September 2016 – We were on our way from Savannah to Charleston, but we had to make a stop (granted, over two hours out of the way) at the only national park in
South Carolina. We were just a day or two behind Hurricane Hermine, which caused some flooding in SC as the tropical system moved through. The day we visited was the first day the park and kayak launches were fully open again. We stopped at the gift shop for a map, and the ranger told us that the water had been at about two feet under the bridges that morning (their gauges weren’t working at the time). He also said that the current was “cranking,” and they were discouraging inexperienced paddlers from going out but that more experienced paddlers should be fine.
We decided to visit the boardwalk first, thinking that it would be a quick trip out. It was actually around two and a half miles, and about half of it was underwater. We were fine trudging through the water, but it did slow us down a bit. The views of the cypress tress were pretty nice, but we didn’t see any other wildlife.
After we made it back to the start, we drove down the road to the parking area for the kayak/canoe launch. The launch consists of quite a bit of a carry down a path to a dropoff in the creek (no real “launch”). We made it into the water and started paddling against the current for the first half of our trip. Considering the warnings we had about the current, we found the trip to be surprisingly easy with a very mild current (nothing like what we experienced near the coast lately). The creek was very peaceful, and we did not see another person until we circled back to the parking lot.
Congaree National Park is one of the newer national parks, just receiving the designation in 2003. It is definitely worth a visit to see the giant cypress trees in the floodplain, and the creek is very beautiful and peaceful. The creek could be hard to navigate in lower water, though, and the park is really completely doable in a few hours. If in the area, I definitely recommend spending an afternoon exploring it.