CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK
Near Columbia, SC
Congaree National Park
Photo Courtesy: Sean Rayford for Experience Columbia SC
Preserve and Protect
Don’t let the word floodplain scare you. With more than 25 miles of hiking trails and 2.4 miles of boardwalk, visitors can find plenty of ways to stay dry while discovering this magnificent area, filled with bottomland hardwood forest. By its very nature, a floodplain is covered by water periodically, as rivers rise and spread, but unlike a swamp, there is plenty of dry land for much of the year.
Congaree National Park is an awesome site, with one of the tallest temperate deciduous forests in the world, which simply means they go through four seasons, changing colors and dropping leaves, and surviving the temperature changes in these latitudes. Sadly, there aren’t many forests like this left, which is why it’s thrilling to see giant trees and meandering creeks, from a boardwalk, hiking trail or in a kayak or canoe. This old-growth forest contains one of the world’s largest concentrations of champion trees, including loblolly pines, sweetgums, overcup oak, cherrybark oak, American elm, swamp chestnut oak, and a common persimmon tree.
Living creatures love the park as well, and have benefited from it since the earliest Native Americans lived here, enjoying the abundant fish and game. Some say Hernando DeSoto visited in the spring of 1540. Today, if you are very lucky, you may see a feral pig, bobcat, armadillo, turkey, otter, feral dog or coyote. Far more likely are sightings of turtles and snakes, alligators and fish.
WOW Factor: To see trees that are among the oldest and largest in the world is a breathtaking experience. These gentle giants have watched the generations come and go, the environment change and the world keep spinning. There is simply nothing like it, anywhere.
Hint: You’ll find facilities, as well as very knowledgeable rangers; take advantage of their expertise. If you want a water view, take a guided tour from Adventure Carolina. You’ll learn so much and enjoy the ride along Cedar Creek with those who know their stuff. Visit the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Bring your leashed dog, if you like, but leave the bikes at home. Consider buying a new book, Congaree National Park, by John E. Cely, retired wildlife biologist and naturalist who’s spent 40+ years exploring the park. The photography (old and new) is stunning. Find the book at Barnes and Noble, or through ArcadiaPublishing.com .
Learn more: www.nps.gov/cong
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