Floods Nurture Congaree National Park

Floods are often thought of as disasters, especially when people and property are harmed. In nature, however, some ecosystems thrive on periodic flooding. While traveling in South Carolina last week, I had the opportunity to visit one such place – Congaree National Park.

Situated in the floodplain of the meandering Congaree and Wateree Rivers, the park protects the largest expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood trees still standing in the southeastern United States.  It is home to a dazzling array of biodiversity, including a number of champion trees – tress that hold the size record for their species.  These include a bald cypress with a circumference of twenty-seven feet and a loblolly pine standing one hundred seventy feet tall.  These trees would not be able to flourish without the moisture and nutrient–laden sediments that flood waters bring to the forest floor.

This floodplain forest is typically inundated by water several times a year. During my visit, the park was about 90% flooded as a result of recent heavy rainfall on top of an already wet spring.  It was an impressive sight.

The elevated boardwalk trail in Congaree NP disappears into high flood waters.

The elevated boardwalk trail in Congaree NP disappears into high flood waters.

Image Credit: The Weather Gamut

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About Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming is an environmental communicator and visual artist working at the intersection of art and science. She is passionate about exploring, learning, and sharing information about the natural world. She has presented her interdisciplinary work in a variety of mediums at venues and conferences around the world.