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The Congaree National Park Destination takes up a portion of land in South Carolina. It has lakes, rivers, cities, national parks, and forests. The most notable attractions of the destination are Congaree National Park and the city of Columbia, both of which provide multiple opportunities for activities that tourists can participate in. Weather in the district ranges throughout the year, with the highest temperatures being over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, though such cases don't occur often. Rain falls throughout the year but is the most common in the Spring. It is suggested that for moderate weather and temperature conditions, people should visit either in the autumn or spring seasons. The destination is named after the Congaree National Park, which was designated on November 10, 2003.
One of the Congaree National Park Destination's most prominent attraction is Congaree National Park. The park takes up 22,200 acres of land. It became a national park on November 10, 2003. Congaree National Park preserves the largest area of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest that still remains in the United States. It is a floodplain, which is a low-lying area near a river that is covered by water during a portion of the year. Congaree's floodplain forest has one of the highest temperate deciduous forest canopies, with an average height of over 100 feet. Also located in the region is the city of Columbia, which is named after Christopher Columbus. Locals know Columbia as the "Soda City" because of an old abbreviation of Columbia to "Cola." The city was founded in 1786, though very few historical buildings remain because two-thirds of the town burned during the Civil War. Another fact about Columbia is that the first textile mill in the world to entirely run by electricity was located in the city.
At Congaree National Park, multiple activities are available because of the forest and floodplain located within the area. Park activities include fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, camping, and ranger-led programs. Camping at Congaree National Park is also an option for those who might want to stay for multiple days. The Congaree River Blue Trail is a 50-mile paddling trail that extends from Columbia to Congaree National Park. Along the route are things like the Three Rivers Greenway hiking trails, Native American sites, and the Coastal Plains region.
In the city of Columbia, there are a fair amount of attractions that can draw in tourists. The Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden is one of the main features of the city. Other activities within the town are the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, the South Carolina State House, the EdVenture Children's Museum, the Melton Memorial Observatory, and the Nickelodeon Theater.
Both Congaree National Park and Columbia receive tourists and other visitors every year. In the past years, Columbia has seen 14.8 million visitors, and that number may likely continue to grow. In 2019, Congaree National Park got 159,445 visitors. The number of visitors has risen significantly since 1985, the year which had 12,332 tourists.
The Congaree National Park Destination takes up a portion of South Carolina. It has multiple lakes and rivers, along with national parks and forests. The region has a unique shape as it wraps around cities like Clinton, Whitmire, Bethune, Eastover, St. Matthews, Neeses, Edgefield, and Greenwood. Columbia is the largest city within the district and is located near the middle of the destination. Lake Murray is the most famous lake in the area, though Lake Greenwood and the Monticello Reservoir are also large bodies of water within the established area. The two main national parks are Congaree National Park, the park that the destination is named after, and Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests. The destination generally has a lot of greenery and wildlife rather than deserts or extreme mountainous areas.
The weather at Congaree National Park varies throughout the year, from warm, sunny days to cold nights and the occasional snowfall. Spring, classified as March through May, generally has warm temperatures, with the average daily highs being around the mid 70's. Rain is expected throughout these months, reaching about three inches per month. Thunderstorms do not occur often, but there is always a possibility of one coming to the area. The temperature is typically the hottest from June to August during the summer. Daily temperatures can reach the upper 90s and frequently go over 100 degrees. It also gets very humid during this time of the year, which often makes it feel hotter than it actually is. Thunderstorms are more common during the summer months and can occur unexpectantly. Additionally, rainfall is at its highest during these months, with the monthly average amount of rain being 4.5 inches.
