June 18, 2019

Travel article slams Congaree National Park as one of worst in nation

Congaree National Park (Source: Congaree National Park)Congaree National Park (Source: Congaree National Park)
Cottonmouth snake found at Congaree National Park (Source: Congaree National Park)Cottonmouth snake found at Congaree National Park (Source: Congaree National Park)


Ouch. An article posted on Yahoo! Travel ranks Congaree National Park among the top five worst national parks in America.

“A small park with a boardwalk through a swamp (they prefer the polite term “floodplain”) so you can stare at the trees,” reads the description in the photograph for the article titled Our Tax Dollars Pay for What? The Nation’s Worst National Parks. Although the other five parks listed in the article are represented by photos of the parks themselves, the photo for Congaree National Park is a stock photo from Flickr of a snake.

“Step off the boardwalk and into the realm of the four varieties of venomous snake that inhabit the park, including the ‘ubiquitous’ cottonmouth,” the description continued. “Run from the snakes and find yourself in glades of poison ivy or stumbling into wasps’ nests or webs of biting spiders that are ‘highly painful but not lethal.'”

Although interpretations vary, park officials suspect author Bill Fink wrote the article with a sense of humor.

“We appreciate Mr. Fink’s tongue-in-cheek review of Congaree National Park and the four other parks on his Worst National Parks list,” Park Superintendent Tracy Stakely said via e-mail. “We agree, each of these sites can provide some extreme environments that may not appeal to all visitors, but they also provide exceptional opportunities to experience the diverse natural resources and cultural history of our nation.”

“It’s much more fun to hate things,” Fink wrote. “So based on a minimum of research and a heap of biased analysis, here’s an authoritative list of America’s Worst National Parks.”

Based on what he wrote, Fink doesn’t like venomous snakes or mosquitoes, both common vexes that South Carolinians have learned to live with over the years.

“…as you run screaming in circles waving your hands to fend off mosquitoes, you’re likely as not to impale yourself on a jagged Cyprus stump,” the article continued.

“It is true if you come to Congaree mid-summer you may encounter high humidity and heat, an abundance of mosquitoes, and even run into the occasional snake,” Stakely said. “But as the thousands of Congaree’s annual visitors know, there are many more wonders to be seen and stories to be discovered in this extraordinary environment. We invite Mr. Fink and his readers to spend some time at Congaree, perhaps in Spring or Fall when the climate is a bit more agreeable.”

The park was preserved as the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. It also is home to the tallest Loblolly Pine in the United States, as tall as a 16-story building.

“As a bonus, the trails are poorly marked (when they’re not completely washed out),” the article continued.

This summer park officials made an effort to install better markings on trails after a family got lost in the park for more than two days, causing a massive search.

“The National Park Service is honored to preserve and protect such a unique part of natural and cultural environment of the South Carolina Midlands,” Stakely said. “Congaree National Park is one of over 400 sites protected by the National Park Service. As we approach the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, we encourage individuals to make a new or renewed connection with one of our sites to personally experience the diversity of America as represented by these special places.”

For more information and to make up your own mind, click here.

Copyright 2015 WIS. All rights reserved.

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    Travel article slams Congaree National Park as one of worst in nation

    Do you recognize this mystery plant?

    Poison ivy isn’t “evil.” Neither are spiders or hurricanes.

    Some plants do cause problems, of course. Poison ivy is a “problem” plant for humans in that it causes lots of people to break out in allergic reactions, sometimes severely.

    Yet poison ivy is in fact a widespread native species, providing wildlife food for a variety of critters. It is a common component of many natural ecosystems and has been here in our landscapes a lot longer than we humans have.

    On the other hand, there are some plants that have not been around very long, relatively speaking. These are the weeds.

    Some weeds are rather innocuous, rarely causing problems. But then other weeds are ravenously destructive, showing up in our lawns, gardens, agricultural fields, just about anywhere.

    The thing we should remember about weeds, whether benign or destructive, is that nearly all of them have been introduced by humans into a previously weed-free environment. You might think of these introduced species as “guests,” sometimes invited intentionally, sometimes not. The problem with guests, of course, is that sometimes they stay too long.

    And then there is our mystery plant.

    It is a gorgeous herb, capable of producing masses of beautiful foliage. The sheathing, pointed leaves are produced on flimsy, fleshy stems that flop over and make new roots. I’ve seen some of these plants producing brightly variegated leaves, striped with yellow.

    Flowering occurs in the autumn, until frost. Usually, a single flower will pop up at the end of a stem or in a leaf axil. Each flower is about half an inch wide, with three white or pink petals. Small pods form afterward, containing little seeds.

    This is a species that occurs naturally in much of southern Asia, from India to Korea and Japan. Here’s the scary thing: It is now a common component of wetland systems in North America, and is surely present in every Southeastern state. It is also known now as a weed in Oregon and Washington.

    For a number of years, botanists knew of it in the South only from the coastal plain, but more recently it has invaded piedmont and mountain settings. It is notorious for rampant growth, crowding out everything around it, and it is definitely invasive. How did it arrive?

    One theory is that seeds of this plant were introduced — accidentally — into South Carolina late in the 17th century, contaminating rice seed. According to this idea, this species remained confined to rice fields of South Carolina, and then elsewhere in the Southeast, until relatively recently, and then for whatever reasons, it has taken on a new and more threatening behavior, easily spreading into new habitats.

    Waterfowl, which like to eat the seeds, are implicated in this spread. The stems root with such ease that it is no surprise fragments of the plants could easily start up after being transported somewhere else.

    Although it isn’t “evil”, this plant guest has gained a nasty reputation. And it doesn’t look like it

    wants to leave any time soon.

    John Nelson is the curator of the A. C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina, in the Department of Biological Sciences. As a public service, the herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit www.herbarium.org, call 803-777-8196 or email nelson@sc.edu.

    Answer: “Nasty-weed,” “Asiatic dew-flower,” Murdannia keisak


    Do you recognize this mystery plant?

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