Congaree National Park
Redwood of the East.
Congaree National Park is the largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States. A bottomland hardwood forest is a type of deciduous hardwood forest found in broad lowland floodplains along large lakes and rivers in the United States. It is occasionally referred to as an overflow swamp because it floods in the wet seasons. Although the trees cannot survive continuous flooding, they develop traits to survive seasonal submergence in water. Historically found along the Mississipi River and throughout the Gulf Coast, foresting and farming has greatly reduced the acreage of land covered by these forests. Congaree River, Wateree River and Cedar Creek all flow through portions of the park.
Open / Close / Reopening Status of Congaree National Park due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Congaree National Park was closed to all entry on April 2, 2020. They also canceled the 2020 Fireflies Festival, which was scheduled for May 11-24, 2020. The park was unable to engage in necessary preparations in March and April, and there are concerns about the ability to adhere to social distancing when more than 12,000 visitors normally attend annually.
Congaree was closed in a gradual rollout of restrictions. They closed the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and all programs in mid-March. They also closed the Longleaf campground and Bluff campgrounds shortly thereafter in the same announcement. In late March, additional restrictions were put in place to close some trails.
Last Updated: May 2, 2020
People have been using Congaree for over 13,000 years, and water has left an enduring mark on the area as much as each human. The park protects the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. Resource extraction on the Congaree River was due to cypress logging from 1898 to 1914, when the Beidler family ceased operation of the Santee River Cypress Logging Company, although they maintained ownership of the area.
The move for the park to be established began in the 1950s and 1960s, with the Beidler Forest Preservation Association in 1961. A 1963 study by the National Park Service, a result of the group’s advocacy, reported favorably towards the creation of a national monument. Congaree Swamp National Monument was not created until 1976, with over one-third of the national monument designated a wilderness area in 1988, and an Important Bird Area in 2001. The area was redesignated Congaree National Park in 2003, with expanded boundaries established. It has also been designated as a globally important bird area and an international biosphere reserve.
The park has the largest concentration of champion trees in the world, and has the tallest known examples of 15 species, including a loblolly pine, a sweetgum, cherrybark oak, American elm, and more. The park also has a wide variety of animals, amphibians, and fish.
There is no fee to enter the park.
It is located in the middle of South Carolina about thirty minutes from Columbia, the state capital.
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Redwood of the East
Congaree National Park has earned its nickname of Redwood of the East due in part to the fact it contains one of the largest groupings of champion trees in the nation. A champion tree is the largest known living specimen of a tree species located in the continental United States. The list has been maintained by American Forests since 1940. There are 15 champions in Congaree National Park.
A Yahoo Travel article once called Congaree one of the five worst national parks due to the high concentration of mosquitos in the summer, four species of venomous snakes, and the highlight of the park as a 2.4 mile boardwalk through the “swamp”. But for those that aren’t fascinated by the large trees and miss the firefly display, there’s still a wonderful area for canoeing, camping and hiking – particularly in the spring and early summer when insects are not a problem and the heat of the summer hasn’t yet set in to South Carolina. Or the fall to enjoy the colorful leaves. It’s also an amazing place for birding, with numerous wading birds and eight common varieties of woodpeckers.
Recent Bird Sightings
Roundtrip Flights to Columbia, SC:
Congaree National Park Hotels
Congaree Canoe Trail
Congaree Boardwalk Loop
Congaree Champion Trees
Highway 601 Bridge Landing
South Cedar Creek Canoe Launch
Bannister Bridge Canoe Launch
Why is Congaree a National Park?
Is Congaree worth visiting?
Best Time to Visit
Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve