• Bald Cypress and Water Tupelo along Cedar Creek

    Congaree

    National Park South Carolina

History & Culture

The Congaree floodplain is rich in cultural history.

Prehistoric foragers hunted the area and fished its waters. The Congaree claimed the floodplain and Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto recounted the intrigue of the area in his journals. Around 1700, the Congaree were decimated by a smallpox epidemic introduced with the arrival of European settlers. The new residents obtained land grants from the King of England until 1776, when the state of South Carolina assumed the right to distribute ownership of the land. Attempts to make the land suitable for planting, as well as grazing, continued through 1860. The floodplain's minor changes in elevation and consequent flooding stifled agricultural activity; but the intermittent flooding allowed for soil nutrient renewal and enabled the area's trees to thrive. Bald Cypress, in particular, became a target for logging. By 1905, the Santee River Cypress Lumber Company, owned by Francis Beidler, had acquired much of the land. Poor accessibility by land confined logging to tracts near waterways so that logs could be floated down river. In the perpetual dampness, though, many of the cut trees remained too green to float. Operations were suspended within ten years, leaving old-growth remaining in the floodplain.

In 1969 relatively high timber prices prompted private landowners to consider resuming logging operations. As a result of an effective grass roots campaign launched by the Sierra Club and many local individuals, Congress established Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976.

On June 30, 1983 Congaree Swamp National Monument was designated an International Biosphere Reserve. In July of 2001 it was designated a Globally Important Bird Area, and on November 10, 2003 it was designated as the nation's 57th National Park.

Congaree Timeline

1540 Hernando de Soto passes through the area
1570 Spanish outposts abandoned
1670 Charlestowne established
1698 Congaree Indians lose most tribe members to smallpox
1730 Governor develops plan for inland settlements
1776 Francis Marion hides from British in SC forests
1785 Richland County established
1786 City of Columbia named as State Capital
1786 Isaac Huger begins construction of ferry system to cross Congaree River in what is now Congaree National Park
1839-41 James Adams and others use slave labor to begin construction of dikes at NW and SW boundaries of the Congaree floodplain
1840's Cattle mounts built near dikes within the Congaree floodplain in effort to make land useful for grazing.
1861 First shots fired at Fort Sumter; Civil War begins
1865 Lee surrenders; Civil War ends
1895 Francis Beidler acquires tracts of floodplain throughout SC; logging begins on some portions of the Congaree floodplain
1915 Logging operations cease
1969 Renewed logging interest sparks urgency to acquire public ownership of the Congaree floodplain
1974 Congaree Swamp National Monument designated as a National Natural Landmark
1976 Congaree Swamp National Monument established by the 94th U.S. Congress
1983 Congaree Swamp National Monument designated as a International Biosphere Reserve
1989 Hurricane Hugo makes impact on the Congaree forest, opens canopy and takes down several champion trees
2001

Congaree designated as a Globally Important Bird Area, dedication of Harry Hampton Visitor Center, and 25th Anniversary of Congaree Swamp National Monument

2003 Designation as Congaree National Park

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