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Congaree National Park, South Carolina

South Carolina Richland County Congaree National Park

Just 20 miles southeast of South Carolina's capital city lies Congaree National Park – the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States. The Congaree River flows through the 22,000-acre park where minor changes in elevation cause regular flooding and make the land unsuitable for farming or development.

In the early 20th century, logging operations were attempted in an effort to make the land commercially profitable. But the land was too swampy to sustain the heavy equipment and only trees close to the waterways could be cuts so that logs could be floated down river. It was soon discovered that in the constantly damp conditions, many of the cut trees remained too green to float. After a few years, operations were abandoned as unproductive, leaving the floodplain basically untouched.

Advances in timber technology and high lumber prices enticed loggers back to the area in the 1960s, but a grassroots effort to protect the ancient and biologically diverse ecosystem prevailed. The area was designated as National Monument in 1976. Over two-thirds of the park was designated a wilderness area in 1988, and finally, it became South Carolina's first and only national park in 2003.

Visitors to the park find a 2.4-mile boardwalk loop through the swamp, 20 miles of hiking trails, and areas for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

Here is a map of the Columbia area.

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