Location: Hopkins, South Carolina
Webpage: National Park
General Description: The Congaree National Park is the largest contiguous tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forests remaining in the southeast US. The National Park covers 26,546 acres is located at the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers and has the honor of being one of the highest temperate deciduous tree canopies in the world. It is the home of many state and national champion trees including loblolly pine and bald cypress. It is designated as a Wilderness Area, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Globally Important Bird Area and a National Natural Landmark. It boasts a 20 mile marked canoe trail, over 20 miles of hiking trails, and primitive camping. The most popular feature is a 2.4 mile boardwalk loop that takes visitors through the bottomlands from the Harry Hampton’s Visitor Center to Weston Lake, an old ox-bow lake.
1) The Visitor Center is very nice with displays about the upland and bottomland ecosystems that can be visited along with a very good film about the history of the National Park.
2) Even though the Park covers over 26,000 acres, unless you have a canoe you can only see a small fraction of the Park around the Visitor Center. They do have some Park Ranger led canoe trips, but you have to register for them far in advance and they are only a few times a month. The 2.4 mile boardwalk was amazing even though a section was closed due to ice storm damage. Due to budget restrictions and federal delays, the volunteer at the Visitor Center had no idea when the repairs would be completed.
3) We got some good pictures of the palliated woodpeckers we saw along the trail and some great pictures of Weston Lake.
4) For anyone who loves big trees in an undisturbed setting will love the Congaree National Park, although unless you bring a canoe, it will only take a few hours to see all you can on foot or by car.