Thursday, March 20, 2008

Congaree National Park

The highlight of the Congaree River Blue Trail is the Congaree National Park, located 20-miles downstream of Columbia on river left. It was designated South Carolina’s first national park in 2003. Originally founded as the Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976, the park is home to more than 15,000 acres of wilderness and covers more than 22,200 acres total. Paddlers and hikers alike can enjoy the network of 20 miles of hiking trails within the park and take advantage of opportunities to camp, fish, watch birds, and study nature. Guided walks and canoe trips are offered free of charge. Learn about special events and program.

The park protects the largest contiguous area of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States. This unique and increasingly rare forest ecosystem depends on the health of the Congaree River for providing periodic seasonal flooding.

The Harry Hampton Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except December 25. During daylight savings time, the visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. An official park map and guide, a self-guided boardwalk brochure, species lists, and camping and fishing regulations are all available
online or at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center.

Backcountry camping in Congaree National Park is a great way to experience the wilderness. Free camping permits (issued for up to 14 days) must be obtained in advance. Campsites must be at least 100 feet away from backcountry trails, rivers, and streams. To protect the wilderness, campfires are not allowed in the backcountry, so cooking must be with a camp stove only. Full camping regulations (including “leave no trace” principles) and permit applications are available online or at the Congaree Visitor Center. Camping is primitive, with no designated camp pads or additional amenities.

No comments: