I am the first to admit: I am a national park junkie. I’ve been to parks ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Maine and most everywhere in between, and all are impressive and worth a visit. However, last fall, I was very pleasantly surprised by a park I’d never heard of until my trip: Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

Congaree National Park protects the floodplain of the Congaree River, and contains the largest concentration of old growth floodplain forest – a fancy word for swamp with trees – in North America. 

These trees are old, and they are big. An elevated boardwalk circles one area of the park, next to the visitor’s center. It has to be elevated since the entire area floods during the rainy season when the Congaree overflows its banks. Walking along in the shade, one feels serene. The only sounds are of the leaves rustling in the breeze, insects buzzing, and your footsteps on the walkway. It is truly magical!

Even in the dry season, much of the area is covered with standing water, so make sure to pack your insect repellant. 

Best of all, this park is free to visitors, though I made a donation at the visitor’s center after watching a wonderful short film about the park and talking to one of the rangers there.

If you find yourself down in South Carolina, this is most definitely worth a stop and a few hours. Seeing the Southeast as it used to be is amazing. Thank you, Congaree!

What is your favorite national park? Please comment below!

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