Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve

Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve is located on the south side of the Congaree River across from Congaree National Park. The land was preserved by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Heritage Trust Program. There are a few miles of trails including one that goes down to the Congaree River, an observation deck to view north into the park, and a pavilion.

We made our visit to Congaree Bluffs in the late morning on a beautiful and sunny Monday after our weekend in Congaree National Park. It is located about a thirty minute drive from the visitor center of the park, although it would be much shorter as the crow flies. Since much of Congaree was flooded and the trails inaccessible, we were hopeful that we could get a fresh perspective on the park and enjoy the view over the tree tops.

There are two small parking lots, the first at a trailhead within the heritage preserve and the second at the end of the road providing easy access to both the observation deck and the trail to the river. We made the walk past the gate to the observation deck first.

The observation deck is located past the picnic pavilion and building. We were hopeful that it would provide a magnificent view of the river and the park. However, we were a bit disappointed with it. Although we could see the tops of the trees in the park, the Congaree River was hidden from view by the trees on the south side of the river. The view of the park was also obscured by two nearby trees on either side of the observation deck and the tree growth in front of the observation deck. The result was that it really wasn’t the sweeping, panoramic view of the park that we had hoped to achieve.

After returning to our car, we made the walk along the trail down to the Congaree River. The trail briefly follows a ravine between the bluff and the flood plain. It was dry when we went but this could be muddy after rain. We heard a number of songbirds on our trip down and enjoyed a short walk around the area. The trail was dry but the water had clearly overflowed this area at some point as there was water in the swampy area to the south as we walked around at river level.

The return trip is a bit of an uphill hike and we paused a few different times to rest. It is fairly short though and did not compare to the trouble that we had at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains last year.

Congaree Bluffs is definitely a place to bring and apply insect repellent, as even in April there were mosquitoes.

If you are only in South Carolina for a few days, you can probably safely skip the heritage preserve in favor of more time in the park. However, if you find that the park is flooded like we did, this will give you a few more miles of trails for hiking and exploration.