After a long hiatus while we rejoined the working world, Herrwego finally made it to a new national park and is excited to share its latest adventure with you!
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Our trip to Congaree was one of luck; we were invited to spend a week at the beach in North Carolina and decided to stop at Congaree National Park as it wasn’t very far out of our path.
Congaree is one of the newer national parks, only becoming a park in 2003, and for that reason its lesser known. Being a small park , Congaree seemed to have both advantages and disadvantages. The park was free to enter and uncrowded. However, the visitor center was small, the campsites are scarce, and the many ranger led tours aren’t well publicized.
The one ranger led tour that we were interested in is the canoe trip through the park. You can sign up online, but in the summer months the trips sell out and we weren’t able to. It didn’t matter much, because the day of our visit the canoe trips were cancelled due to thunderstorms in the forecast.
If you don’t see the park by water, you can still see it by land. Congaree National Park, once Congaree Swamp National Monument, is a a marshy land whose ecosystem is dependent on flood waters and mud. I would highly recommend the 2.5 mile Boardwalk Trail. This loop starts and ends at the visitor center and passes by most of the park’s most stunning vegetation; cypress trees, loblolly pines, and tupelos trees. During our visit, a part of the boardwalk was closed due to a fire but the parts we did walk were great. A self guided tour, picked up from the visitor center, explains both the ecology and history of the park.
Wanting a longer hike, Jon and I left the boardwalk trail to join the Weston Lake Loop (4.4 miles) and the even longer Oakridge Trail (6.6 miles). The draw of the Weston Lake Loop is a chance to see river otters (which we didn’t) and the Oakridge Trail ventures into an old growth forest. While providing a more challenging hike due to the length, the trails are flat and fairly easy. However, the terrain doesn’t vary much leaving them feeling repetitive and long. The walk almost felt like a scene from the Blair Witch Project and was very different than a walk through the forests in the mid-atlantic. The trail was often crossed by large golden silk orb weave spiders which elicited squeals from me.
By the end of our hike we were tired and hungry, (bring sandwiches because the park doesn’t have a cafe), so we skipped the 18 minute video about the park in the visitor center.
Other Suggestions Park Itineraries
- If you can’t sign up for a canoe tour, you can kayak or canoe by yourself. The canoe trail through the park is part of the Cedar Creek Bluetrail. The park website is located here.
- Backcountry camping is free in Congaree, so take your time hiking the 10 mile River Trail over 2 days.