Getting my kayaking kicks in Congaree

As I mentioned last week, my family is on a quest to visit all the National Parks in our lifetime, and have visited 24 out of 61 so far. Touring a National Park is an incredible experience in itself; touring it by kayak is even better!

Our second National Park kayaking trip was in Congaree National Park in South Carolina in October 2017. The thing I remember most about this park were the enormous spiders (and I Detest spiders—with a capital D). I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about the spiders at Congaree.

My first warning was in the restroom shortly after we arrived. A woman was taking a photo of something in the corner. My curiosity got the best of me and I peered over her shoulder to see what was so interesting. It was a mistake to look because when I did, I saw the largest spider of my life, and admittedly shoved my daughter out of the way to escape the restroom. (Don’t judge my parenting; she’s old enough to fend for herself.) Yet while I escaped the bathroom unscathed, while at Congaree, I was never truly safe from spiders. Throughout our hike through the forest, we saw numerous large spiders hanging from webs stretched between the trees along the path. (There goes another shiver up my spine.)

When we booked our visit to Congaree, we tried to make reservations for a kayak trip in Cedar Creek; however, all the spots were filled. Not to be deterred, we asked about the trip anyway when we arrived, and to our luck, there had been a few cancellations, and we got to take the trip we’d hoped to take in the first place. I was elated to get in the kayak (which I first checked thoroughly for spiders) and push off into the water, careful not to get too close to any low hanging, spider-infested trees.  The water was so clear and calm that the surrounding landscape was reflected perfectly in the river, making for outstanding pictures and a gorgeous ride. Our park ranger was a great guide, and we learned a lot about the plants and animals living in Congaree.

And while I didn’t see any spiders during our time on the water, the jungle terrain of Congaree is also home to snakes, and during our kayak trip, a couple of lagging kayakers spotted a water moccasin slithering across the water, heading toward our group. I was a bit nervous on the return trip, a small part of me excited by the possibility of seeing a legendary cottonmouth snake, but more so—terrorized by the thought of a poisonous snake lurking nearby, waiting to slither into my kayak. I stayed as close to the ranger as possible!

Despite the snakes and spiders, Congaree is an amazing park, now crossed off our National Park list. And kayaking was a most unique and enjoyable way to experience it. Would I do it again? Certainly, I would, despite the visions of creepy crawly things that haunted my dreams whenever I closed my eyes that warm October night.

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