Congaree National Park Facts. Who’s ready for some amazing facts about Congaree National Park? It’s a park filled with beautiful landscapes and amazing stories.
More Than Just Parks is your one-stop-shop when it comes to learning everything you’ll need to know about America’s national parks. We’ve got expert guides, beautiful photos, helpful tips, breathtaking films and so much more.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind some of these natural wonders. Then I got to see them firsthand.
And now I’m sharing some of the incredible stories about these beautiful places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
To get you excited about planning your next visit, in this article we’re covering 10 fascinating facts about Congaree National Park.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Table Of Contents: Congaree National Park Facts
Congaree National Park Facts
- 1. Some Basic Facts About Congaree National Par
- Congaree National Park Facts
- Top 5 Congaree National Park Facts
- 2. Humans Inhabited The Area Which Is Today Congaree National Park For At Least 10,000 Years
- 3. Congaree Is Named For The People Who Once Lived In The Region
- 4 Congaree Was First Visited By Hernando de Soto
- 5. As A Result Of Its Rich Farmland, Congaree Was Colonized
- 6. Congaree Was A Refuge From Slavery
- Top 10 Congaree National Park Facts
- 7. Many Of The Largest Tress In Congaree Were Cut Down By The Logging Industry
- 8. Congaree National Park Preserves The Largest Area Of Old Growth Bottomland Hardwood Forest
- 9. Congaree Is An International Biosphere Reserve
- 10. At Least 170 Species Of Birds Can Be Seen In The Park
- 11. Congaree National Park Contains A Diverse Variety Of Wildlife
- Map Of Congaree National Park
- Top 5 Congaree National Park Facts
Congaree National Park Facts
1. Some Basic Facts About Congaree National Par
Congaree is in the state of South Carolina, right next to the major city of Columbia. Few national parks are so close to an urban center of this size.
Congaree’s floodplain forest includes one of the highest canopies in the world.
The park provides a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a tranquil wilderness setting for walking and relaxing in.
It’s a great place to visit!
Some basic facts about Grand National Park include the following:
- Location: South Carolina
- Acreage: Congaree National Park contains over 20,000 acres of federally designated wilderness that visitors can explore by either foot, kayak or canoe.
- Visitation: The park had 215,181 recreation visits in 2021.
- Elevation: Maximum elevation is 140 feet.
- Average annual precipitation: The month with the most wet days in Congaree National Park is July, with an average of 14.1 days with at least 0.04 inches of precipitation.
- When Did It Become A National Park? Congress established Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976. In 2003, Congress changed the park’s name and designation and established Congaree National Park.
Congaree National Park Facts
Top 5 Congaree National Park Facts
2. Humans Inhabited The Area Which Is Today Congaree National Park For At Least 10,000 Years
If you’re interested in origin stories then one of the most interesting Congaree National Park Facts is that, according to the National Park Service, archaeological evidence suggests humans have inhabited this area for at least 10,000 years.
These earliest people were nomads, living in temporary camps while following the large mammals they relied upon for food and gathering whatever else they needed.
Over time these nomadic groups formed small tribes, built more permanent villages, and experimented with crops and pottery.
The introduction of corn, beans, and squash led to the eventual unification of these many small tribes into large chiefdoms with large territories.
3. Congaree Is Named For The People Who Once Lived In The Region
For me, one of the most intriguing of the Congaree National Park Facts is that Congaree National Park is named for the Congaree people who once lived in this region.
The Congaree Indians claimed the floodplain until European explorers arrived on the continent.
About 1700, the Congarees were decimated by a smallpox epidemic which was introduced with the arrival of European settlers.
4 Congaree Was First Visited By Hernando de Soto
Another one of the fascinating Congaree National Park Facts is that the area encompassing Congaree National Park was first visited by Hernando de Soto in 1540. de Soto was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula.
According to the National Park Service, the Spanish stay was short, but it had lasting impacts. European diseases devastated native populations.
De Soto didn’t remain long, however, as he was in search of gold and the area which is Congaree National Park doesn’t contain any.
In his continued quest for gold, Soto moved through Mississippi and Arkansas. However, he did not make it out of North America alive.
He died on May 21, 1542, of fever. In order to perpetuate the deception of having the Indians believe he was a god, expedition members shrouded his body with blankets filled with sand and sank it in the Mississippi River.
Unlike de Soto The English Intended To Stay
The English colonists established Charles Towne in 1670. Unlike de Soto, they intended to stay and slowly moved inland as more colonists arrived.
In 1701, English surveyor John Lawson traveled up the Santee to the confluence of the Wateree and Congaree rivers. There he encountered the inhabitants who lived there.
They were the remnants of the once great chiefdoms who had originally encountered de Soto.
5. As A Result Of Its Rich Farmland, Congaree Was Colonized
Just when you thought we couldn’t come up with any more unbelievable Congaree National Park Facts we’ve come up with another one.
