Congaree National Park in South Carolina has the distinction of being the largest intact stretch of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the southeastern United States.
Here the waters from two rivers, the Congaree and Watertree Rivers, come together and sweep through the floodplain leaving behind a revitalized ecosystem. For a national park, Congaree could be considered small and quiet, but it offers visitors all kinds of opportunities to enjoy the wonders of the wilderness.
Congaree National Park’s offers a variety of trails with something for every skill level. Guests can take advantage of the short Boardwalk Trail, decide on a longer River Trail trek to see the Congaree River at the midpoint, or take some other trail to into the backcountry.
Trail information is available on their website to help you decide which trail is right for you and what equipment you need before heading out.
Campers looking for a true wilderness experience will find Congree’s backcountry provides the outdoor adventure they’re looking for. The Park’s backcountry can be reached by foot, canoe, or kayak, but camping there requires a permit which is available at no cost at the Longleaf Campground.
The backcountry does not have designated campsites, so campers may choose any suitable site as long as they are 100 feet away from Cedar Creek, Tom’s Creek, Bates Old River, and Wise Lake. More information and applicable rules on camping at Congree are available on their website.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Following Cedar Creek via canoe or kayak carries visitors through primeval old-growth forest where they’ll see some of the tallest trees in the southeastern United States. Along the way, there’s opportunities to see various types of wildlife like river otters, deer, turtles, wading birds, and even an occasional alligator! If you don’t own gear, it can be rented in the nearby city of Columbia.
To take full advantage of your visit, the park’s volunteer naturalists offer Natural Discovery Walks which teach about the plant and animal life of the Congaree River floodplain. These walks start at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and follow the boardwalk which is fully accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
Photo credits: 58NationalParks