Congaree National Park owl

Winter Bird Hike February 19

Friends of Congaree Swamp will feature a Great Backyard Bird Count hike on Sunday February 19 starting at 8:30 AM at the Bates Ferry Trailhead off US 601 on the eastern end of the park. We will spend the morning travelling along the US 601 corridor with an emphasis on roadside birding, looking overhead for interesting fly-bys, and short excursions into a variety of habitats. Great Backyard Bird Count activities at the park were initiated by Robin Carter and we are happy to continue to the tradition. Our observations will contribute to all observations made at the park from February 17 to February 20 as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Weston Slough Bridge

Big Tree Hike

9 AM Saturday, January 14, 2017

In 2013, Frank Henning, the park’s Learning Center Director, approached USC Prof. John Kupfer (Geography) about a project to update the park’s big tree database.  The park was divided into over 50 sectors and volunteers agreed to search the sectors to confirm the status of trees known from the database as well as identify any new candidate trees for the database.

We will visit an accessible sector to the east of the Weston Lake Loop Trail to discuss the project and share some of our discoveries, including a newly documented Loblolly Pine, some unusual cypress and tupelo and other serendipitous discoveries that arise when visiting the same area repeatedly and intensively.  En route, we will stop by the Richland County pine, a pocket of old growth just off the Elevated Boardwalk, and the national champion Loblolly Pine.

Meet at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center at 9 a.m. The hike will last until 2 p.m., so bring lunch and something to drink. Participants should be in good physical condition with sturdy foot wear. Total walking distance will be about five miles, about half of which will be on maintained trails. The hike will be limited to 30 people.

Contact John Grego at 803-331-3366 or to sign up. Preference will be given to members of Friends of  Congaree Swamp.

Marbled Salamander

Aquatic Critters Appreciation Event


Saturday, October 15, 2016, 8:30 AM-12:00 PM

Harry Hampton Visitors Center Parking Lot

Leader: Jim Bulak

Congaree National Park contains a wide variety of aquatic life that most visitors never see or experience.  This tour will be led by Dr. Jim Bulak, Researcher Coordinator at SC DNR’s Fisheries Research lab in Eastover.  He will organize a team to electrofish Dry Branch, rather than our usual location along Cedar Creek.  We will bring along gear to stop at backwaters and collect and discuss the fish, crayfish, insects, salamanders and other critters that live in them.  Jim will arange to have a macroinvertebrate specialist along to assist with IDs.

Inspection of the specimens collected by Dr. Bulak and his crew will take over an hour in its own right.  The hike to the site will require some off-trail hiking. Participants should be in moderate physical shape.  Bring water and insect repellant; long pants are recommended.  Jogging shoes or light hiking boots are appropriate.  If participants wish to assist with sampling, wading shoes or boots would be helpful.  This hike is limited to the first 25 people to sign up.  We will meet at the NPS parking lot off South Cedar Creek Road.  To sign up, contact John Grego (, 803-331-3366)

Migratory Bird Hike

Sunday, September 25 2016, 9am

Join us Sunday, Sept. 25, for a fall hike to look for migratory birds moving through the park on their way back to the Caribbean, Central America and South America. This is also a chance to see if we can still find some of our summer resident bird species that have not yet moved on. During the hike, we will have the opportunity to practice identification skills (mostly of resident and summer species), and will be able to observe several species up close. The hike will be part of the Fall North American Migration Count for Congaree National Park, an idea first originated by Kathleen O’Grady, and our observations will be part of a statewide compilation. We plan to cover other areas of the park both preceding and following the morning hike and welcome additional volunteers.

We will meet at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. and the hike should last until noon. Bring water, insect repellent and binoculars. The hike will follow portions of the Sims Trail, Boardwalk Loop Trail and Bluff Trail.

If interested, contact John Grego at (803) 331-3366 or

Adopt-a-Trail Workday (Paw Paw)

Sunday, August 28, 2016, 9:00 AM – around 1:30 PM
It’s time again for trail-clearing on the Sims Trail, the Boardwalk, the Weston Lake Trail and the Oakridge Trail, or whichever of the park’s trails needs the most attention. Though late August is hot, trail-clearing duties are usually light, and the paw paw fruit is ripe. We will be clearing the trails of fallen limbs, and intruding branches, vines and cane.
We will meet at the Visitor Center at 9 AM and will finish in the early afternoon. Be prepared for warm weather, spiderwebs and bugs. Work gloves, light hiking boots, plenty of water, and a snack are recommended. If you have loppers, long-handled shears or bow saws, bring them along. Friends members and Park staff will provide gear if you do not have any. Please contact John Grego (; 803-331-3366) if interested.

