June 12, 2011

6/11/11 – Congaree NP

We stayed at a really lousy RV park near Columbia, SC, to visit Congaree National Forest.  Never heard of it?  Well, we hadn’t either—at least not until I read about it in my National Park book.  It's fairly new, just getting NP status in 2003.

We watched the movie at the Visitors Center.  The park was a successful rescue effort to save the largest contiguous area of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the US.  There are lots of different kinds of trees in the 26,000 acre forest, including what they call “national champion trees”.  It’s not a swamp like we’ve seen in other places, but rather a floodplain wetland system of the Congaree River.   It floods an average of 10 times a year.   
We took the self-guided Boardwalk trail, a 2½ mile walk that takes you in a square loop back to the Visitors Center.  You go out to Weston Lake on the Low Boardwalk.  The return is on the Elevated Boardwalk which is 6’ above the forest floorf.  There were pictures in the Visitors Center taken during a flood when only the top railings were above water!  It was sunny and in the 90's, but much cooler under the tree canopy.  

We didn’t see any champion trees—giants for its species—on this trail, but there were bald cypress, loblolly pine, sweetgum, tupelo, holly, elm, several kinds of oaks   (there must be dozens of different oak tree species in the south; who knew???) plus palmettos and  
persimmons and pawpaws.  
George had never heard of pawpaws, but I remembered the line from the song from when I was a kid.  (Pickin’ up pawpaws, put ‘em in a basket, Pickin’ up pawpaws…”)  Now I can’t get the stupid thing out of my head!  As usual, it's only a little bit and not the whole song...
At the lake, we stood on the observation platform and watched turtles in the water for a while. 

When we left, we promised one of the rangers we’d tell other people about their park.  They're new and don't get a lot of visitors.  So now I have!!

Link to Congaree pics 

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