Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park allows its visitors to travel back in time to a land of dense tree lined waterways framed with hanging Spanish moss and lush green foliage. Nestled in the state of South Carolina, this park has over 26,000 acres to explore. Although it appears to be a swamp, Congaree National Park is actually a flood plain, because it does not have stagnant water throughout the year. Instead water from the Congaree River and Wateree River overflow into the low floodplain during the wetter seasons of the year. Known by some as the “Redwoods of the East”, Congaree has some of the largest trees in the east coast. It boasts of old hardwood trees which have survived and thrived in this massive forest surrounded by water, water and more water. In fact, one of the best ways to explore the park is by canoe or kayak, especially during spring or fall when the weather is mild and the mosquitos are tame. With several trails to travel, you’ll be able to experience the richness of the dense green forest, while observing birds darting through the towering moss draped trees. Plan to take a relaxing walk along the 2.4 mile boardwalk path that weaves through the wetlands and tall trees. Be sure to plan ahead and pack good waterproof footwear, as the boardwalk can flood along with just about any area in the park.
Keep an eye out for the brightly colored Summer Tanager. The males are a solid cherry red, while the females are a solid yellow. These birds are somewhat elusive as they spend most of their time high in the trees, so ample patience is required to spot the Tanager, but it is well worth it. They are a treat to observe and provide a breathtaking contrast to the blanketing green of the surrounding vegetation. The easiest way to locate a Summer Tanager is by identifying their whimsical song. With a melody similar to the Robin, listen for the sweet distinctive “chick-tucky-tuck” of their call. Surprisingly, this charming little bird is a deadly and skilled hunter. These clever birds love to put their skills to the test by catching bees and wasps mid-flight and slamming them against a branch. The Tanager then rubs the stinger off against the branch before devouring its tasty treat. They also like to eat small fruits, berries and insects such as caterpillars, beetles and grasshoppers. The Summer Tanager likes to use the prevalent Spanish moss to create a soft warm nest for its beautiful pale green eggs. These birds can be spotted in Congaree National Park during the summer months, where it rests and prepares for the long winter migration of roughly 553 miles to South America to stay warm during the winter.