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by Dave ‘Coonbottom” O’Kane

“I’m not sure what that is, but I want one,” I said to myself many years ago when I stumbled across photos of swamp buggies for the first time while surfing the internet, looking at pictures of mud bogs in South Florida.

I had never seen such an unusual contraption before. It was half boat, half tractor, and it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen!

To me, mud bogging was simply throwing a big block and 44s on an old Scottsdale or F150 and flooring it. You just had to hope neither you nor your passenger flew out.

But swamp buggies were different. They were set up for riding around and enjoying the view. You didn’t have to worry about the cooler flipping out of the back of the truck or having your head slam against the top of the cab.

The idea of loading up a bunch of friends, turning up the radio and cruising through a swamp was like a light bulb going off in my head. These people had it figured out! They had come up with a mobile deer stand, a place to clean a hog and a party barge all rolled into one.

Little did I realize at the time how big the swamp buggy world was and how long it had been around.

As the story goes, a fellow named Ed Frank from Naples, Florida is credited with creating the first swamp buggy shortly after World War I, using a Model T as his platform. Although a far cry from the all-custom tube swamp buggies of today, it was a beginning, and hunters quickly began to take it and run. On the other side of the state, as South Florida’s population expanded, developers headed west into the Everglades looking for usable land.

No vehicles were built that could handle the swampy terrain. Ingenuity and necessity led copy cats of the Model T swamp buggy to spring forth. Ed’s invention had paved the way for other swamp explorers. Using the new contraptions, developers could crawl and float through the watery marshes, exploring miles of swamps.

As developers and explorers made their way around the Everglades, they learned what Native Americans had known all along – the area was full of wildlife and game. Soon swamp buggies were being adapted for hunting.

More and more hunters began building their own, often using whatever parts were available and learning what worked best through trial and error. Airplane tires, farm equipment and even old drums (converted into tires) were all put to the test. As the buggies grew in popularity, they evolved.

At the beginning of each hunting season, hunters would take their buggies out for a test and tune. Soon hunters began racing their buggies against one another. Today, the racing buggies bear very little resemblance to their ancestors. Yet, the heart of the swamp buggy remains with its roots – hunting across the swamps of South Florida.

As mud bogging has become more and more popular over the past decade, so have swamp buggies. Now many are built specifically for bogging.

Swamp buggies have come a long way from the days when a hunter would throw scrap metal together on whatever frame he could find. Beefier parts, advanced suspension technology and professional builders have all led to swamp buggies becoming highly-respected off-road machines. Some shops (such as Swamp Buggies of Florida in Labelle, Fla.), have made a full-time business out of fabricating custom-built buggies.

As the popularity of mud bogging has spread, so has the legacy of swamp buggies. No longer churning only through the Glades, they are now regularly seen hundreds of miles from their natural homes and have proven to be a natural fit in the deep mud holes of North Florida and South Georgia.

Whether hunting hogs across the endless miles of the South Florida swamp, trying to cross a 6-foot deep bounty hole or serving as a perfect place to carry several coolers (maybe even a dance pole) and all your friends, swamp buggies have proven themselves to be useful and tough off-road vehicles.

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Feb. 3–5 – Triple Canopy Ranch Florida Cracker Fest

Triple Canopy Ranch in Lake Wales will host thousands of mudders at TCR’s “3rd Annual Florida Cracker Fest” and “Open Pit Bogging” all weekend Feb. 3-5. Enjoy a weekend of awesome weather, ideal for camping, riding and muddin’. There will be plenty of action on TCR’s ATV trails and challenging mud pits, including ATV and Truck races competing for $3,000 on the famous “Canopy’s Curse” drag strip. After you’re done playing, wash off in TCR’s drive-through truck wash and ATV wash racks. Friday night, The Archery Shop will host karaoke, along with TCR’s traditional bonfire that will light up the night sky. Top off the weekend at Saturday’s “Party After Dark” with another live performance on the new TCR stage. Contact [email protected] for more information. Gates open Friday at 10 a.m. until Sunday at 4 p.m. Visit the TCR website for more details at www.triplecanopyranch.com. With over 425 acres of the biggest and baddest truck and ATV/UTV pits in the state, TCR has a spot for you! TCR is the most centrally located offroad park in Florida, offering ATV/UTV-only pits, miles of trails, circle track, obstacle course and side-by-side track, shaded camping, designated family camping, clean restrooms, outdoor showers, “Party After Dark” entertainment and various vendors, including on-site parts.

Feb. 10-12 – Mud Muckers Hosts Trucks Gone Wild and Confederate Railroad

The world’s largest off-road family fun park will host Trucks Gone Wild (TGW) and live entertainment by Confederate Railroad during a three-day event on Feb. 10-12 in Bunnell, Florida. See ad on page 65 for details or call Iron Horse Billy at (386) 566-1456 and check www.MudMuckers.com for updates. Don’t forget to bring all your friends and family to enjoy the fun with you. Mud Muckers is a privately-owned tract of about 11,000 acres in north central Florida, about 30 minutes north of Daytona. It is the best of off-road riding for mud trucks, ATV’s and Side-by-Sides, with a 1/8 mile “round pen,” muddy “landing strip,” bottomless mud pit, kiddie ATV pit, the tightest woods trails, deep water, stream crossings, etc. MudMuckers has a Hill-N-Hole course, big mud pit and a play area, as well as primitive campgrounds.

Nov. 12-13 – Hog Waller ATV WEEKEND

Hog Waller Mud Bog will host its ATV Weekend on Nov. 12-13 in Palatka. Hog Waller has 700 acres of trails wide open for ATV/UTVs and guided night rides. Go to: www.HogWallerMudBog.com for details. See ad on page 72.

Feb. 17-19 – Creek Bottom ATV Park 2012 Season-Opening Weekend

Creek Bottom ATV Park in Doles, Ga. will hold its 2012 season-opening weekend event on Feb. 17-19. In addition to the normal mud, water, trails and fun, a Poker Run ($300 pay-out) will be held on Saturday and Bottleneck and his band will entertain those attending Saturday night. Gates open on Friday at noon and close Sunday at 4 p.m, Creek Bottom offers free primitive camping, showers and an ATV wash. For more information, see ad on page 68, call 352-816-3576 or 352-843-8504 and go to www.CreekBottomATVPark.com.

Feb. 24-26 – REDNECK YACHT CLUB SWamp Cabbage Weekend!

Save 50% off a weekend pass (coupon on page 66) to Redneck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda for its huge “Swamp Cabbage Weekend” event Feb. 24-26. The “World’s Most Exciting Off-Road Park” has announced it has “All-New Mud” for the “Open Pit Party Weekend.” RYC features over 800 acres, trail riding, three mud holes, a 500-foot oval mud track, drive-thru buggy/ATV wash, plenty of parking, restrooms and food. For more information, call (941) 505-8465, “Like” Redneck Yacht Club’s Facebook page or visit: http://redneckyachtclubmudpark.com/

(For the rest of this month's scheduled events pick up the current issue of Woods 'n Water Magazine.)

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For more in-depth off-road coverage, pick up this month's issue of Woods 'n Water, click on our forums page http://www.woodsnwater.net/forums for the "Offroad" section and be sure to visit http://www.woodsnwater.net/boggin for awesome video and photos of recent events around the South!