Some national forests hold large animals and wide-spanning views that end up being crowded with visitors. Not Congaree National Park. Like the special community it secures -an ancient alluvial floodplain so deep and thick that it provided safe shelter for servants from nearby plantations as they made their initial steps towards flexibility-the park stands with regal stoicism as it awaits expedition. Whether you’re meandering along the boardwalk or giving yourself a bit more of an obstacle take our expert suggestions and don’t forget some water or the insect repellent!
There are three ways to take in South Carolina’s only nationwide park. The first is to walk the BOARDWALK, a 2.4-mile loop that meanders through stands of enormous bald cypress trees with their distinct “knees,” over creeks that move so gradually they resemble an overload (however, technically, are not) and previous turtles, snakes, alligators, deer, woodpeckers, deer, wild pigs, river otters and even bobcats – a few of which you will see, but a lot of which will be invisibly watching you. Wide, handicapped-accessible and durable, the boardwalk enables exploration without getting unclean, damp or lost – a benefit for the instructions challenged or moms and dads of children.
For a bit of adventure, hop off the boardwalk and hike a section of the SIMS PATH, which runs from just past the Harry Hampton Visitor Center to WESTON LAKE, staying within the borders of the boardwalk the entire time. Difficulty yourself even more and trek into the park’s wilderness, an area of nearly 22,000 acres.
You’ll find about 25 miles of marked routes, but they’re primitive: one of the manner ins which Congaree National Park keeps a pristine environment for all the senses is by restricting power tools, which alter the nature of the park with their sound and smell. For hikers, this indicates that when a substantial tree falls throughout the path, it’s often left there to be climbed over or walked. Fast-growing plants and vines, thanks to the park’s nutrient-rich soil, also tend to spill into courses, necessitating long pants and correct treking boots.
The second is to take to the water: a marked, 6.6-mile canoe and kayak path follows CEDAR CREEK as it weaves through the park’s northwestern sector. It’s a safe, however challenging, course, bursting with both subtle natural wonders – quiet owls, slithery snakes, champion trees – and a bevy of barriers that consist of vines, fallen trees, live trees, more cypress knees and outstretched limbs. It’s quiet, however not, thanks to the consistent hum birds, bugs, frogs and creatures rustling through dry leaves.
You can explore by yourself or take part in regularly-scheduled paddles led by the park’s group of rangers, who come armed with facts, stories, tradition and history. It’s known, for example, that runaway slaves established neighborhoods within this unforgiving landscape, living “free” but remaining close to enslaved family members, who risked their lives to offer food and clothes up until the household might be reunited. Later on, during Prohibition, these deep woods brought in bootleggers, who discovered a simple place to hide their stills and, thanks to the river, transport their moonshine.
Outdoor camping is welcomed (and totally free) in the park, and the riverbank is a wonderful natural camping site, especially if you stumble onto a sandbar large enough for your tent. The four-or-so-mile WESTON LAKE LOOP, for example, leads to a point on Cedar Creek that just happens to be a preferred with river otters. The ten-mile long RIVER TRAIL leads all the way to the Congaree River, a curling ribbon of placid water that forms the park’s more than 25-river-mile long southern border. Along the method, there are sandbars, ancient bluffs and all manner of wildlife. Camping is also permitted in the high-ground area of the park, where an actual campground suggests you can have a fire.
An easier method to catch a glimpse of the Congaree River is to hike the BATES FERRYBOAT PATH, a just-over one miler that opened in 2015 at the far eastern end of the park. The shady path causes the site of BATES FERRYBOAT, which shuttled tourists throughout the river for years.
Nevertheless you pick to experience Congaree National Park, do not forget to search for. The startlingly tall canopy, which alters with the seasons from summer season’s green veil to the sundown tones of fall and, lastly winter’s plain sculpture, is amazing to behold.
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