Janeen, a young girl living in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp near the small city of Waycross, helps park ranger Jim when his foot is caught in a poachers' trap and learns to trust him. Her home is a swamp cabin which she shares with a middle-aged African American whom she calls Pa. When she tells him about meeting ranger Jim, Pa reveals details about her past — his own name is Nat and several years ago he lived with and assisted an old doctor who saved his life. Doc had an abortion clinic, but also delivered unwanted babies and sold them to agents of Arab sheiks as sex slaves. Janeen was one of such babies, and lived with Doc and Nat until she was about six, when Doc decided she could be sold for a high price, but the two slavers who arrived for her refused to pay, killed Doc, and took Janeen. Nat, who suspected that Doc intended to sell her, hid nearby, used a hatchet to kill the slavers and, afraid of the law, retreated with Janeen to the swamp.
As Janeen says goodbye to Pa/Nat and goes to meet Jim, escaped convict Carol Martin and her boyfriend Steve arrive at the cabin and kill Nat with the last bullet in their shotgun. Hearing the shot, Janeen turns back and, as she enters and sees Nat's body, is taken prisoner by the couple who force her to lead them out of the swamp. Meanwhile, after waiting for Janeen's return, ranger Jim returns to Waycross where is informed by county sheriff Ben that Carol's boyfriend broke her out of the women's prison farm and, during the break, she fatally shot a guard. Carol's parents, Gifford and Ella, also arrive in the city with plans to aid Carol, hiring disreputable locals Denton Cole, Hank and Jesse as guides. Learning about the Martins' plan, Jim and Ben set out in a swamp airboat to explore the area. At the same time, as Janeen is prodded through the swamp by the fugitive couple, her anger at Nat's murder and realization that the newcomers are at a loss in the watery wilderness, leads her to guide them towards a quicksand pit and, as Steve is sucked in, Carol runs and falls into alligator infested waters.
Carol's final screams are heard by her father and his three guides who arrive there at the same time. Spotting Janeen and shouting that she caused his daughter's death, Gifford Martin shoots at her and, as Jim and Ben hear the shot and head toward him, runs into dense growth, while engaging in a shootout with Ben. Wounded by Ben, he falls into a nest of venomous snakes. Janeen, who fell to the ground after Martin's shot, was stunned by the impact, but not wounded. She boards the airboat along with Jim, Ben, Denton, Hank and Jesse, as they take Martin's body to his wife.
As Ella Martin cries out her grief upon seeing Gifford's bloodied corpse, Denton Cole tells her that Carol is also dead, "the swamp girl, there, fed her to a big gator". As Ella shouts, "I'll kill you", she hears the swamp girl addressed as Janeen, her own mother's name, and ruefully says that "my own daughter comes back to kill my husband and my daughter". She explains that Janeen's father died in the war and that her own father wanted to kill her for bringing shame upon the family. Her only hope lay with the old Doc who ran the abortion clinic and was known to arrange adoptions with good families. She asks Janeen to come live with her as her only remaining family, but Janeen tells her, "I'm going home" and returns to the swamp, with the possibility that she may decide to rejoin civilization in the future.
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