If you are in the Columbia, South Carolina area and like to take back roads to interesting places, then Congaree National Park is a must–do for you. It took me two different mapping devices to get us into the visitor’s center parking lot – (never mind that we were towing 17,000 pounds and 34’ of 5th wheel behind us). While Congaree can be hard to find, it is well worth stopping and asking for directions if needed. Here are directions from the Park’s website with a Google map to help you get started.
The visitor’s center is very educational, full of displays that explain the interesting human and natural history of the area. The boardwalk and trails are easy and fun with the kids. Here are some pictures from our visit.
We arrived on Junior Birding Day and the Ranger (also named Jon!) explained that the kids could do both the booklet for their Junior Ranger Badge plus an additional activity to earn a special Junior Birder patch.
Willa met another little girl also doing the birding activities and they were off!
Meanwhile, Jon and I hung out in this giant model of a bald cypress to complete his work. The Junior Ranger booklets provide a set of age appropriate puzzles, mazes, fill in the blanks and word scrambles, among other activities, that teach about the particular place where you are completing the activity. We have completed them in multiple National and State Parks.
The educational displays in this particular park are very nice, providing both a historical and ecological perspective on the surrounding land.
Once their booklets were completed, the kids returned to Ranger Jon to take the Park Ranger’s oath to preserve and protect the land. Armed with a little background information, we were ready to hit the trails!
It is a good thing the Mosquito Meter was set to 1!
The boardwalk trails are easy to walk with the kids and are a good place to build on the knowledge we gained from the Junior Ranger activities. The bald cypress forest is interesting and beautiful.
In addition to the boardwalk, there are other hiking trails, primitive camping, canoeing and backpacking opportunities within Congaree National Park. Rangers offer free guided hikes, talks and canoe tours by reservation.