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Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park is an approximately 25,000-acre park in Richland County, South Carolina that preserves the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States.  The park was initially established in 1976 as Congaree Swamp National Monument.  Approximately 15,000 acres of the park was designated as a wilderness area in 1988.  Congress redesignated the park as a National Park in 2003.

Contact Information:

Congaree National Park
100 National Park Road
Hopkins, SC 29061-9118

Phone: 803-776-4396

Fax: 803-783-4241

Map:

Hiking:

There are more than 25 miles of hiking trails in the park and these trails provide the best way to experience the swampy environment.  From short handicapped-accessible boardwalk trails to long-distance treks through the wilderness, Congaree National Park has something for every level of hiker.

The park service is in the process of re-marking with trails with number blazes instead of color blazes.  I list the number for each trail as well as the former color as many of the old blazes remain and probably will for some time.

Elevated Boardwalk:

Length: 1.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Blaze: None

The elevated boardwalk makes a loop with the Low Boardwalk Trail.  It was damaged in an ice storm during the winter of 2013-2014 and is currently closed.

Low Boardwalk:

Length: 1.1 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Blaze: None

The low boardwalk trail runs through swampy flat areas and makes a loop with either Sims Trail or Elevated Boardwalk.

Oakridge Trail:

Length: 6.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: #4 (formerly red)

Oakridge Trail begins at the southeastern corner of Weston Lake Loop Trail and forms a bigger loop running south of Cedar Creek.  Along the way, the trail passes a number of guts, small creeks that move floodwaters into and out of the area.  Near the end of the trail, River Trail splits off to the left.  Shortly past this intersection, the trail passes Wise Lake and terminates at the southwestern corner of Weston Lake Loop Trail.

River Trail:

Length: 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: #5 (formerly white)

River Trail splits off from Oakridge Trail just southwest of Wise Lake.  It runs for just under a mile and a half and then splits to form 3.5-mile loop that skirts the Congaree River for about a mile.  When the river level is low, there is a large sandbar that you can hike out to for views of the river.

Weston Lake Loop Trail:

Length: 4.4
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: #3 (formerly yellow)

Weston Lake Loop Trail begins at the southern terminus of the Elevated Boardwalk at Weston Lake and runs along the north shore of the lake.  It then heads south and runs along north shore of Cedar Creek and ends at the southwestern corner of the Low Boardwalk.

Wildlife:

Champion Trees:

Congaree National Park is home to numerous South Carolina and National champion trees.  Most are off trail and very difficult to find, so the best way to see them is to join a ranger for a Big Tree Walk. 

I managed to find this one with the use of GPS.  It's the SC state champion cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda) and it's located about 500 feet off River Trail (33.80751,-80.83815).

The official circumference is 282 inches, but we measured it at 304 inches (25 feet, 4 inches).

Blog Entries:

External Links:

National Park Service website: http://www.nps.gov/cong/index.htm

Clemson University SC Champion Trees database: http://www.clemson.edu/public/champtree/south_carolina_big_trees.html

Photos:

Videos:



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