HIGHLIGHTS: Congaree Swamp rests on a floodplain of the Congaree River and is not a true swamp, but it is the largest intact tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. The monument was authorized as a unit of the National Park Service on October 18, 1976, and three features give national significance: some of the tallest trees in the East with one of the highest canopies in the world, broad biodiversity, and old-growth forest. Congaree Swamp is recognized as an International Biosphere Reserve, National Natural Landmark, Wilderness Area, and “Globally Important Bird Area.”
We enjoyed our trip through the swamp and the paddle down Cedar Creek, but got snagged on frequent debris in the water and grew weary of it after two hours. Fortunately, the Congaree River was fast moving and much easier to navigate, but it was also more crowded and heavily populated with power boats. Cedar Creek is more challenging, but more peaceful. The Congaree River is easier, but less remote. Either way, the 18 mile paddle is worth doing (at least once) but try to plan a trip when the water level is high enough to allow easy passage through Cedar Creek The National Park Service monitors it regularly and posts current conditions at the Visitor’s Center.