Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Congaree National Park

On our way from Charleston back to Greenville we had time for one more stop. As Columbia is almost exactly halfway we chose Congaree National Park as our stopping point; less than a 30 minute drive from the capital of South Carolina, this 26,546-acre National Park preserves the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States. Due to intermittent flooding the area was not logged in the first half of the twentieth century when the surrounding area was cut, and after a campaign by the Sierra Club and local activists Congaree Swamp National Monument was established in 1976. Later designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1983,the park lost several National Champion trees when Hurricane Hugo hit in September of 1989. However the area retained its significance as an important area for birds (designated Globally Important Bird Area in July 2001) and in 2003 the National Monument became the nation's 57th National Park.

Bald cypress and water tupelo along Cedar Creek: source here
As we approached the skies gradually darkened, and by the time we reached the Visitors Center it was raining buckets. We had hoped to walk the 2.4 mile Elevated Boardwalk, which winds through a diverse old-growth forest. Passing through a cypress/tupelo stand and ending at Weston Lake (an old channel of the Congaree River), I could easily imagine the Ivory Billed Woodpecker still living in these woods. But it was not meant to be, as the rain only came down harder during our dash from the car to the Visitor Center.

Harry Hampton, one of the first champions of Congaree, next to a bald cypress, source here
The trees growing in this floodplain forest are some of the tallest in the Eastern U.S., forming one of the highest temperate deciduous forest canopies remaining in the world. The Congaree River flows right through the park, and about 57% of it is designated wilderness area. From the exhibits we only got a slight feel for the immense forest just outside, although they provided a good picture of the history of the area and the reasons the forest managed to escape logging. We helped Lauris start the Junior Ranger activity book while Mikus stretched his legs, and before we knew it we were sprinting back to the car, only stopping once for a single photo to prove our visit wasn’t just a dream.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Liene, So nice to meet you. We love the Greenville area --and those waterfalls and that park near the middle of town..

    We make a trip to Ocean Isle Beach, NC once or twice a year --and always stay in Simpsonville.. That's how we found Cedar Falls... And you are right--we've seen quite a few waterfalls in South Caroline, North Carolina and GA.

    Have you all been over to the Clayton, GA area to see Tallulah Gorge? If not, you need to go there sometime. It's about a 2 hour drive from you I think.. It is awesome. I have done several blogs from Tallulah.

    We have not been to Congaree National Park --but would love it. I'm a birder --so I'd love going there...

    Please come back to my blog and I'll return to yours.


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