The New Student's Reference Work/Reclamation of Swamp-Lands

Rec′lama′tion of Swamp-Lands. The available agricultural lands of the United States are, for the most part, occupied. With a rapidly growing population and increasing demand for agricultural products, the need of additional farm-land has forced itself on the attention of the public and of the national government. This has resulted in the vast undertakings of the government in the reclamation of arid lands by irrigation. (See Irrigation). More recently the reclamation of swamp-lands has claimed attention. The area which has been brought under cultivation by irrigation approximates 8,000,000 acres, and it is thought probable that 12,000,000 acres additional may be reclaimed within the next 25 years. Investigation shows that there are over 60,000,000 acres of swamp and overflowed lands in the United States. It is estimated that already as large an area of lands of this character has been reclaimed by drainage, mostly by the effort of individuals, drainage-associations and states' action, as that secured by irrigation, and that the reclamation of a much larger area is practicable if the work be undertaken by the Federal government. It is well-known that swamp-lands which have been successfully reclaimed have become the richest of agricultural lands. If it were possible to reclaim by drainage 25,000,000 acres of these swamps, the land-values of the country would be increased by more than $2,500,000,000. If subdivided into 40-acre farms, these swamps would supply 1,250,000 families with homes.

NSRW Swamp Areas in United States.jpg
The black indicates swamp-areas. The ruled portion indicates areas interspersed with swamps

Many drainage works of minor importance have been undertaken by individuals, corporations, districts and states, and the work of the government thus far has been chiefly in aid of such enterprises. In Louisiana much important work has been done in the neighborhood of New Orleans; in Florida near the Everglades; in Minnesota and North Dakota in the upper valley of Red River; in Indiana in the Kankakee Marshes; and in California in the lower Sacramento Valley. The people of Illinois, of lower Minnesota and of other portions of the country have built ditches and drained considerable areas of lands which now are under cultivation. The complications, however, resulting from any attempts on the part of private parties or of counties or states, arising from conflicting rights and benefits, together with the enormous expense which must be incurred, have prevented the undertaking of large projects. This work can be done only by the Federal government, and the subject has secured the attention and the consideration of Congress, a Federal Drainage Bill having been favorably reported. A large amount of preliminary work has already been accomplished in the preparation of topographic maps which give a vast amount of important information concerning slopes and drainage of the surface of the land, and show where the swamps occur, their relation both in distance and position to natural drainage-channels and also the altitude of the swamps as referred to the drainage channels. The Secretary of Agriculture in his last report says: “Attention has been given to the possibilities of drainage in the delta-region of the lower Mississippi Valley. The completeness of the levee system is now rendering safe the expenditure of large sums for the improvement of the low, flat lands formerly subject to overflow by the Mississippi floods. The problem of the reclamation of swamp tide-lands along the Atlantic coast has received special attention during the last year. The Everglades of Florida, Dismal Swamp in Virginia, the Kankakee Valley in Indiana and the Red River Valley in North Dakota have each been subject of survey and study.”

The map here given shows the principal areas of swamp-lands in the United States.