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Good For Kids
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An extensive boardwalk leads from the back of the visitor center, took a walk after a canoe tour for a few hours.
Congaree National Park
Closest available address
100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC 29061
Park is open 24 hours. Visitor center hours vary, but are generally 9-5.
Best time to visit
Fall, Winter, Spring
Congaree National Park is about 27,000 acres, which is small for a national park, but it does have the distinction of containing the largest remaining old-growth bottomland forest in the US. While Congaree does not rank in the same echelon as the great national parks in the West, it is an interesting place to learn about floodplain habitat and to see high forest canopy.
Due to poor accessibility and some luck, 11,000 acres of forest in what is now the national park remained uncut up to the 1960s when the owners considered logging the area. Some local citizens took action and to due to their hard work and dedication, the US government purchased 15,000 acres in the mid-1970s to protect as a national monument. The monument became a park in 2003, and its boundaries were expanded. Additional lands have since been purchased.
The main visitor center has a small museum and 12 minute overview film. The museum displays were a bit skimpy, but included information on the area’s history, tree biology and conservation efforts. The orientation film was dated and discussed trees and river bottom forest habitat. Much of the park is designated wilderness so hiking and canoeing are the best ways to see it. If you have more time, a free ranger-led canoe tour provides a different perspective on the swampy nature of the area. There is a separate review of the canoe tour. As for hiking, the main trail is a 2-3 mile boardwalk loop that begins at the back door of the visitor center. This easy trail will work well for most people. It includes 20 marked stops, and an interpretive guide is available at the visitor center. If you want to go further, there is a .7 mile dirt extension to Wise Lake and another 2.5 miles will get you to the Congaree River. Walking out to Wise Lake and then heading back to the boardwalk on the Sims Trail and checking out Weston Lake made for a nice walk. While not worth a special trip, Congaree was interesting enough to spend some time here when in the area, especially for those into nature and the outdoors. If you are planning a visit, be aware that bugs can be an issue in summer.
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