First National Park of the year!! As places start to reopen, we finally had the chance to visit a national park this past weekend. The closest one to Charlotte is Congaree National Park in Columbia SC, about 2 hours south of us.
At this point we have a little over 9 weeks until our new berry baby is here, so we’re scrambling to fit in as much as we can before then. This was our reason for visiting a swamp in the hottest part of the summer, which otherwise would have seemed somewhat foolish. The temperature yesterday was 97 degrees in Columbia, but the “real feel” was 115, according to the park ranger we spoke with. As you might imagine, it felt like being in a sauna.
The activities at Congaree are fairly limited, as is the terrain. One of the only kid-friendly options is the 2.4m boardwalk trail, which has been flooded for the last three months. Many people choose to canoe down the Congaree River, starting in Columbia and paddling all the way into the park. Unfortunately for us, the river trail is highly adventurous, requiring several “portages” along the way (hopping out and carrying your boat around fallen trees, for example), and I couldn’t find a river guide who would take kids under 6, so we stuck with hiking for this park visit.
The recently reopened Boardwalk Trail has been rerouted since a portion of it is still being repaired. We hiked a 2m loop through the swamp and enjoyed it, despite the oppressive heat. The scenery is unusual, with a lot to see along the way. This was the first time we used the National Park junior ranger books, and the kids loved them! They were busy the whole way trying to spot plants and wildlife to record. At the end of our hike, Sophia took the oath of a junior park ranger and received her Congaree pin. She has pledged to protect the park lands and care for them. The rangers are quite serious about this!
We picnicked on the banks of the Congaree River at Granby Park in Columbia and watched people float past us in tubes. The park wasn’t especially clean, but it served our purpose of seeing the water this national park is named for.
As a fun extra, we stopped by the South Carolina State Museum after lunch. It was space week, with free admission for kids under 12, so we could hardly pass up a chance to visit. The museum is lovely! We walked through several floors of exhibits and ended with a viewing of “National Parks Adventure” in the planetarium. This documentary has some fantastic scenes from America’s national parks. We were very pleased to see President Theodore Roosevelt appropriately recognized for his work in founding our park system.
2 done, 60 to go. In other Bartos park news, we have decided to get a scratch off chart. Next NP trip is in three weeks!