Congaree is More Than Just a Walk in the Park

May 11, 2021

Congaree National Park, located in the Capital City/Lake Murray Country region is a national jewel. It’s best known for its large collection of old growth, bottomland hardwood trees and more than 80 tree species. Obviously, visitors come here to hike among the trees and explore. But what some folks may not know is that it sits in a floodplain fed by the Congaree and Wateree Rivers offering more than just a walk in the park.

One of the best ways to enjoy Congaree National Park is to take a paddling trip along Cedar Creek. This waterway is 15 miles and can be taken on a self-guided or ranger lead tour. It’s a rare opportunity to paddle through a swamp like ecosystem. The two rivers that feed the wetland make it a perfect place to explore via the water. The water will get your attention but the trees are the real stunner. The average tree height is over 100 feet. Two outfitters host kayaking and canoe trips in the park…Carolina Outdoor Adventures and Palmetto Outdoors.

Witnessing wildlife…There is so much wildlife to spy on including red tail deer, barred owls, river otter, turtles, birds and even an occasional alligator. Congaree National Park is also one of a handful of locations in North America where visitors can experience synchronized fireflies. Annually, in mid-May, the awesome synchronized fireflies show off. It’s an amazing site and a mystery of nature and unlike anything you’ve ever seen! In order to protect the firefly habitat and provide a safe experience for visitors, the park began using a lottery system this year and charging a fee for the event.

Congaree National Park has also been named one of America’s most pet friendly national parks. The boardwalks and trails and campgrounds on Congaree are a great spot for pets. The comfortable 2.6 mile Boardwalk Loop Trail is the park’s easy trail and is a great place to walk your pet.

Want to stay the night? Tent camping is the only option for an overnight stay in the park. There are two campground options, front country camping in the Longleaf Campground and backcountry camping in the Bluff Campground. The best spot to eat at Congaree is at your campsite…so don’t forget your marshmallows for smore’s!

The park is FREE to enter and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the visitor center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 AM to 5 PM. Restrooms and trail guides are available 24/7 at the visitor center breezeway.

It is a half an hour from downtown Columbia, South Carolina and can easily be visited as a day or weekend trip.