Visiting Congaree National Park

Named after the nearby river, Congaree National Park is one of the few national parks on the East Coast, and it also happens to be a bit lesser known than the others. Despite not being popular, this national park is stunning. Located in South Carolina, this beautiful forest is truly special. The types of forests growing here are some of the largest and rarest found in the United States. Grab a map of Congaree National Park, your America the Beautiful Pass, and your Harvest Hosts membership as we explore all that Congaree has to offer.

Why is Congaree so Special?

Despite what many travelers may think at first glance, Congaree National Park is more than just a forest. This preserved area encompasses the largest section of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States. It is also home to some of the tallest trees on the East Coast, forming one of the highest temperate deciduous forest canopies. 

There was a great misunderstanding for decades that the area was a swamp. In reality, the area is largely bottomland, or low-lying land near a river, with periodic flooding. There is an astonishing amount of biodiversity that exists within this protected land. The park is home to hundreds of species of amphibians, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and vascular plants.

Brief History

Congaree officially became a national park in 2003, but grassroots campaigning for more protection began all the way back in 1969. Prior to its designation, the area was used for logging until 1914. Following that, two newspaper editors began advocating for the protection of the area in the 1950s. Finally, in 1976, the area was designated as Congaree Swamp National Monument, which expanded over 22,000 more acres of protected land. Because over two-thirds of the national monument was designated as a wilderness area by 1988, and it became an Important Bird Area in 2001, the next logical step was national park status. On November 10, 2003, the misleading word “swamp” was removed, and Congaree National Park was officially decreed. The park gained an additional 4,000 acres of protected land, totaling the park’s acreage at 26,021 acres or 40.7 square miles. 

Things to Do

Congaree National Park is full of hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing opportunities. Like many other national parks, visitors are also welcome to hike or camp in the backcountry as well. There are a variety of trails available, ranging from easy to strenuous to provide hiking opportunities for everyone. Visitors are able to canoe or kayak down Cedar Creek, also known as the park’s Canoe Trail. Park visitors interested in fishing should check out the park’s fishing rules and regulations and be sure to obtain a South Carolina fishing license beforehand. 

RV Camping Outside of the Park

Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds within the park that can accommodate RVs or vehicles. However, with a Harvest Hosts membership or nearby campground reservation, RVers can still enjoy the park and have a place to retire for the night. 

Magnolia Campground

Located just twenty-five minutes from Congaree National Park, Magnolia Campground is a local favorite. This campground has full hookups (including 30 amp service, 50 amp service, and sewer hookups) and is also located just fifteen minutes from downtown Columbia and strives to provide campers with a quiet atmosphere. 

Poinsett State Park Campground

Some RVers prefer to camp in state parks due to the beautiful, naturistic views. Poinsett State Park is no exception. This campground offers partial hookups sites, on-site restrooms with showers, and a picnic table and fire ring at each campsite. There is also a dump station located in the campground. This campground is located just under forty-five minutes from Congaree.

Sweetwater Lake Campground

Sweetwater Lake Campground offers full hookups about forty-five minutes north of the park. The best perk here is that all sites are lakeside! There are restrooms and showers available on-site, and guests are permitted to use the lake for fishing or any other water activities. 

Siesta Cove Marina

Water sports enthusiasts will love this RV park. Situated right on Lake Murray, campers here have access to full hookups, a boat marina, and fishing supplies. This campground also offers on-site showers and a swimming pool for more of a glamping experience, all located just about an hour away from Congaree National Park.

Harvest Hosts Locations

RVers in search of overnight accommodations away from traditional campgrounds should consider a Harvest Hosts membership. For a small annual fee, RVers gain access to over 5168+ unique locations for overnight accommodations, including wineries, breweries, farms, golf courses, and more. In exchange for the no-charge overnight stay, members must make a small purchase from the local business. There are thousands of Harvest Hosts locations, even near Congaree National Park. Harvest Hosts members will need to have the upgraded golf membership in order to stay at the second of the locations listed below. 

Cartersville Country Winery

Talk about variety! Cartersville Country Winery bottles thirteen varieties of wines that are primarily sweet and fruit-based. These wines include peach, pomegranate, and even a Carolina Sunset Blush Wine. This Harvest Hosts location offers eight reservable, pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size. They also offer partial hookups for an additional fee and have a dump station on-site. This winery can be found a little over an hour east of Congaree National Park.

Charwood Country Club

Be sure to bring your golf clubs to stay at Charwood Golf Course. This affordable, yet stunning course provides golfers of any expertise with twenty-seven holes. After a round of golf, grab a bite to eat at LC’s Grille. This Harvest Hosts location offers four reservable, pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size. 

RVers traveling south for the winter, north for the summer, or those who find themselves on the East Coast should absolutely stop to visit Congaree National Park. This mystical national park has worked hard to prove itself of national park stature, and it contributes so much to the species that inhabit its landscape. The visitors who walk through its towering trees leave with a new appreciation for the park and its contributions. 

Have you ever visited Congaree National Park? What was your favorite part? If you haven’t, what sounds like the most fun? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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