Father’s Day Botany Hike

Sunday, June 19, 8:30 AM-12 PM

Bates Ferry Trailhead Parking Lot
Congaree National Park

Leader: Dr. John Nelson

In appreciation of the Park’s summer vegetation and any flora-loving fathers out there, Friends of Congaree Swamp will organize a hike at Little Buckhead along the US 601 causeway on the eastern end of the park.  Some of the time will likely be spent along the transmission line easement inspecting the abundance of vegetation in that area, though we will also duck into the woods to escape the sun and inspect river levee vegetation along Bates Old River.  Professor John Nelson, Chief Curator of USC’s A.C. Moore Herbarium, will lead the botany tour.   This area also hosts an abundance of butterflies, dragonflies and other insects.

This hike will be mostly off-trail or on old hunt club trails.  Participants should be in moderate physical shape. Bring water and insect repellant; long pants are recommended.  Jogging shoes or light hiking boots are appropriate. We will meet at the parking lot for the Bates Ferry Trail off US 601 at the east end of the park.


Contact: John Grego
(803) 331-3366 (cell)

North American Butterfly Association Butterfly Count

Saturday, June 11, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The summer North American Butterfly Association Butterfly Count will be held Saturday, June 11, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Congaree National Park staff members David Shelley and Frank Henning and Carolina Butterfly Society members Marty and David Kastner are organizing the annual event.

Participants will spend the day conducting field observations counting butterflies along the trail system and within various habitats of the park. The count will last until about 4 p.m., weather permitting. Please come for all or just part of the day.

We will meet at 9 a.m. at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center.  All ages and experience levels are welcome.  Appropriate clothing is required of all participants, including long pants and closed-toed shoes that attach to the feet. Sun protection, bug spray, water, snacks, and a sack lunch are recommended.  Binoculars are recommended as well, but not required. A limited supply of binoculars will be available for use during this program, and these may be reserved ahead of time at the front desk.  This program is free, but space is limited. Advance reservations are requested.

For more information please contact David Shelley, education coordinator of the Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center, at or (803) 647-3966.

Acadian Flycatcher

Congaree Swamp Christmas Bird Count

Sunday, December 20, 2015, 7:00 AM

Harry Hampton Visitor Center parking lot

Christmas Bird Counts, conducted each year since 1900, are the oldest citizen science project in the country. A Christmas Bird Count (or CBC) is an all-day effort to find and identify as many wild birds as possible within a 15-mile diameter circle. This effort, which now includes over 2,300 circles and 70,000 participants annually, is sponsored by the National Audubon Society; results may be reviewed at We have a CBC for Congaree Swamp (founded by Robin Carter) that includes almost all the national park and adjacent areas, from Gadsden in Richland County to Fort Motte and St. Matthews in Calhoun County.

Congaree Swamp CBC often has among the highest counts in the country of Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Barred Owl, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, blackbird species, and others. Last year, participants who were out before dawn witnessed a spectacular display from the Geminid meteor shower—you never know what you will see out there.

Join us to help out. If you are a novice, an expert birder will lead you around the boardwalk and Bluff Trail in the morning, both of which are excellent sites for some of the park’s most interesting wintering species and permanent residents, including Winter Wren, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Creeper, Red-headed Woodpecker, Rusty Blackbird and Fox Sparrow. You may stay as long as you like–many participants stay for a few hours, but some will bird all day as part of one of our parties. Meet at the visitor center parking lot at 7:00 AM on Sunday, December 15, 2013 for this free event. If interested, please contact John Grego at 803-331-3366 (C), email

Marbled Salamander

Adopt-a-Trail Workday (Marbled Salamander)

Saturday, December 12, 2015 (updated)

9:00 AM – around 1:30 PM

We will be clearing our adopted trails (Boardwalk Loop, Weston Lake Loop Trail, Oakridge Trail and Sims Trail) before Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest weekends of the year at the park. A lot of local residents bring their families to visit the Park on the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and we will want the trails to be ready for them. There will be plenty of flotsam on the trails from the recent floods, so the focus will be more on dragging material off the trail rather than pruning back vegetation.

We will meet at the Visitor Center at 9 AM and will finish in the early afternoon. Work gloves, light hiking boots, plenty of water, and a snack are recommended. If you have loppers, long-handled shears or bow saws, bring them along. Friends members and Park staff will provide gear if you do not have any. Please contact John Grego (; 803-331-3366) if interested.

Congaree National Park owl

Exploring New Territory

Saturday, 26 September 2015, 9:30am-12:30pm

Friends will be travelling to the US 601 causeway to visit the park’s newest acquisition, a 263-acre tract within the 2003 boundary expansion. The tract has an established access road and several jeep trails leading to food plots, so it should be easy area to explore. We will have the opportunity to follow Bates Old River channel and visit the bank of the Congaree River. There may be other highlights to discover along the way—that’s the part of the reason for the trip. The hike should be no more than three miles, and a side trip to the park’s newly-opened Bates Ferry Trail to see the General Greene cypress is a definite option. We will meet at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and carpool sixteen miles to the wide pull-out along the US 601 causeway at Sampson Island. Bring a lunch if you like, to enjoy along with the fine weather that always accompanies FCS field trips. Contact John Cely to register. Preference will be given to members of Friends of Congaree Swamp. 803-782-7450