At Congaree National Park, around 1,036 species of animals and bugs have been estimated to live in the park, and 885 of them have been confirmed. Some of the most common species of animals are golden silk spiders, brown watersnakes, northern cottonmouths, barred owls, hermit thrushes, and pond sliders. A few common plants in the area are cross vines, American beeches, yellow jessamines, American royal ferns, swamp cottonwoods, Chinese privets, Virginia creepers, and Jack-in-the-pulpits. Eastern gray squirrels, wild boars, white-tailed deer, common raccoons, fox squirrels, nine-banded armadillos, North American river otters, American beavers, Virginia opossums, and Rafinesque's big-eared bats are ten species of mammals that can be found in the park. There are supposedly 193 types of birds that roam Congaree National Park, but only 105 of them have been confirmed. Some of these birds include wood ducks, several kinds of woodpeckers, great egrets, great blue herons, wild turkeys, black vultures, and multiple breeds of warblers.
The earliest residents of the area surrounding Congaree National Park, the namesake of the destination, were nomads. Evidence states that humans have inhabited the area for at least 10,000 years. The nomads were living in temporary camps, supposedly following large mammals that they relied on for food and other supplies. Over time the nomadic groups formed small tribes, built permanent villages, and experimented with pottery and crops. Corn, beans, and squash were introduced, leading to the eventual unification of the tribes that had formed. The unified tribes turned into large chiefdoms within large territories. It is estimated that these tribes were met by the Spanish group that came to the area. The group arrived in April of 1541, and it was led by Hernando de Soto.
The floodplain was claimed by the Congaree up until European explorers arrived on the continent. Around 1700, most of the Congarees were killed by a smallpox epidemic, leaving the land to the European settlers. These settlers obtained land grants from the King of England until 1776. It was during 1776 that the state of South Carolina gained the right to distribute ownership of the land. During the Revolutionary War, a man named Francis Marion hid in Congaree, escaping the British.
With the rapid industrialization of the U.S. after the Civil War, lumber was needed to help build the expanding nation. Francis Beidler of Chicago purchased 15,000 acres of what is now Congaree National Park to harvest the ancient cypress trees. Over the span of 20 years, loggers cut the majority of the massive cypress trees and floated them downstream to lumber mills to be turned into shingles, house siding, or pilings. Progress was slower than normal because of the difficulty and cost of getting the trees out. By 1917, logging operations had ceased, temporarily saving the landscape; however, the Beidlers held onto the hope that they could continue logging it. For a period of time, they leased sections of land out to local hunt clubs. A member of one of these clubs named Harry Hampton spent his time on the Congaree floodplain. Over time he realized that it was a unique place that was worthy of saving. Because of the newspaper he owned, he was able to advocate for the preservation of Congaree. Over time, many would come to the same belief that Congaree should be saved.
At the end of the 1960s, logging was once again threatening the giant trees of Congaree. Harry Hampton's efforts to save the area had not succeeded; though, despite of this, the 1970s brought a new generation of advocates to fight for Congaree. "Congaree Action Now" was a group of activists from South Carolina and from around the country. Through their efforts, they managed to convince the landowners to sell their land to Congress. The Congaree Swamp National Monument was established in 1976.
Congaree started off as a national monument and later was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1983 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. On November 10th, 2003, the Congaree National Park was designated, making it the 57th national park in the country. Today, the park houses 49 or more species of fish, at least 53 reptile and amphibian species, spotted turtles, snakes, and various mammals. Congaree National Park covers over 26,000 acres of bottomland and upland forest. Currently, it is designated as a Wilderness Area, Globally Important Bird Area, International Biosphere Reserve, and a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance.
The Chestnut Cottage Bed and Breakfast is located in Columbia, South Carolina, in the heart of the downtown historic district. It is a civil war home built in a southern cottage style. One thing the bed and breakfast is well known for is its extensive history. Not only did it survive the famous local fire that burnt down most of Columbia during the Civil War, but the cottage also served as the home for Mary Boykin Chestnut—a well-known historical figure who wrote the book "A Diary from Dixie." The property hosts five unique guest accommodations, each showcasing a different part of the house's history, as well as extensive backyard gardens, a front porch living area, and a Speakeasy room in the basement. Nearby, guests can visit a comprehensive list of attractions such as the local zoo, a national park, historic downtown, and the various shopping districts....Read More