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Strolling through Congaree National Park in Spring

Our first stop on our spring break trip to South Carolina took us to Congaree National Park. We were all eager to jump in a learn what makes Congaree National Park so special.

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Congaree National Park Facts

  • Holds the largest continuous tract of southern old-growth forest in the United States
  • Spanish Conquistador, Hernando De Soto came through this area in April-May 1540
  • Heavey logging of the old growth forest occurred from late 1800s until 1917
  • Established as a National Monument in 1976 and then a National Park in 2003
  • 250,000 Visitors came to the park in 2023
  • In 2023, it ranked as the 51st most visited National Park out of 63.

Location: 100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061

Update: The tree that we had to climb over during our boardwalk hike in the video was successfully cut down by the NPS rangers a few days later. Facebook post-April 2023 Boardwalk tree removal

As my daughter exclaimed, TREES! Yes, this is a key component of what makes up the park, but the entire ecology of the park is terrible interesting. The park comprises the largest remaining tract of southern old-growth forest in the US. A group of dedicated conservationists worked to save this special place from logging.

Fun Fact: Undoubtedly, one of the main features of Congaree National Park is their Champion trees. Some loblolly pine trees are over 160 feet tall!

The visitor center was well spaced out and includes a small shop, information desk, passport stamp location, and an array of exhibits that help tell the story of the old-growth forest of this National Park.

Congaree Passport Stamps

The stamping location was tucked away to the left of the front door, in a little alcove. It has a nice display and a good collection of accessories for purchase.

There is but one main stamp at this location. However, there is a special ‘Firefly Festival’ stamp that is available for two weeks from mid-May to mid-June.

interior Stamping location inside Congaree National Park Visitor Center
Stamping Location at Congaree NP

Exhibits

The exhibits were spread across the middle of the building and provides information the ecology of this unique forest. Make sure you walk all the way to the back of the building. They have a park video playing on a small portable TV in a back room that provides a nice introduction. I would have missed it, if it wasn’t for my daughter. She was drawn to the TV like a moth to a flame.

Synchronized Firefly Viewing

  • Description: Each year Congaree National Park hosts a firefly festival event to the public that allows for viewing of these magical fireflies. This natural light show occurs when the fireflies search for a mate. The event is very popular and requires a special pass and sells out very quickly.
  • Dates: Usually mid-May to Mid-June. For 2024 offered from May 16-25th
  • Tickets: Check in March for details of when the tickets will be available. For 2024, tickets are available starting 10am EST on April 4th at recreation.gov

There are over ten primary trails in the park, and all can be found on the park trail map. We hiked the Boardwalk trail so check out the details below or check out our Video.

Boardwalk Trail Details

  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: ~45min
  • Location: Visitor Center

While the park has numerous trails and is very large, the most accessible is the Boardwalk Trail. This trail runs directly from the Visitors Center and loops 2.4 miles in a large square loop. Don’t forget to pick up the Self-Guided Boardwalk Tour brochure! There are 20 marked stops along the path that gives you more information on what you are experiencing.

Fun Fact: After the 18th amendment was passed in 1919, moonshiners and bootleggers used the Congaree River and surrounding area to ply their trade. You can see the remains of an old still from the boardwalk on trail marker #15.

Caterpillars on railing in Congaree National Park

If you visit in April, be on the lookout for caterpillars. We were lucky to see all the tree moth caterpillars on the trail during our visit. I think the kids had more fun dodging them during the walk as much as anything else.

Congaree National Park Stamp

Unit: Congaree National Park

Path to 429+: 63

Region: Southeast

Month/Year: April 2023

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