A Walk Through Congaree

On our way to my family’s annual beach stay at Oak Island, we decided to stop by Congaree National Park. The drive from Asheville to Oak Island takes us through South Carolina already so it wasn’t too out of the way to take this little side trip.

A thunderstorm was rolling through on our way into the park, giving the entrance road a misty, ghostly appearance. We waited out the last bit of rain in the visitor center, where we learned that despite appearances, Congaree is *not* a swamp…even though it looks just like one. The whole area holds different levels of water depending on the time of year, so the trees are not always submerged in water, making it more of a wetland than a swamp.

We decided to take the boardwalk loop, which leads through the cypress forest for a couple miles. It was very humid in the wetland as you’d expect, but even more so given the recent rain.

Oh, and did I mention the spiders? On our way from the parking lot to the visitor center, there were massive garden spiders and their webs stretching every which way. Arachnophobes beware, these guys were all over the park, sometimes very near the boardwalk trail.

Congaree is filled with massive old growth trees, because no sane lumberman would want to wade through a swamp – er, wetland – to chop them down. There were giant loblolly pines, cypress trees, and more. It was one of my first times seeing cypress trees and their “knees.”

We eventually approached a wetter area getting close to one of the lakes. We paused on the bridge to take a look around. I gasped when I looked up to see an owl only a few feet away above us!

The owl stared us for a few minutes and then swooped away silently into the forest. How magical that was! Later, we could hear him hooting as we walked on.

Congaree had a spooky, but beautiful feel all its own. I’m glad we stopped by, and I hope sometime to do the guided canoe tour. Given the spider situation, I don’t think we’ll be camping there anytime soon…or ever.

Posted by Lydia Roberts

I'm a web designer living in Asheville, NC with my husband. I like to get away from the glowing screen by gardening, hiking, and traveling when we can. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks.