On November 10, 2003, Congaree was designated a National Park, a South Carolina wilderness area, that was formerly the Congaree Swamp National Monument.
It is an alluvial or flood plain, part of a river system where sediment deposits build up on one side and periodic sideways flooding and erosion occur on the other. These environments support biodiverse ecosystems of wetlands, forest, and river biomes. The frequent flooding of creeks, streams, and the slow-moving Congaree River kept agriculture and logging enterprises from making much of an impact on the plant and animal species in this area.
Growing in this floodplain is an old deciduous forest of soft- and hardwoods that, conserved, have grown to form a remarkable high canopy. These include cypress, pine, sycamore, chestnut oak, hickory, and elm. Many groupings of trees rise taller than 30 m (100 ft), others grow larger than 5 m (16 ft) in circumference around the base. The rich flood sediment fosters tree growth but floodwaters keep root growth shallow. Dead trees left standing or toppled in heavy storms provide shelter for many species of bird, insect, small mammal, and fungi. It is a woodpecker haven. When woodpeckers vacate the large holes they have carved in dead trees, owls and bats move in.
Throughout the park there are white-tailed deer and hundreds of songbirds. The river edges support otters and turtles, raccoons and ducks. The bottomland or low-lying floodland is perfect for humans, too, to explore by canoe or kayak. Park visitors can participate in bird counts, habitat assessments, and guided canoe tours. No motor boats!
How high can floodwaters rise? A boardwalk for park visitors, elevated at more than 2 m (8 ft) above ground, is flooded over every few years! Congaree is also designated a Biosphere Reserve under the National Park Service.
B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage