Congaree National Park is part of the internationally-recognized Congaree Biosphere Reserve.
Biosphere Reserves are designated by the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Located around the globe, these sites recognize and protect areas of exceptional biodiversity, natural resources, and cultural heritage. Biosphere Reserves are changing landscapes that include not only protected areas like Congaree National Park, but also the surrounding communities. Thus, Biosphere Reserves also promote environmental education, research, tourism, and sustainable development by involving local communities in regional decision making.
Congaree National Park is proud to be part of the Congaree International Biosphere Reserve. First designated by UNESCO in 1983, the Congaree Biosphere Reserve honors and protects the unique ecosystems of the South Carolinian midlands around the Congaree River. The Congaree Biosphere Reserve also recognizes that the people of this area have long-standing, significant relationships with the landscape, including the resources and heritage it contains. The Congaree Biosphere Reserve offers a geographic context for organizations and individuals with diverse missions and perspectives to partner and collaborate for the sustainable use and future of the region.
Geography of the Congaree Biosphere Reserve
Biosphere Reserves consist of three geographic zones. In the Congaree Biosphere Reserve, these zones are called the Core Protected Area, the Managed Use Area, and the Area of Partnership and Cooperation.
The Core Protected Area includes 15,269 acres of Congaree National Park, all of which are federally designated wilderness. This area is an important sanctuary for clean air and water, as well as for the thousands of species who live there. It is also a recreational space in which visitors can fish, camp, hike, and boat.
The Managed Use Area contains 5,557 acres of wilderness and 5,713 acres of non-wilderness. The Managed Use Area is where Congaree National Park’s trails, visitor center, and facilities are located. This area is well suited for educational programs, as it facilitates interaction between people and nature.
The Area of Partnership and Cooperation is where people work together to conserve and use resources. This area surrounds the Park, and contains large portions of Calhoun, Kershaw, Richland, and Sumter counties. Rural communities, military facilities, croplands, timber lots, and city blocks are some of the human features found here.