Find Your Park in South Carolina
- April 06, 2016 |
Throughout 2016, we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park System by exploring the history of the parks, offering ideas about how to Find Your Park in the southeast, as well as tips to help you make the most of your park adventure.
An easy way to explore the park system is to head over to FindYourPark.com, select the state where you plan to explore, and the site will give you a variety of options from which to choose. You may also filter your search by selecting Family Friendly or Virtual Experience. Further down the page, you can narrow down your search by entering your zip code.
One of our favorite parks in South Carolina is located near Columbia, but the park feels a world away from city life. Less than 30 minutes southeast of the capital city, this national park offers incredible biodiversity. The National Park Service shares, “The Congaree National Park has the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees.”
There’s ample opportunity to enjoy the natural wonders of Congaree National Park on foot or on water. With 2.4 miles of boardwalk and over 25 miles of hiking trails, there are many ways to explore the Congaree Wilderness. Ranger and volunteer-guided programs are also led on Saturdays year-round.
The Boardwalk Loop Trail provides access to Weston Lake and other trails that wind through the Congaree floodplain. At 2.4 miles long, it’s an ideal introduction to Congaree and is one of the most family-friendly trails in the park. Beginning on the bluffs and leading through the dense floodplain forest, this round-trip trail is a low-impact adventure into the stunning wetlands. The elevated portion of the loop reveals an aerial view of the forest floor, showing off a unique mixture of trees.
Another marked trail invites you to explore Cedar Creek by canoe or kayak. You can bring your own non-motorized boat or rent one nearby in Columbia. Be sure to check in with the park staff about current water levels and conditions since low water or flooding is a possibility.
Avid outdoorsman, Mark Yeatts, has spent many weekends over the past 10 years enjoying the Congaree River from his kayak. “The land along the Congaree River has an impressive variety of trees. You’ll find holly, tupelo, sycamore, and cedar trees. The Congaree National Park also has the tallest loblolly pines in the state. Fallen trees can be an issue at times, but the park rangers take excellent care of the area,” says Mark.
“Birding there is fantastic,” he continues. “The Pileated Woodpeckers that live along the river are huge and sound like they’re taking a sledgehammer to a tree. Recently, I saw one that I’d guess was 1-foot tall with over a 2-foot wingspan. I’ve spotted many Herons and Egrets along the banks of the Congaree. Osprey dive right into the creek when they’re fishing. King Fishers are super quick and nimble fisherman, too. They’re impressive to watch,” Mark marvels. [Take a peek at our spring birding tips HERE.]
“The butterfly migration in the park is impressive, but one of my favorite annual events is the synchronic fireflies in the summer,” Mark says. “Similar to the big firefly event in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, the fireflies flash in unison. It’s like nature’s Broadway show! This rare event happens only in a few places in the world, and it occurs over the course of about 2 weeks each year.” For more information about the synchronic fireflies, click HERE.
“Remember to keep your eyes peeled for snakes in the brambles and creeks along the Congaree. I’ve never had an issue with them, but it’s always wise to be aware,” Mark advises.
Get started planning your visit to the Congaree National Park, any of the 47 South Carolina State Parks, and the seven National Park properties in South Carolina and become the “Ultimate Outsider” by clicking HERE.