Discover South Carolina: Congaree National Park with a Dog

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Oh, how I love jumping into an adventure. In October, I drove up to South Carolina and followed some memorable pathways with my favorite travel companion by my side. My dog Radcliff. One of my stops was Congaree National Park.

Catching the Morning Light and Shadows at Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Oct. 2018

Catching the Morning Light and Shadows at Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Oct. 2018

During drives up to New York, I have passed signs for Congaree National Park and never had the time to visit. When I was researching where to view synchronous fireflies during the month of May, Congaree National Park was one of a handful of destinations that came up in my searches to view them. Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Allegheny National Forest were the other two U.S. destinations I found in my research. Time escaped and I did not get up to South Carolina in May to view this amazing, natural event.

Congaree National Park is Home to the Largest Intact Expanse of Old-Growth Bottomland Hardwood Forest in the Southeastern United States.

Congaree National Park is Home to the Largest Intact Expanse of Old-Growth Bottomland Hardwood Forest in the Southeastern United States.

A conference led me to South Carolina and Congaree National Park was pretty much on the way to my destination. It was a sign I was meant to visit. This a fee-free national park (note: I’m a holder of the America the Beautiful Annual Pass) and because I had my dog, I did not enter the visitor center. Congaree National Park is dog-friendly which is paw-tastic!

Mosquito Meter at Congaree National Park, South Carolina. The Day of My Visit, it Was "War Zone" Level! Oct. 3, 2018

Mosquito Meter at Congaree National Park, South Carolina. The Day of My Visit, it Was “War Zone” Level! Oct. 3, 2018

I did, however, take note of the Mosquito Meter. On a scale of 1 – 6, it was at “6,” with 1 being “All Clear” and 6 being “War Zone.”

“Great,” I though. Not a, “Hey! That’s GREAT!” but a “Great, I forgot my mosquito netting.”

Having survived living and working in Everglades National Park with a bajillion species of mosquitoes (okay, about 40+ species of mosquitoes), I figured I’d be okay. I did have effective insect repellent made with essential oils and it took care of most of the mosquitoes. I wish I had my Bug Bite Thing  (it sucks the venom that causes itching out of the bite!) but I’ll remember for next time.

Some of the Old-Growth Forest at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

Some of the Old-Growth Forest at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

When I saw a man wearing mosquito netting over his head and had three cans of Deep Woods Off! strapped to his belt, I was second-guessing my decision to take on the Boardwalk Loop Trail, especially since I had no idea how long it is. Radcliff is not the best walker and depending on heat and humidity, he’ll just plop down to rest. The last thing I wanted was to stop in the middle of a cloud of mosquitoes!

Radcliff Taking a Walk on the Wild Side, The Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

Radcliff Taking a Walk on the Wild Side, The Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

Hand-and-leash, Radcliff and I walked through history along the 2.4-mile Boardwalk Loop Trail over the old-growth floodplain forest. Step by step, we leisurely ambled through history. Humans roamed this forest at least 10,000 years ago. At one time, the Southeastern United States was home to more than 35 million acres of old-growth floodplain forests and over the centuries the trees been cut down and timber used for ships, railroads, and buildings. Today, only 11,000 acres remain and this last stand of forest is preserved in Congaree National Park.

The Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

The Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

Grand loblolly pine, red maple, tupelo, bald cypress, and swamp chestnut oak trees stood tall along the boardwalk and provided shade. The giant trees were the type you wanted to stop and wrap your arms around, but watch for poison ivy! The boardwalk ranged from a few inches above the ground to several feet and offered access points to other trails.

Mosquitoes were annoying and thankfully, I’ve become pretty good at “shoot and move” when snapping photos. When you’re moving, mosquitoes typically can’t keep up. Remember that.

The Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

The Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park, South Carolina, Oct. 3, 2018.

Radcliff kept up well and at times, he wanted to run, maybe the mosquitoes were annoying him, too. We only saw a few other people which could be because we were on the trail around 9:45 a.m. and one of the hikers I spoke to when Radcliff and I stepped off the trail and he was stepping on, told me the mosquitoes typically calm down later in the morning.

Congaree National Park is a gem and like the Everglades, it is preserved for its biodiversity. I’m proud to have donated my blood, although unwillingly, to the resident mosquitoes. But, bites were minimal, or at least, they weren’t the type of bites to leave itchy welts, and the walk and view made it worthwhile. I do wish I arrived a little bit earlier to enjoy the morning light.

Radcliff and I During and After Our Walk on the Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Oct. 2018

Radcliff and I During and After Our Walk on the Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Oct. 2018

View additional images on my Flicrk stream. And view the brief video below.

Nuts & Bolts About Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park
100 National Park Rd.
Hopkins, SC 29061
Tel: (803) 776-4396
www.nps.gov/cong

Where to Stay
There are a handful of campsites inside Congaree National Park and they must be reserved in advance.

Radcliff and I stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Santee, S.C., about a 30-minute drive from the hotel. Red Roof Inns are pet-friendly and don’t charge an additional fee for your hound.

Where to Eat
Congaree National Park does not offer dining and nearby restaurants are slim. Pack your own snacks and water.

My Tips for Visiting Congaree National Park With Your Dog

  • With Congaree National Park’s thousands of trees, there are plenty for your dog to make his mark. But please, do not carve anything into these grand trees.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
  • Please pick up after your dog. Please!
  • Know the limits of your dog. Typically, my dog can not walk long distances and I was surprised at how well he did. Along the boardwalk there are some sitting areas but they are limited. I “pulled over” when I knew we were in the way of the few people I saw. There are some “exit points” that lead to land trails and I led Radcliff to these areas so he could relieve. We did meet at least two other dogs when coming off the trail. They were excited and Radcliff was excited and the best way I saw to handle it was to head to the restroom until they passed.
  • Although there is water at the visitor center, bring it along when walking the Boardwalk Trail to keep you and your pup hydrated. There are lots of portable options and I use the Highwave AutoDogMug which you can find on Amazon here –> Highwave AutoDogMug.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support this blog, my traveling habit, and my special-needs dog.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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