I didn't know there was a National Park in South Carolina. I was driving to my daughter's home after my visit to Okefenokee, when I first noticed a National Park sign along I-26. Further investigation gave me the name and location and after a few days at Mary's, I was on my way.
Congaree National Park has six national champion trees and nineteen more that are champions in South Carolina. Champion trees must be a native or naturalized species to the United States to qualify. Judging is a point system based on trunk circumference, height and crown spread. The national champions in Congaree are the Deciduous Holly, Laurel Oak, Loblolly pine, Swamp tupelo, Sweetgum and Water hickory.
President Gerald Ford designated Congaree a National Monument in 1980 to protect the trees there from logging interests. Several big trees had already been harvested from the forest. In 2003, Congaree became a National Park. The Park gets its name from the Congaree River, which serves as its southern boundary. The river, in turn, is named for the Indians who once lived along it. Congaree contains the largest expanse of old growth, bottomland, hardwood forest in the United States and no area in North America has a larger concentration of champion trees. Congaree is a designated Wilderness area, International Biosphere Reserve, Globally Important Bird Area, and the largest intact tract of old-growth floodplain forest in North America. It is home to an abundance (170) of bird species, river otters and 49 fish species. There are 80 species of trees, which are the park's main attraction.
Source: Park brochure and website
The access road to Congaree is one curve after another
From the parking lot
Inside the musuem
Representations of some of the 80 tree species
The quarter section above is from a National Champion Shumard Oak, which was felled by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. This tree has a height of 159 feet, a circumference of 15 feet, four inches and a crown spread of 65 feet.
On the boardwalk trail
This "muck on the ground is Dorovan Muck and is important, because it breaks down pollutants into harmless ingredients. Nature's filtering system
These seed pods were all over the place and are from the Sweetgum tree
These are Bald cypress and Water tupelo trees. Both grow wide at the base to anchor themselves in the mud. The bald cypress produces knees along the roots. It is not known whether they provide breathing or are additional anchors. The tupelos have the smooth trunks.
The sole animal I spotted
High water marks
The color variations on the trunks of these tupelo and cypress marks the high water levels during the most recent flooding of the flood plain. The height is probably to my shoulders or over five feet.
Dark all the way back shows the flood water level
This limb was caught by the "Y" branch
Still wet from the last flooding
End of a side trail
Hollow trees hold long kept secrets. This one may have housed bats inside its trunk. One bat can consume 600 mosquiotes in an hour. Since there are no caves in Congaree, bats use hollow trees for homes.
Hollow most of the length
A weird base for a tree
Close up of the base
"Lean on me" tree
One can see for great distances under the canopy of old growth forests. Not much can grow in the diminished sunlight. I want to revisit Bongaree in summer to see the canopy in its sullness.
This low water is called a gut. This gut scours the mud near Weston Lake, but never reaches the lake itself. Guts and sloughs help disburse the water when the Congaree River floods.