Sunday, January 31, 2010

Congaree National Park

Welcome to Congaree National Park! I happened to be traveling through the area and saw the park on the map, so I stopped by for a quick visit. I didn’t even know there was a National Park in South Carolina, but there is! Congaree became a National Park in 2003, which would explain why I had not heard about it before.

So what is Congaree National Park all about? Floodplain forest! The Congaree River winds its way through the park for about 23 miles. Over that distance, the elevation of the river drops only 20 feet! That's the equivalent of dropping one foot elevation over a length of 20 football fields!

As you may imagine, when a river travels over that much flat land, any excess water, such as from heavy spring rains, can cause massive flooding. That flooding happens 10 times a year, on average, and renews rich nutrients into the floodplain soil.

The soil is so fertile that the trees which go here can reach record size. In fact, one particular Loblolly pine tree measures in at 167 feet!

First things first. You had better check out the Mosquito Meter, lest the pesky insects fly away with you, or at least a good portion of your blood. I was lucky this time.

There's a wonderful boardwalk which is perfect for getting a taste of the park in a very short time. Plus, it guarantees at least a little dry walking area if the river is in flood.

Be careful though. Not all of the boardwalk is always dry. Those dark tree trunks mark the evidence of past flood levels.

Weird roots broke the ground and submerged themselves again in the dirt. They looked like tree snakes.

Cypress knees dominated patches of the ground, making fairyland kingdoms.

The land was a bit swampy at times.

And a scenic lake was tucked away in one corner of the trail.

The water in the lingering pools was dark with tannins and quite still, making the water's surface a decent mirror.

It wasn't all swamp and cypress. There was actually a bit of diversity, even on the relatively short walk, such as this switchcane which formed a mini forest within the forest known as a canebrake.

Check out this mossy growth.

Decomposing trees were plentiful.

Of course, there were a few palmettos. What else would you expect from the palmetto state?

Stumps and knees throughout the trees...

All in all, it was a delightful way to spend an afternoon. It would be a wonderful place to settle down on a bench with a good book, listening to the birds and squirrels around you. That is, as long as it's not mosquito season! See you later!