San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Well, I didn't know there was such a place, smack dab in the middle of South Carolina minutes away from the state's capitol, either. And if it's a national park, this adventurer has been known to backtrack; curiosity getting the best of me, backtrack I did.

Most of Congaree National Park is wilderness bordered by the Congaree River. It's a small park, with two canoe/kayak trails and four or five hiking trails, one of which is an elevated boardwalk. Setting it aside as a National Park insured protection of the last old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the country. Translated for the casual visitor, Congaree National Park is a tranquil forest ecosystem that supports diverse wildlife and towering trees of record size. It is a peaceful sanctuary with no commerce other than a simple visitor center and a parking lot "campground." And a "Mosquito Meter" that didn't lie!
These photos don't tell a story so much as illustrate Mother Nature's luminous patterns and the unique sensory opportunities found in this little park. Follow me!
It's call Dorovan Muck. I'm not going to get sidetracked in "Dorovan Muck" -- you can Google it. Suffice it to say it made headlines in the 1980's for its ability to break down pollutants. Essential stuff, that muck. Good gooey muck, found in several locations along my path!
Fungi, not muck!
Red lichen, not too common.
Cardinal flower.
Congaree's most interesting (to me) feature is its flooding cycles, about ten a year, when the Congaree overflows its natural banks. Within the Congaree NP floodplain, water courses and scours through the park's creeks, guts and sloughs, disperses across the flat ground (there is only a 20' drop in the course of the 23-mile long river); and deposits the nutrient-rich soil that sustains magnificent canopies of bald cypress, loblolly pines, hickories, beeches and tupelo trees. And an understory of pawpaw trees, vines and switchcane (more akin to sugar cane than bamboo) and mini forests of bald cypress "knees."

Some of the "knees" reminded me of little knobby gnome families standing at attention!
And from a distance, this knee forest reminded me of cavern stalagmites emerging from the grass and muck.
This one's a flat top holding secret moss treasures.
Like a graceful, velvet theater drape
I loved this little park, warts and all!