A Weekend on the Congaree River Blue Trail

I finally did it. I finally paddled to the end of the Congaree River Blue Trail – in one weekend.

After leaving cars at the take-out, we were on the river by noon on Friday and off the river by 3:00 on Sunday. We put in at the Cayce Landing and took out at Bates Bridge Landing at Hwy 601.

With 15 hours of paddling time, and two nights on sandbars, we covered about 50 miles of the Congaree River Blue Trail. The river was low after another summer of drought, but we pushed through, still taking some breaks for excellent wildlife viewing.

The Congaree River is unlike any other river I’ve paddled.

Starting near Columbia, the first access point for the Congaree River Blue Trial can be found at the West Columbia Riverwalk, which was recently named by the Department of the Interior an America’s Great Outdoors priority project for the State of South Carolina.

The river is broad and sandy. Known for its high bluffs, most of the land is held privately (with a fun spattering of eclectic river shacks) until you enter the Congaree National Park. The National Park hosts the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining in North America.

The biodiversity is amazing to observe. In just our weekend on the River we spotted: five Bald Eagles, numerous Kingfishers, numerous Great Blue Herons, numerous White Egrets, one River Cooter, one Anhinga, one Red-tailed Hawk, one Osprey, four Wild Boars, and deer and raccoon tracks.  Just an hour Southeast of Columbia, the National Park feels isolated, primitive and wild.

The weather was perfect. Afternoons were warm and nights were cold. If you go, be prepared for the dew that sets in quickly at night from the river. Wear layers, bring plenty of water and don’t forget your binoculars and camera. Sandbars for camping are aplenty in low flow times. Be sure to check the flow gages and bring your tearproof, waterproof trail map, courtesy of American Rivers.  Most of all enjoy the Congaree River.