The Swamps of South Carolina: Congaree National Park
Lying in the swamps of South Carolina is a wonderland of old growth trees, kayaking, mosquitoes, and adventure. South Carolina has one member of the 59 National Parks and it is called Congaree; lying just a few hours away from both Charleston and Greenville it is well within reach of most of the East Coast.
Yet most will never see it because it's rarely visited. Don't make that mistake. This park may be small and humid but what it lacks in size and fresh mountain air it makes up for in many other ways that will leave you ready to be planning another trip to the swamps of South Carolina!
Join Seth B our resident National Park chasing photographer for his pics and Mike R's stories from his time in this park to learn about the beauty that is Congaree National Park.
I was surprised we were there honestly. After driving for 90 minutes from Charleston early on a muggy July day we had hit miles of backroad in South Carolina. Then suddenly there was a sign pointing left to "Congaree National Park" and after a few more turns we pulled into the park entrance. It didn't seem like a park entrance because there wasn't a wait, a parking lot, or any rangers. Just a sign. All good in my eyes; maybe Congaree would belong to us today!
A popular activity in Congaree is floating down Cedar Creek via kayak or canoe. For more information on doing a guided tour check out deets HERE.
The campsite was available and peaceful and anyone planning for time in Congaree should leave room for an overnight tent/RV stay and a float down the river.
The hiking trails aren't steep or abundant but they wind and weave you through old growth forests that are often covered in water and seemingly growing up through the water. (More on that in a minute.)
In fact according to the NPS website this park plays host to "the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States."
I remember the first time we turned a corner on the main boardwalk trail and came face to face with these "mini alien trees" as I referred to them.
What were they? Were they okay? Mini trees or perhaps something gone wrong in this forest that no one sees. By this point in the day we had still only run into a park ranger and a few other true "park baggers". If a sight like this was in Utah or California there would be a lineup of people elbowing each other to get their photos.
However we are in sleepy South Carolina and there was hardly a tourist, photographer, or hiker around to probe about these mysterious mini trees.
The answer is knees! I later discovered after connecting with a park ranger after our 5 miles of walking on the boardwalk and other various trails in the main section of the park. The knees of these champion trees grow back out from the ground and provide for some stunning eye candy that will leave you in awe and curious as to why there aren't a few more people around this area to nudge you out of your primetime viewing spot.
Seth B snagged some gnarly red mushroom pics here! I didn't see any of these when I wandered the park but I would advise as to only photograph and view. Leave no trace is always a theme at Hashtag 59 but something tells me if you eat a bright red mushroom in nature things are going to break out in an extremely cumbersome way for you.
With water like this all over the park the NPS actually boasts their own mosquito alert meter at the visitor center. It's also done with a bit of a human touch as the meter readings on the wood sign range from "mild" up to "ruthless" all the way to "war zone." Clever National Park Service, very clever!
We were there in July and honestly the bugs were fine. If you are near the park and planning a visit be prepared but don't not go because it might be a tough time to visit.
Sometimes ya gotta dance in the rain!
Not many are aware this park even exists. It's honestly a great place. It's not flashy nor will you spend weeks wandering here. However it's a beautiful place and will give you just as many adventures as you choose to let your mind be open to.
The swamps of South Carolina and the rivers of the Congaree await you; begin your plans to go see them!
Have you been to Congaree? What was your experience?
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Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Seth B, Mike R, and the Hashtag 59 Team