One of the newest American national parks (2003), Congaree is a surprising place of wonder in the middle of South Carolina. A mix of American beech and bald cypress trees, with some switch cane plants and palms thrown into the mix, it is a truly Southern forest, protected and preserved thanks to local residents who started a campaign in the 1950s to preserve the Congaree River floodplain.
The jewel of Congaree is the elevated boardwarlk that makes a 2.4 mile loop through the forest, with a paper and markers to call out the highlights. One of those highights were the “knees” of the bald cypress trees, which pop up consistently and in great number near their parents. As the guidebook says, no one really knows for sure the function of the knees, but it might be to stabilize the parent tree during floods and high winds.
The forest was at its peak spring green color. And the trees are tall, an average of over 130 feet high, which makes Congarere one of the tallest deciduous forests in the world. Right here, in South Carolina!
You also get a close-up view of swampland, which looks a bit like chaos and deadwood, but in reality supports a massive amount of critters, from tiny insects to beavers and foxes.
One of the hazards of swamp life is flooding, and you can see from the markers on the lower trunks of these water tupelos that flooding has been a regular occurrence here.
The water that remains can make beautiful reflections, and so, of course, I had to get a photo of that. I’m all about reflections with water. The thick tree trunks dominate the swamps but the light is what makes it for me, the way the water reflects the greenery above, but barely seen, in this image.
This is one place I want to come back to with my full camera kit. I’d book a few days nearby (it’s about 30 minutes south of Columbia, SC and the same from Santee State Park), and circle the boardwalk every day with a different lens. From close-ups with a macro lens to a wide-angle lens that captures the mass of trees the human eyes see, it would be a great challenge to capture the breadth of Congaree. But I’d like to try.
In Nature there is no dirt, everything is in the right condition; the swamp and the worm, as well as the grass and the bird, – all is there for itself.