The “Congarees” (i.e., the land found between the Congaree and Wateree rivers) was discovered to be rich in soil that was ideal for farming. By the mid 1700’s, news of this rich farm land brought more settlers.
According to the National Park Service, much of the Congaree floodplain was granted to or claimed by planters whose intent was to plant cash crops such as rice and indigo and make their fortune.
These settlers brought more changes to this landscape.
Plantations were built, new roads soon crossed the area, and ferries like transported goods across the Congaree River to the coast.
Land was cleared and dikes were built in the floodplain to try and control the regular flooding. But while many tried, few had any success in truly taming this wilderness.
6. Congaree Was A Refuge From Slavery
Perhaps the least known of our Congaree National Park Facts is that while Congaree was ideal for establishing farms it was also ideal for escaping from the oppressive plantation economy, which characterized the South prior to the Civil War.
The area is a jungle-like wilderness which served as a refuge.
Some people made the long journey north, but many opted instead to flee to the woods where they were able to remain near family and supplies.
Top 10 Congaree National Park Facts
7. Many Of The Largest Tress In Congaree Were Cut Down By The Logging Industry
One of the things I find most fascinating is how history and nature intersect in a unique way which transforms places so many of us enjoy today.
Of course, these transformations are not always for the better. A case in point would be how Congaree was impacted by the rise of the Industrial Revolution after the Civil War.
As the National Park Service notes, Francis Beidler of Chicago purchased 15,000 acres of the Congaree floodplain to harvest the stands of immense old-growth cypress trees.
Over almost 20 years, loggers cut many of these massive trees, floating them downstream to his lumber mill to become shingles, pilings, or house siding.
A Newspaper Editor Comes To The Rescue
One of the people who enjoyed the unique scenery of Congaree was a newspaper editor by the name of Harry Hampton.
Hampton spent time exploring the floodplain. He came to understand that this was a very special place, the last of its kind and size, and therefore worthy of saving.
Through his newspaper columns, Hampton advocated for the preservation of the Congaree so that future generations could enjoy it as he did.
Harry Hampton appealed to whoever would listen and worked tirelessly to help save the forest he loved from disappearing forever.
While he was unable to stop the destruction of this area, his efforts inspired others.
The 1970’s saw a new generation of advocates rise up. Calling for “Congaree Action Now,” activists from South Carolina and from across the country lobbied Congress to make Congaree a national park.
Through their tireless efforts, they convinced the landowners to sell the land and Congress to establish the Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976.
8. Congaree National Park Preserves The Largest Area Of Old Growth Bottomland Hardwood Forest
Another of the extraordinary Congaree National Park Facts is that Congaree National Park preserves the largest area of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States.
Furthermore, the park is a floodplain, not a swamp, despite its former name of Congaree Swamp National Monument.
A floodplain is a low lying area near a river, covered by water only part of the year. A swamp is permanently covered with water.
9. Congaree Is An International Biosphere Reserve
One of my favorite Congaree National Park Facts is that, in 1983, International Biosphere Reserve status was given to the park as part of the South Atlantic Coastal Plain by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity.
They are places that provide local solutions to global challenges.
Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.
10. At Least 170 Species Of Birds Can Be Seen In The Park
At least 170 species of birds can be seen in Congaree National Park.
Among the wading birds, songbirds, woodpeckers, raptors, and other birds that can be seen in Congaree at one time of the year or another are barred owls, turkeys, wood ducks, blue herons, red-shouldered hawks, various warblers, and swallow-tailed kites.
11. Congaree National Park Contains A Diverse Variety Of Wildlife
Another of the interesting Congaree National Park Facts is that large animals possibly seen in the park include bobcats, deer, feral pigs, feral dogs, coyotes, armadillos, turkeys, and otters.
Its waters contain interesting creatures like amphibians, turtles, snakes, and many types of fish, including bowfin, alligator gar, and catfish.
Map Of Congaree National Park
List Of Congaree National Park Facts
- Humans Inhabited The Area Which Is Today Congaree National Park For At Least 10,000 Years
- Congaree Is Named For The People Who Once Lived In The Region
- Congaree Was First Visited By Hernando de Soto
- As A Result Of Its Rich Farmland, Congaree Was Colonized
- Congaree Was A Refuge From Slavery
- Many Of The Largest Tress In Congaree Were Cut Down By The Logging Industry
- Congaree National Park Preserves The Largest Area Of Old Growth Bottomland Hardwood Forest
- Congaree Is An International Biosphere Reserve
- At Least 170 Species Of Birds Can Be Seen In The Park
- Congaree National Park Contains A Diverse Variety Of Wildlife
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
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Related Links: National Park Facts Series
South Carolina National Parks: 8 EPIC South Carolina National Parks To Visit
South Carolina National Parks: 12 Epic Things To Do At Congaree National Park
South Carolina: 5 Must-See Historic Sites In South Carolina