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Congaree National Park set for partial reopening

Congaree National Park employees go back to work

Congaree National Park

South Carolina's only national park, which has been shuttered amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is set for a partial reopening.

The National Park Service announced that Congaree National Park, just outside of Columbia, will reopen its "backcountry" section — which includes South Cedar Creek Canoe Landing, Bannister Bridge Canoe Landing, the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail, Kingsnake Trail, Bates Ferry Trail, Fork Swamp Trail, Oakridge Trail, and River Trail — to the public on May 28. Those areas will be open from sunrise to sunset.

Meanwhile, the park's "frontcountry" portion — which includes campgrounds, the Harry Hampton Visitor Center, the boardwalk, Bluff Trail, Longleaf Trail, Sims Trail and Weston Lake Loop Trail — will remain closed until further notice.

“As we begin this phase of the park’s reopening, we encourage visitors to take advantage of all that the park’s backcountry has to offer, including fishing, paddling and hiking opportunities,” Congaree Superintendent K. Lynn Berry said, in a statement. She said those who need help planning a backcountry experience can email cong_information@nps.gov for information.

Congaree National Park is a 27,000-acre expanse about 16 miles from downtown Columbia, in rural Hopkins. The vast park is known for its bucolic walking trails, scenic, oozing waterways and wildlife.

Each May it is a go-to spot for families when a rare breed of synchronous fireflies appears in the park for a few weeks, drawing crowds for a natural light show. However, the park canceled its annual Firefly Festival this year because of COVID-19, and has prohibited public access during the season.

The National Park Service says it will use a phased approach to opening other areas of the park.

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