Congaree National Park just south of Columbia, South Carolina is worth a detour off I-20 if you’re ever in the area. Dedicated National Park enthusiast know this is South Carolina’s only National Park. It’s full of history, beautiful scenery, educational opportunities and mosquitos. Don’t miss the Junior Ranger badge. Participants will receive a badge or a patch. (My kids chose the patch because it featured a 5 lined skink)
Congaree’s extensive hiking trail system lets you explore the deepest parts of the swamp (well, within reason). The boardwalk trail is great for observation and for scale. You’ll be walking past giant Tupelo and Cypress trees. You can also see former champion Lob Lolly Pines from certain spots on the boardwalk.
What you need to know if you go with kids:
Be prepared for bugs, spiders and mainly mosquitos. While the winter months are semi-safe, we were there in the third week of February the temps were in the 70s and yes we did see mosquitos.
Imagine how bad it would be in the summer?
Don’t forget the water – depending on how long you plan to trek into the woods, you could get very thirsty. There are no facilities along the way.
You can venture off the wooden boardwalk. Depending on how much rain the area has received be prepared for muddy paths.
Don’t let the kids step off the boardwalk – Staying on the trail is for your safety. Some parts of the mud is up to 8 feet deep.
Grab a check point list from the visitor’s center before hiking. It will explain what the signs are and what you’re looking at along the way.
The Junior Ranger booklets can be completed in the center however there is a scavenger hunt activity. We were pressed for time because we arrived to the park late. We didn’t want to miss receiving the badge so the rangers awarded the badge to the kids without completing that activity. The park stays open till dark, the center closes at 5 p.m.
There is a 16 minute film, but we got distracted and missed it.
Parking and park admission is free.
Don’t miss the famous sign noting the level of mosquito intensity. It’s above the water fountains at the visitor’s center.