get flushed out and begin to move down the St. Mary’s River. Snakes have a very keen sense when it comes to detecting the salinity of the water as they travel. By the time the salt content is appropriate, they have only a few options of where to make land. They can choose between Amelia Island, Cumberland Island, and Tiger Island. As we now know, they all seem to select Tiger Island. There’s a very simple explanation for their choice. There are zero natural predators on Tiger Island. In this environment they have the opportunity to thrive, and thrive they do!
Until next time…Stay Salty Friends!