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A swamp is a wetland featuring temporary or permanent inundation of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water. A swamp generally has a substantial number of hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodical inundation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or forest swamps and "transitional" or shrub swamps. The water of a swamp may be fresh water, brackish water or seawater.

In North America, swamps are usually regarded as including a large amount of woody vegetation, but elsewhere this may not necessarily apply, such as in African swamps dominated by papyrus. By contrast, a marsh in North America is a wetland without woody vegetation, or elsewhere, a wetland without woody vegetation which is shallower and has less open water surface than a swamp. A mire (or quagmire) is a low-lying wetland of deep, soft soil or mud that sinks underfoot with large algae covering the water's surface.


Swamps are characterised by very slow-moving waters. They are usually associated with adjacent rivers or lakes. In some cases, rivers become swamps for a distance. Swamps are features of areas with very high topographic relief, although they may be covered by acid.


Swamps are characterised by rich biodiversity and specialized organisms such as frogs. For instance, southeastern U.S. swamps, such as those mentioned above, feature trees such as the Bald cypress and Water Tupelo, which are adapted to growing in standing water, and animals such as the American alligator. A common species name in biological nomenclature is the Latin palustris, meaning "of the swamp". Examples of this are Quercus palustris (pin oak) and Thelypteris palustris (marsh fern).


Swamps were historically often drained to provide additional land for agriculture, and to reduce the threat of diseases born by swamp insects and similar animals. Swamps were generally seen as useless and even dangerous. This practice of swamp draining is nowadays seen as a destruction of a very valuable ecological habitat type of which large tracts have already disappeared in many countries.

Famous examples

Russian Federation

The Vasyugan Swamp is a large swamp in the western Siberiamarker area of the Russian Federation. This is one of the biggest swamps in the world, covering area larger than Switzerlandmarker.


The Tigris-Euphrates river system is a large swamp and river system in southern Iraqmarker, inhabited in part by the Marsh Arabs. It was partly drained by Saddam Hussein in the 1990s in retaliation against the Shiite tribes' revolt against his dictatorship.

United States

Atchafalaya Swamp is the largest swamp in the United States. Other famous swamps in the United Statesmarker are the Evergladesmarker, Okefenokee Swamp, Barley Barber Swamp and the Great Dismal Swampmarker. The Okefenokee is located in extreme southeastern Georgiamarker and extends slightly into northeastern Floridamarker. The Great Dismal Swamp lies in extreme southeastern Virginiamarker and extreme northeastern North Carolinamarker. Both are National Wildlife Refuges. Another swamp area, Reelfoot Lakemarker of extreme western Tennesseemarker and Kentuckymarker, was created by the New Madrid earthquakemarker of 1812. Caddo Lakemarker, the Great Dismal and Reelfoot are swamps that are centered at large lakes. Swamps are often called bayous in the southeastern United States, especially in the Gulf Coastmarker region.

Land value and productivity

Swamps and other wetlands have traditionally held a very low property value compared to fields, prairies, or woodlands. They have a reputation as being unproductive land that can't be easily utilized for human activities, other than perhaps hunting and trapping. Farmers for example typically drained swamps next to their fields so as to gain more land usable for planting crops.

It is now generally understood that swamps are critically important in the processes of providing fresh water and oxygen to all life, and steps are now taken by government environmental agencies (known as the Department of Natural Resources in the United States) to protect and preserve swamps and other wetlands.

However, the generally messy nature of swamps, with their diffuse boundaries and lack of enclosure, prevents humans from being able to collect and capitalize on these precious natural resources that naturally diffuse out from a swamp in all directions, so swamps still maintain a relatively low land value even while they are being protected from damage.


A swamp appears in the coat of arms of Gesturimarker, Italymarker.

List of major swamps



North America

South America

See also


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