Explore Old-Growth Forest
Few old-growth forests remain in the U.S., making this swampy wonderland a gem that's ripe for exploration. There are miles of hiking trails, but the best way to see the park is via canoe or kayak, either on a day trip or an overnight camping excursion along Cedar Creek. Ranger-guided tours are highly recommended—check the website to see when registration opens and call immediately. The groups fill up very quickly. The park's still black water reflects the cypress and tupelo trees perfectly, and elevated boardwalks through the watery forest make this otherworldly realm accessible even to children, the handicapped, and those not inclined to paddle a canoe.
By Stratton Lawrence, AFAR Local Expert
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Canoe the Blackwater
When visiting Congaree National Park, see if you can make it on the list for a ranger guided canoe tour. Check the website to see when registration opens and call as soon as you can—let me repeat, call as soon as registration opens! The groups fill up very quickly and you will likely have to call back multiple times to get through to the office. But it's worth it! The tour lasts about two hours and the still black water reflects the cypress and tupelo trees perfectly. It's a great way to see more of the park than just hiking trails and the guides are helpful to point out areas of interest—like historic flood levels and wildlife. The park also has a beautiful and wheelchair/stroller accessible elevated boardwalk that leads you on a short survey of the flora and fauna.
By Cara Harris
100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061, USA