Congaree National Park is located in the southern part of central South Carolina in the eastern United States. The park covers an area of 41.1 square miles (106.3 sq km).
Congaree is recognized for its outstanding biodiversity as well as being the largest collection of bottomland hardwood forests throughout the entire United States. The trees represent some of the tallest trees on the eastern side of the country. This forest creates one of the highest canopies of temperate deciduous forest in the world.
The park is renowned for its “champion trees” featuring the tallest representations for 15 different species. The leading champion trees include:
- 167-foot (51 m) 361-point loblolly pine
- 157-foot (48 m) 384-point sweetgum
- 154-foot (47 m) 465 cherry bark oak
- 135-foot (41 m) 354-point American elm
- 133-foot (41 m) 356-point swamp chestnut oak
- 131-foot (40 m) 371-point over cup oak
- 127-foot (39 m) 219-point common persimmon
Along with the spectacular forest, the park is home to an array of wildlife species that also draws visitors with hopes of sightings. Popular animal species include armadillo, bobcat, coyote, deer, feral dogs, feral pigs, otter, raccoon, and turkey.
The Congaree River is a central part of the park and flows right through this pristine wilderness area. The forest has been recognized as an Important Bird Area as well as an Old Growth Forest.
Historically, the area has been referred to as a swamp, however, it is actually bottomland that can be influenced by pending heavy rains.
One of the main reasons that people explore Congaree National Park is because of the massive Champion Trees which feature some of the best examples from around the world. Hiking through the various trails and boardwalk provides an opportunity to become one with nature standing in awe of the towering trees while listening to the sounds of the serenading birds and flowing waters of the river and creek.
The park is home to the tallest loblolly pine with a height of 169 feet (51.4 m) as well as the largest at 1,483 cubic feet (42 cu m). In addition to the towering champion trees, there are magnificent cypress trees that are over 500 years old.
This is one of the most unique places in the United States and well deservedly a national park.
Hiking Trails of Congaree National Park
Congaree offers some of the most tranquil trees that meander through the bottomland and river valley area.
Boardwalk Loop: This is one of the most popular trails in the park. It is a boardwalk that is elevated walking through the swamp-like environment. It is a loop covering 2.4-miles (3.9 km).
Bluff Trail: This a short trail just over half a mile (1.12 km) allowing a quick and easy exploration of the park environment.
Sims Trail: This is an excellent trail for bird lovers who want a chance to see some of the many species of birds calling Congaree home. The trail travels a distance of 2.4-miles (3.9 km).
Weston Lake Loop Trail: This loop meanders over 4.6 miles (7.4 km). The trail allows views of Weston Lake as well as some of the forested wilderness.
Oakridge Trail: This is a longer trail that travels a distance of 7.5 miles (12.0 km). Much of it is boarded walkways crossing creeks and streams and meandering through the coveted forest area.
King Snake Trail: This is one of the longer trails stretching a distance of 11.1 miles (17.8 km). It meanders through a more remote part of the wilderness area. Wildlife tracks are commonly seen. You can hope for a chance to see deer, bobcat, opossum, or raccoon.
Cedar Creek Canoe Trail: This is a 20-mile (32 km) trail for canoeing along Cedar Creek. This is an opportunity to be more active while engaging the splendor of the forest from atop the creek as you make your way in between the banks of the creek.
- Champion Trees
- Congaree River
- Loblolly Pine
- All Trails, Best Trails in Congaree National Park, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/south-carolina/congaree-national-park, retrieved June 2020.
- Audubon, Congaree National Park, https://www.audubon.org/climate/national-parks/congaree-national-park, retrieved June 2020.
- Britannica, Congaree National Park, https://www.britannica.com/place/Congaree-National-Park, retrieved June 2020.
- Discover South Carolina, Congaree National Park, https://discoversouthcarolina.com/products/1482, retrieved June 2020.
- National Geographic, See the Largest Expanse of Old-Growth Hardwoods in the US, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/congaree-national-park/, retrieved June 2020.
- National Park Service, Congaree, https://www.nps.gov/cong/index.htm, retrieved June 2020.