South Carolina’s Claim to Fame: Congaree National Park

Yah know, we’re pretty lucky here in South Carolina. We are home to a National Park; making us one of only 29 states with this claim to fame. While we aren’t California with NINE of their own National Parks or even Alaska with EIGHT. But here in South Carolina, we are lucky enough to have one very special National Park- Congaree! That’s more than Georgia, or even New York, can say about their states.

Congaree National Park

Honestly, I’ve only visited a few of the 62 total National Parks. Years ago, my family briefly stopped at a couple on a South Dakota road trip. And Lance and I recently spent half-a-day driving through Grand Canyon National Park. But what I can say is, I’m lucky enough to have Congaree National Park less than 30 minutes from my house. Here in Columbia, we have quite the hidden gem down the Congaree River.

So, what makes Congaree National Park so special:
here are the 3 highlights I love most about this park! 

Boardwalk View:
Outdoor adventures and accessibility don’t often go hand in hand, but at Congaree they can! The most popular trail in the park is their Boardwalk Loop, which is wheelchair and stroller accessible and has plenty of benches along the way. At 2.4 miles this stroll is the best introduction to the ecosystem, with no risk of getting your shoes wet. The entire park encompasses nearly 27,000 aces, so this loop is their best welcome mat. From the boardwalk you can feel immersed in the surrounding environment. It’s almost like you’re floating on top of the floodplain.
From this perspective you can really appreciate your tiny presence in this space. 

BIG Trees:
Congaree’s bragging rights include being home to the largest intact old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States (try to say that three times fast). Cut to the chase- we’re talking about BIG trees- an average canopy height of about 100 feet tall. Anyone will feel tiny among these giants. The cypress “knees” emerging from the water is what catches my attention the most. At some spots from the Boardwalk Loop you can spot hundreds of these “knees” poking up from the floodplain. 

Congaree National Park

Glowing Forest:
Lightning bugs, glow worms, or fireflies – whatever you called them growing up- Congaree is famous for them! For about two weeks each year the fireflies synchronize for a flashing spectacle. Picture a dark forest lighting up for a moment, then back to darkness, and then lighting up again- it’s a magical sight! Between mid-May and mid-June visitors can experience this awe-inspiring display of synchronous flashing while the fireflies search for mates. Over 12,000 visitors have been known to attend the 18-day Fireflies Festival. Folks come from across the country to see this evening spectacle of nature.

Congaree National Park

Synchronous Fireflies light up the forest at dusk. (NPS Photo- nsp.gov/cong)

I encourage y’all to give Congaree National Park a visit. There’s no park fee (or even parking fees), so what’s your excuse for not visiting this local gem? Check out Congaree National Park for more details on planning your next visit, and maybe you’ll bump into me on the boardwalk! 

 

 

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