Friday, October 9, 2020

The sign at the visitor center before we went on our walk.  I'm thinking it should have been at 6!

Thursday we arrived at the Santee Koa in Santee, SC.  We are staying here for 2 nights, specifically to go to Congaree National Park.  To be honest, I wasn't very excited about visiting this national park.  First, the only camping is walk-in so we are staying about an hour away.  It's a relatively new national park, getting that distinction in 2003.  It protects the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States.  I wasn't sure if it would be very interesting actually.  I had read that almost 80% of the park lies within the flood plain for the Congaree River.  Would there be anything to see?

It was amazing!  We headed towards the visitor center, which is closed except for the camp store and took the boardwalk, a 2 1/2 mile walk.  Krikkit joined us in her "buggy" (Pat said calling it a "stroller" is degrading to her).  Congaree is one of the smallest national parks in area, but there was so much to see and learn on our walk.  The brochure pointed out the important parts of the forest.  It was easy to follow along because the points were numbered on the trail. We stayed on the boardwalk although there were several trails that went off into the forest.  I was glad I wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.  Pat was glad we had bug spray, although he had to keep moving to keep the mosquitoes at bay!  Bald cypress is the primary tree here.  It is rot and water resistant, and can live to be over 1,000 years old.  This wood was used by the Catawba and Congaree tribes for canoes because it was easy to work with and durable.  It was logged in the late 1800's for many other uses, which is why not many bald cypress trees exist today.  In the 1950's a newspaper reporter and editor, Harry Hampton, began a campaign to save this floodplain.

Staying at a KOA is not something we  usually do.  They are usually more expensive having nightly rates not weekly or monthly during the summer season, have more amenities than we need, and we prefer to be more in nature.  This one had a lot of trees and the sites were a little more spread out than a lot of KOA's we have been too.  They had a pool, hot tub, sand volleyball, playground, beach, lawn golf (mini-golf that is basically flat without many challenges), and more, none of which we used. There were quite a few people here but it wasn't crowded at all.  Surprised that there were so many tenters.  We're always happy to see families with kids having fun with each other in nature.

Dark colored mud above is a mixture of clay and old leaves.  It is called Dorovan muck and is 8 feet thick. It filters water and traps pollutants, turning them into harmless compounds.

The bald cypress produces "knees" that rise up from the roots.  They think they may help provide structural support during floods and high winds.

Moss on the lower part of the tree trunk indicates the water level from previous floods.  The Congaree can flood up to10 times a year.

Switch cane is invasive in South Carolina.  Dense growths are called canebrake.

Low area called a gut.  Guts and Sloughs are low channels in the forest that help disperse water throughout the floodplain when the river floods. Silt and soil are deposited, replenishing the floodplain with nutrients. 

This fallen loblolly pine may have lived for two centuries before it fell during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  By examining the rings they found a history of forest fires, draughts and years of lots of rain.

A loblolly pine, a pine that grows well in wetlands.  The are the tallest trees in South Carolina.  This tree is over 150 feet tall and a former state champion.

South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State, named after the state tree, the cabbage palmetto.  These short, fan like palms are dwarf palmettos.  They thrive in wet areas where a disturbance, such as a hurricane, causes a gap in the canopy.

A Still from prohibition days

In 1989 Hurricane Hugo brought tornados, leaving large open gaps in the canopy.  Where many trees did not survive, seedlings and vines sprouted.

A large burl

After a prescribed fire this fallen loblolly continued to burn.  It was sectioned to make sure the fire was fully out.

The boardwalk has been repaired where a large tree fell on it.  Lightning, storms and prescribed burns are all part of forest renewal.

Lunch time--away from the mosquitoes!

Peanuts and cheese for Krikkit

One of the walk-in campgrounds at Congaree

Santee KOA on Lake Marion

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