A short 20-minute drive east of Columbia, SC, is Congaree National Park, a sprawling 26,546-acre park of primitive forest and flood plain.
Before you begin your exploration, stop at the visitor’s center where helpful Park Rangers and volunteers will help you outline the best trails to fit your timeframe and physical ability, and alert you of any specific animal sightings. The center also serves as a museum incorporating the area’s history and natural attributes.
The most popular trail is the 2.4 mile boardwalk that begins and ends at the center. At different points along this trail, other trails branch off.
The park is known for its state and national champion trees — largest of their species — and to get to them, you will have to leave the boardwalk. However, there is plenty to see along this walkway including cypress swamps and great stands of trees; birds, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums; snakes, lizards and turtles; and lots of insects including spiders and mosquitos — remember the bug repellent.
Congress established Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976. On June 30, 1983 Congaree Swamp National Monument was designated an International Biosphere Reserve. In July of 2001 it was designated a Globally Important Bird Area, and on November 10, 2003 it was designated as the nation’s 57th National Park.
When you return from your hike, make sure and stop back at the visitor’s center if you have any questions about what you saw on your hike. Park Rangers have a wealth of knowledge and photographs to help you identify what snake, lizard, spider or other creature you might have seen as you explored the park.
The park is located at 100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC. For more information call (803) 776-4396 or check the website at www.nps.gov/cong.