Camping at Congaree

For at least two summers, I’ve been trying to snag a spot on a kayaking tour of Cedar Creek near Columbia, South Carolina in the Congaree National Park. But, the tour would leave around eight o’clock on warm Saturdays.  In order to secure a seat on the next trip, you had to call near eight and they only booked two weeks out. I tried repeatedly and just couldn’t call at the right time. Or I’d forget. Or they would be booked by the time I got through the busy line.

But, thanks to a list of faithful volunteers, now there are four trips a weekend and they open up booking a quarter at a time.

So, this past weekend, Joy and I were able to join a trip. I still swoon when I think of our weekend.

Let me begin by telling you that Joy was all about camping
until I mentioned that we would be “primitive” camping.
“No electricity? Or bathrooms? Really?”

To ease the blow, I decided to pull out a porta-potty that we used to use in our camper. We took our changing tent and a solar shower and we were set. You -almost- couldn’t tell that we were primitive camping.

Here’s an inside look at our porta-bathroom-changing closet. (The water was to “flush” since the bellows on our potty is broken. I’ll be ordering a replacement this week.)

The most difficult part of the trip was hiking our stuff to the site.  We didn’t arrive early enough to capture one of the easy-to-get-to sites. So, we had to make s.e.v.e.r.a.l trips to get all of our equipment down the trail. I’m sure we’re both stronger for the trips … but we will definitely arrive earlier next time!

We spent one morning hanging out at the site playing games and relaxing. We did a good bit of hiking. With 22,000 acres, there is plenty of exploration space. We even join in a really fun ranger-guided, nighttime Owl Prowl with the full moon as our illumination.  OH! OH! OH! Did you know that an owl’s “ears” are not evenly placed on their head?  You know how a dog will tilt his head to the side to be able to hear better? Owls don’t have to do that. God placed their ears unevenly on their head so that they can more clearly hear sounds. Isn’t that cool?

But, the highlight of the weekend was the two full hours spent paddling down and then back up Cedar Creek on Saturday afternoon. Yes, it was littered with pollen … like the REST of the south right now!I think there were nine canoes with two or three people per boat plus two volunteers and a ranger, each in kayaks – plus Joy and I (in our kayaks). John, “The Snake Spotter” was our lead.  He was A.MAZ.ING at spotting snakes along the way.  I bet we saw ten draped on limbs and sunning on debris.  While that sounds like a lot and may even seem frightening, it wasn’t at all. They were still and content.  None were in the water and we stayed out from under limbs so as not to scare and cause them to fall into our boats.

If you are within a 2.5 – 3  hour drive of Columbia, this trip is WELL WORTH the drive. The paddling trip is completely free. Camping is completely free. And all the classes and tours are also free.  March 15 opened up reservations for the April through June quarter so call now, if you’re interested. The number is 803.776.4396, Ext 0. If you would like to look at the website and learn more about the guided canoe trips, click HERE.

And if you’re not into camping – especially the primitive kind – the park is right outside Columbia so “civilization” is close by, if you want to choose a more cushy way to travel.

After almost two years of waiting, we finally got to take a guided tour down Cedar Creek. We learned a lot more than we would have had we been on our own. We thoroughly enjoyed all the other paddlers.  If you’re looking for a great day or weekend outing and live in the area, this place is a great destination.


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