Starting at Bannister's Bridge, the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail winds 15 miles through the park to the Congaree River. Visitors can access the creek by vehicle at either Bannister's Bridge and Cedar Creek Landings. Access to the Congaree River is possible outside the park at the Route 601 landing and in the city of Columbia. There is no vehicle access to the river from within the park. From the landings, several different trips are possible:
This option is ideal for canoeists or kayakers with only one vehicle. From the Cedar Creek landing, paddlers can put in and explore either upstream or downsteam. This portion of the creek is beautiful and tranquil, with large bald cypress trees on either bank forming a graceful canopy over the streams dark water. Downstream from the landing is Dawson's Lake, a popular fishing spot and an excellent place to spot river otter and other wildlife.
Bannister's Bridge to Cedar Creek Landing
For paddlers with two or more vehicles, this stretch of Cedar Creek is ideal for an enjoyable and satisfying day trip. Beginning at Bannister's Bridge Landing near the confluence of Cedar and Myers Creek, the stream starts out narrow and gradually widens as you travel downstream. Paddlers travel past oaks and immense loblolly pines of near record proportions growing on either side of the creek. Numerous logs from trees that have fallen into the creek provide places for snakes and turtles to sun themselves during the spring and summer months. At the halfway point, the creek passes near Wise Lake, a former channel of the Congaree River, which is accessible when water levels are higher. The trail ends at Cedar Creek Landing, which is marked by an iron bridge over the creek.
Also a great option for canoeists with two vehicles, this trip allows paddlers to explore the wilder eastern section of the park and float down the Congaree River. As the creek winds its way towards the Congaree, it travels through some of the oldest forest remaining in the park. Here you can see immense bald cypress and towering tupelos dripping with Spanish moss. Cedar Creek makes a sharp bend to the left where Horsepen Gut enters the stream, approximately four miles from the landing. Three miles beyond this point is Mazyck's Cut, where Cedar Creek enters the river. A wooden sign post points the way and three trail markers guide paddlers to the river. Once on the river, you can make a leisurely float downstream to the Route 601 Landing.
Note: This trip is best done as an overnight trip. To camp in the backcountry, you must obtain a backcountry camping permit, which is available at the Longleaf Campground 24 hours a day.
Congaree River Blue Trail
The Congaree River Blue Trail is a collaborative effort between local, state and federal agencies, including the National Park Service, with the goal of providing access to the recreational opportunities that the Congaree River provides. The Blue Trail follows the river from its start in the city of Columbia to the Route 601 Landing near the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree, and travels past diverse habitats, offering paddlers the opportunity to see bald eagles, alligators and a variety of other wildlife.
This is a trip that is best spaced out over two or three days. Canoes or kayaks can be launched at one of several landings in the city of Columbia. There are no designated campsites along the river, but paddlers can use the sandbars that are available during times of low water, or backcountry camp when the reach Congaree National Park near River Mile 26. A backcountry permit is required to camp in Congaree, and can be obtained by calling (803) 776-4396. Paddlers should be aware of the backcountry rules and regulations before stopping for the night. Please carry plenty of water, as it is not advisable to drink any water out of the Congaree River.
If you need a map of the Blue Trail, a PDF version is available (Requires Adobe Reader). There are also waterproof copies available at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center.