I drove about 3.5 hours from North Carolina to meet with three buddies from Atlanta in Columbia, SC. The weather was perfect for paddling, not too hot, not too cold or windy. Congaree National Park was our pick this time. Congaree National Park is a very special place in the U.S. continent to visit. The park is a floodplain type with thousands of tall cypress tress enacted from the muddy ground. The best way to explore the park is to paddle along the Cedar creek.
We got 2 Adventure Mad River canoes from Adventure Carolina outfitter in Columbia. The store's lady was very kind, the service was good; however you better watch out for their rental policy. Once you reserve the canoes, you can't get your money back but the rental credits to use for next time. We loaded the 2 canoes on our cars' roofs. There was no metal rack at all and so they provided us the foam gears to tie the canoes up. After about 25 minute drive, we got to the park. My friends said the Congaree was fascinating.
We needed to register with park's visitor center to obtain the back country camping permit. I can tell y'all that the ladies in this visitor center provide the 5-star customer service. They were so friendly, so helpful, so kind, and so polite. The permit was free, but you got to register for your own safety. This time our put-in was Bannister's bridge. There was an overnight parking lot at the boat access area. We loaded our camping gear and food on the canoes and launched them around 12.30pm. As we paddled, the creek became wider. The landscape was exotic. I traveled to many many places in America, but hadn't seen a place like this before.
Since we paddled downstream, we didn't use much energy this time but it was the nightmare on the next day when we paddled back to the parking lot. We had lunch on-board after 2 hours. The noodles cups were delicious.
After 4 hours of paddling and playing around on the water, we arrived at the Wise Lake. The lake disappointed us a bit as it was just like the creek but just a little bit wider. At dusk, we picked our campsite and set up the tent before the sun went down. The mosquitoes were terrible. If we didn't have insect repellent, some of us could have became dead meat. We cooked dinner by the backpack-type gas stove. Since open fire was not allowed in the park, we changed clothes and gathered inside the tent to chill out before bedtime.
During the night, there were scary sounds from the animals in the park. I got myself a butcher's knight, just in case. It was not too cold at night with the sleeping bag. The night was comfortable.
The next day, we woke up at 9am. Everything was loaded back to the canoes and we began to paddle upstream back to the Bannister's bridge. The distance was approximately 3.5 or 4 miles, but it took a lot of effort to get through the current, giant fallen tree stems, spiky plants along the creek. Though it was a bit tough, we all enjoyed the paddling work.
We arrived at the parking lot around 12:30pm, then returned the canoes, and had a nice buffet.
Back country camping; no facilities at all.
2 Mad River canoes - Adventure
Permits required, but no fees.
You can obtain driving information from the park's website: