Congaree River Blue Trail In South Carolina

Here is everything you need to know about the Congaree River Blue Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: South Carolina
  • Length: 50 miles.
  • Type: Water trail.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: Congaree Riverkeeper
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: Info not available.

The Congaree River Blue Trail is a significant waterway located in central South Carolina, stretching approximately 50 miles from the confluence of the Saluda and Broad Rivers to the Congaree National Park. The history of the Congaree River dates back thousands of years, with evidence of Native American settlements along its banks. The river played a crucial role in the lives of indigenous tribes, providing them with a reliable source of water, transportation, and abundant natural resources.

During the colonial era, European settlers recognized the strategic importance of the Congaree River as a trade route. In the 18th century, the river became a vital transportation artery for the burgeoning city of Columbia, which was established near its banks. The river facilitated the movement of goods, such as cotton, tobacco, and timber, which were essential to the region’s economy.

The Congaree River also played a significant role in the American Civil War. In 1865, during General William T. Sherman’s march through the South, Union troops crossed the river near Columbia, leading to the burning of the city. The river served as a natural barrier and a source of protection for Confederate forces during the war.

Over time, the Congaree River has witnessed various changes and developments. In the early 20th century, the construction of dams and reservoirs along the river provided hydroelectric power and helped control flooding. These developments altered the river’s natural flow and impacted its ecosystem.

Recognizing the historical and ecological significance of the Congaree River, the Congaree Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization, established the Congaree River Blue Trail in 2008. The trail aims to promote recreational activities, environmental stewardship, and cultural heritage along the river. It provides opportunities for paddlers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts to explore the river’s rich history and diverse ecosystem, ensuring that future generations can appreciate and learn from this remarkable waterway.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park – Located in Columbia, South Carolina, this access point offers a boat ramp and parking facilities. It is a popular starting point for paddlers on the Congaree River Blue Trail.

2. Saluda Shoals Park – Situated in Columbia, this park provides access to the Congaree River through a boat ramp and offers various recreational activities such as hiking, biking, and picnicking.

3. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden – Located in Columbia, this access point allows visitors to launch their boats into the Congaree River. It is adjacent to the popular Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, making it a great spot for families.

4. Cayce Riverwalk Park – Situated in Cayce, South Carolina, this park offers a boat ramp and a scenic riverwalk along the Congaree River. It is a popular spot for fishing, kayaking, and picnicking.

5. Congaree National Park – This national park, located near Hopkins, South Carolina, provides multiple access points to the Congaree River. Visitors can explore the river by canoe or kayak and enjoy the park’s diverse ecosystem.

6. Bates Bridge Boat Landing – Situated in Cayce, this boat landing offers access to the Congaree River and is a popular spot for fishing and boating.

7. Granby Landing – Located in West Columbia, this access point provides a boat ramp and parking facilities. It is a convenient spot for launching boats and exploring the Congaree River.

8. Timmerman Trailhead – Situated in Cayce, this trailhead offers access to the Congaree River and is a popular starting point for hikers and bikers. It also provides parking facilities.

9. Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve – Located in Cayce, this preserve offers access to the Congaree River and features hiking trails and scenic views. It is a great spot for nature enthusiasts.

10. Sandy Run Creek Boat Landing – Situated in Gaston, South Carolina, this boat landing provides access to the Congaree River and is a popular spot for fishing and boating.

Transportation Available

1. Congaree Riverkeeper – Non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the Congaree River.
2. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park – Park offering walking trails, picnic areas, and river access.
3. Palmetto Outdoor Center – Outdoor adventure company providing kayak and canoe rentals for exploring the Congaree River.
4. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden – Popular zoo and botanical garden located near the Congaree River.
5. Three Rivers Greenway – Scenic trail system along the Congaree, Saluda, and Broad Rivers.
6. Columbia Fireflies Baseball – Minor league baseball team playing at Segra Park near the Congaree River.
7. Columbia Metropolitan Airport – Local airport serving the Columbia area.
8. Columbia SC Visitors Center – Information center providing resources and assistance for visitors to the area.
9. Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center – Event venue hosting conferences, trade shows, and more.
10. Columbia Marionette Theatre – Puppet theater offering family-friendly shows and workshops.


The amenities available at the Congaree River Blue Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various access points along the trail.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at different access points along the trail for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: The Congaree River Blue Trail offers camping opportunities for visitors. There are designated camping sites along the trail where visitors can set up their tents and spend the night.

4. Picnic Areas: There are picnic areas along the trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack while taking in the scenic views of the Congaree River.

5. Boat Launches: The trail provides boat launches for visitors who want to explore the river by kayak, canoe, or other watercraft.

6. Fishing Spots: The Congaree River Blue Trail offers excellent fishing opportunities. There are designated fishing spots along the trail where visitors can cast their lines and try to catch various fish species.

7. Hiking Trails: In addition to the river trail, there are also hiking trails available for visitors who prefer to explore the surrounding land areas.

8. Wildlife Viewing Areas: The trail provides designated areas where visitors can observe and appreciate the diverse wildlife that inhabits the Congaree River ecosystem.

9. Interpretive Signage: Throughout the trail, there are informative signs that provide educational information about the river, its history, and the surrounding environment.

10. Visitor Centers: There are visitor centers located near the trail where visitors can obtain maps, information, and guidance about the Congaree River Blue Trail and its amenities.

Nearby Services

1. Congaree National Park Campground – Campground located within Congaree National Park, offering tent and RV camping options.
2. The Inn at USC – Upscale hotel located near the University of South Carolina campus.
3. Hampton Inn Columbia Downtown Historic District – Hotel situated in the heart of Columbia’s historic district.
4. Hilton Columbia Center – Modern hotel with a rooftop bar, located in downtown Columbia.
5. The Whig – Casual pub serving craft beers and burgers in downtown Columbia.
6. Motor Supply Co. Bistro – Farm-to-table restaurant offering creative American cuisine in downtown Columbia.
7. Pawleys Front Porch – Laid-back eatery known for its gourmet burgers and outdoor seating in Columbia.
8. Primal Gourmet – Health-focused restaurant offering paleo and gluten-free options in Columbia.
9. Palmetto Health Richland – Hospital providing emergency medical services in Columbia.
10. Columbia Fire Department – Emergency services department responsible for fire and rescue operations in Columbia.

Congaree River Blue Trail Difficulty Notes

The Congaree River Blue Trail offers a moderate difficulty level for outdoor enthusiasts. The trail spans approximately 50 miles, providing a diverse range of experiences for paddlers. While the river itself is generally calm and slow-moving, there are sections with mild rapids and obstacles that require some skill and maneuvering. Additionally, the trail passes through various landscapes, including swamps, forests, and open water, which can present challenges such as navigating through narrow channels or dealing with changing water conditions. Overall, the Congaree River Blue Trail offers an enjoyable and accessible adventure for paddlers of intermediate skill levels.

Features And Attractions

Info not available.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets are allowed on the Congaree River Blue Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Camping is permitted only in designated areas along the trail.
3. Fires are allowed only in designated fire rings or grills.
4. Littering is strictly prohibited. Visitors must pack out all trash and dispose of it properly.
5. Hunting and fishing are allowed in accordance with state regulations. Proper licenses and permits are required.
6. Motorized vehicles, including ATVs and motorcycles, are not allowed on the trail.
7. Swimming is permitted in designated areas only. Visitors must follow all safety guidelines and swim at their own risk.
8. Alcohol consumption is allowed only in designated areas and must be done responsibly.
9. Bicycles are allowed on the trail but must yield to pedestrians and follow all posted speed limits.
10. The trail may have seasonal restrictions or closures due to weather conditions or maintenance. Visitors should check for updates before planning their trip.

Seasonal Information

The Congaree River Blue Trail offers a unique and breathtaking experience for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Located in South Carolina, this 50-mile trail follows the meandering path of the Congaree River, showcasing the beauty of the surrounding Congaree National Park and its diverse ecosystem. When planning your visit, it’s important to consider the best times of the year to fully enjoy this remarkable trail.

One of the best times to visit the Congaree River Blue Trail is during the spring season, particularly from March to May. During this time, the weather is generally pleasant, with mild temperatures and lower humidity levels. The trail comes alive with vibrant colors as wildflowers bloom, and the trees and vegetation begin to flourish. It’s an ideal time for birdwatching, as migratory birds return to the area, filling the air with their melodious songs. Additionally, the river’s water levels are usually higher in the spring, allowing for smoother paddling experiences.

Another great time to explore the Congaree River Blue Trail is in the fall, from September to November. The weather during this season is typically cooler, making it more comfortable for outdoor activities. The foliage along the trail transforms into a stunning display of red, orange, and gold, creating a picturesque backdrop for your journey. Fall is also a prime time for fishing, as the river is teeming with various species, including bass, catfish, and bream.

It’s important to note that the Congaree River Blue Trail may have seasonal closures or restrictions due to weather conditions or maintenance. During the winter months, from December to February, the trail may experience occasional closures or limited access due to colder temperatures and potential ice formation. It’s advisable to check with the Congaree National Park or local authorities for any updates or closures before planning your visit during this time.

In summary, the best times to visit the Congaree River Blue Trail are during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is pleasant, and the natural surroundings are at their most vibrant. However, it’s essential to stay informed about any seasonal closures or restrictions that may affect your visit. Whether you’re paddling, hiking, or fishing, the Congaree River Blue Trail promises an unforgettable adventure through the heart of South Carolina’s natural beauty.


1. ADA Accessible Launch Sites: The trail offers multiple launch sites with accessible ramps and docks for wheelchair users to easily access the river.
2. Accessible Restrooms: Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are available at designated points along the Congaree River Blue Trail.
3. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are provided near the trail’s launch sites for convenient access.
4. Accessible Trails: Some sections of the trail are designed to be wheelchair accessible, allowing individuals with mobility challenges to explore the river’s beauty.
5. Accessible Picnic Areas: ADA-compliant picnic areas are available along the trail, providing accessible seating and tables for individuals with disabilities.
6. Accessible Fishing Platforms: Wheelchair-accessible fishing platforms are provided at certain points along the trail, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy fishing activities.
7. Accessible Interpretive Signage: The trail features interpretive signage with accessible formats, such as braille or large print, ensuring everyone can learn about the river’s ecosystem and history.
8. Accessible Kayak and Canoe Rentals: Wheelchair-accessible kayak and canoe rentals are available, allowing individuals with disabilities to participate in water activities.
9. Accessible Shuttle Service: The trail offers accessible shuttle services for individuals with mobility challenges, ensuring they can easily access different sections of the trail.
10. Accessible Lodging Options: Nearby lodging facilities offer accessible accommodations, ensuring individuals with disabilities can stay comfortably during their visit to the Congaree River Blue Trail.

Safety Information

1. Wear a life jacket: Always wear a properly fitted life jacket while on the Congaree River to ensure personal safety in case of accidents or emergencies.
2. Check weather conditions: Stay updated on weather forecasts and avoid paddling during severe weather conditions to prevent potential hazards.
3. Be aware of river flow: Monitor river flow rates and avoid paddling during high water levels or strong currents to maintain safety.
4. Know your skill level: Assess your paddling abilities and choose appropriate sections of the river that match your skill level to avoid unnecessary risks.
5. Share your plans: Inform someone about your paddling plans, including your expected route and estimated return time, for added safety and accountability.
6. Carry a communication device: Bring a fully charged cell phone or a waterproof two-way radio to stay connected and call for help if needed.
7. Stay hydrated: Bring enough water to stay hydrated during your paddling trip, especially during hot weather conditions.
8. Protect against sun exposure: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and use sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays while on the river.
9. Watch out for wildlife: Be cautious of wildlife encounters, maintain a safe distance, and avoid feeding or approaching animals to prevent potential conflicts.
10. Pack essential safety gear: Carry a first aid kit, a whistle, a flashlight, and a multi-tool in case of emergencies or unexpected situations.
11. Stay on designated trails: Follow the marked Blue Trail route and avoid straying into private property or restricted areas to respect landowners and maintain safety.
12. Be mindful of motorized boats: Stay alert and aware of motorized boats sharing the river, giving them enough space and yielding when necessary.
13. Avoid alcohol and drugs: Refrain from consuming alcohol or drugs while paddling, as they impair judgment and increase the risk of accidents.
14. Practice Leave No Trace principles: Minimize your impact on the environment by packing out all trash, avoiding unnecessary noise, and respecting wildlife and vegetation.
15. Take a paddling course: Consider taking a paddling safety course to enhance your skills, knowledge, and confidence while navigating the Congaree River.

Conservation Notes

The Congaree River Blue Trail is a significant waterway located in South Carolina, known for its rich biodiversity and ecological importance. In terms of conservation status, the trail is considered to be in relatively good condition, with ongoing efforts to protect and preserve its natural resources. The river and its surrounding habitats are home to numerous rare and endangered species, making conservation efforts crucial for their survival.

One of the primary conservation concerns for the Congaree River Blue Trail is water quality. Efforts are being made to monitor and improve the water quality of the river, as it directly impacts the health of the diverse aquatic life that depends on it. Pollution from various sources, such as agricultural runoff and urban development, poses a threat to the river’s ecosystem. Conservation organizations and government agencies are working together to implement measures that reduce pollution and maintain the water quality within acceptable limits.

Another important aspect of conservation for the Congaree River Blue Trail is the preservation of its riparian habitats. These habitats, which include wetlands, floodplains, and forests, provide critical nesting, feeding, and breeding grounds for a wide range of plant and animal species. Conservation efforts focus on protecting and restoring these habitats, ensuring that they remain intact and functional. This involves managing invasive species, controlling erosion, and promoting the growth of native vegetation, all of which contribute to maintaining the overall health and biodiversity of the river ecosystem.

Overall, the conservation status of the Congaree River Blue Trail is actively monitored and managed to ensure the long-term sustainability of its natural resources. By addressing water quality issues and preserving riparian habitats, conservation efforts aim to protect the unique biodiversity and ecological integrity of this important waterway.

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