Congaree Overview

Congaree National Park, situated in central South Carolina, USA, is a remarkable natural treasure that showcases the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Established as a national monument in 1976 and redesignated as a national park in 2003, the park spans approximately 107 square kilometers (about 41.28 square miles). This relatively small size belies its ecological importance and the rich biodiversity it supports.

The park is named after the Congaree River, which flows along its southern boundary, contributing to the area’s unique floodplain ecosystem. This dynamic environment, subject to periodic flooding, sustains a complex and diverse habitat. The towering trees, some of which rank among the tallest in the eastern United States, create a canopy that supports a myriad of plant and animal life. The park’s forests include a mix of hardwoods and pines, with notable species such as bald cypress and tupelo in the wetter areas, and oak and hickory on higher ground.

Congaree National Park is renowned for its champion trees, including some of the tallest loblolly pines and a significant concentration of state and national champion trees, which are the largest of their species. The rich biodiversity extends beyond the flora, with the park providing habitat for a variety of wildlife, including deer, otters, and numerous bird species, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

Visitors to Congaree National Park can explore its natural beauty through a network of hiking trails and a boardwalk that meanders through the swampy forest floor, offering a unique perspective of this rare ecosystem. Canoeing and kayaking along Cedar Creek are popular activities that allow for a peaceful exploration of the park’s watery landscape.

Congaree National Park serves as a vital conservation area, protecting a significant example of a natural ecosystem that was once widespread across the southeastern United States. It offers visitors the opportunity to experience the tranquility and beauty of an ancient forest, underscoring the importance of preserving natural landscapes for future generations.

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Congaree National Park Highlights


Congaree National Park, nestled in the heart of South Carolina, is a biodiverse sanctuary renowned for its towering hardwoods, expansive floodplains, and the majestic Congaree River. Each species found here plays a vital role in the ecological web of this unique habitat.

Barred Owl – Dominating the nighttime soundscape, the Barred Owl is known for its distinctive “who cooks for you” call, echoing through the forest.

Pileated Woodpecker – The forest’s drummer, this large woodpecker is easily recognized by its striking red crest and powerful bill, crucial for feeding and nesting.

Prothonotary Warbler – A brilliant flash of yellow in the swamp, the Prothonotary Warbler breeds in the park’s cavities, its song a staple of the southern swamps.

American Alligator – A prehistoric presence, American Alligators are often seen basking on the riverbanks or lurking in the waters of Congaree’s swamps and lakes.

White-tailed Deer – A common sight at dawn or dusk, White-tailed Deer roam the park’s upland areas, grazing on the diverse plant life.

Wild Turkey – Large and surprisingly agile, Wild Turkeys are often observed in the park’s open areas, foraging in groups for nuts, seeds, and insects.

Raccoon – Nocturnal and omnivorous, Raccoons are versatile feeders, their masked faces and ringed tails a familiar sight along the waterways.

Bobcat – Elusive and solitary, Bobcats prowl the park’s forests and swamps, apex predators adapted to a variety of prey.

River Otter – Playful and aquatic, River Otters glide through Congaree’s waterways, social animals that are a joy to watch during quiet moments near the river.

Southern Leopard Frog – Often heard rather than seen, the call of the Southern Leopard Frog is a common sound in wet areas throughout the park.

Congaree National Park’s diverse wildlife, from the stealthy bobcat to the serene barred owl, offers visitors a profound connection to the natural world, showcasing the beauty and complexity of South Carolina’s floodplain ecosystem.

Congaree National Park Pictures

Engaging Congaree National park

Embark on the park’s extensive network of hiking trails, ranging from short, easy walks to longer, more challenging treks. Explore the lush bottomland hardwood forest, marvel at towering trees, and listen to the sounds of nature echoing through the canopy.

There are many different trails that meander through the forests allowing hikers to have an intimate encounter with the astounding forests.

Paddle along the meandering Congaree River and immerse yourself in the park’s scenic waterways. Enjoy a peaceful journey through the forested floodplain, observing wildlife such as birds, turtles, and river otters along the way.


1. What is Congaree National Park known for?

Congaree National Park is renowned for its vast and pristine old-growth bottomland hardwood forest, making it one of the largest and most significant stands of temperate deciduous forest in North America.

The park is celebrated for its towering hardwood trees, including champion specimens of several species, such as bald cypress and loblolly pine.

Visitors come to explore the park’s extensive network of boardwalks and trails, offering opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, canoeing, and wildlife viewing. The Congaree River, which runs through the park, provides unique recreational opportunities for paddlers and anglers.

Additionally, the park’s biodiversity, including rare plant and animal species, attracts scientists and researchers from around the world.

Congaree National Park offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a pristine natural environment and discover the beauty and significance of this unique ecosystem.

  • All Trails, Best Trails in Congaree National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Audubon, Congaree National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Britannica, Congaree National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Discover South Carolina, Congaree National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • National Park Service, Congaree,, retrieved April 2024.