Hiking under skyscraper-sized trees in South Carolina

Congaree National Park visitors not only look out across a flood plain swamp but up as well. Up into the forest canopy that rises to 160 feet high. The Congaree canopy, formed by towering old-growth trees, is taller than that of any forest in the East.

The giant trees include a 167-foot-high loblolly pine. It’s the tallest tree in this wet-and-dry park, the biggest tree of its kind anywhere.

A sky-seeking cherrybark oak and a swamp tupelo fall short of the pine by just 5 feet. The former is the biggest such oak in South Carolina and the latter is a national champion, the biggest tupelo of its species.

Congaree preserves these super-sized trees and thousands more in this bottomland hardwood forest near the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree rivers south of Columbia. The trees were spared from possible logging when a public campaign to conserve the privately owned forest succeeded. Congress in 1976 created Congaree Swamp National Monument with 15,000 acres. In 2003, legislators upgraded the preserve to a national park, which now covers 26,715 acres.

Visitors may hike on 2.4 miles of elevated boardwalks and along 37.8 roundtrip miles of trails, fish Cedar Creek and oxbow lakes and tent camp in a campground or in the backcountry.

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