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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


Congaree River Blue Trail, South Carolina

Starting near Columbia, this 50-mile water trail and greenway ranges from urban adventures to the Coastal Plain with its high bluffs and floodplain habitats.


From American Rivers

graphic photo of boat on river
Inaugural Paddle on the Congaree River Blue Trail (photo: Jamie Mierau)

On June 2, 2007, American Rivers and a coalition of diverse local organizations dedicated the Congaree River Blue Trail. The coalition including Congaree National Park, Congaree Land Trust, Friends of the Congaree Swamp, River Alliance, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Conservation League, and others, celebrated the grand opening of the 50-mile water trail. The project was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2008.


Starting near Columbia, the blue trail offers paddlers an urban adventure with opportunities to learn about the historic significance of the area including prehistoric Native American sites along its tributaries. Continuing downstream paddlers cross the fall line and enter the Coastal Plain known for its countless sandbars, high bluffs, and extensive floodplain habitats.


Photo of bridge over river graphic
Gervais Street Bridge (photo: Ron Ahle)

The highlight of the trail is the section along the Congaree National Park, a protected wilderness that is home to the largest continuous tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the U.S. Paddlers and hikers alike can enjoy the network of 20-miles of hiking trails within the park and take advantage of opportunities to camp, fish, watch birds, and study nature.

A new camping area along the river has been designated by the park. An early version of a map was created for the dedication and inaugural paddle and includes interpretative information and messages about safety and conservation.

The Congaree River National Recreation Trail seeks to reconnect the communities of South Carolina to their rivers and help them realize the benefits that healthy rivers provide. By doing so, people will be inspired to protect and conserve lands in the river corridor including wetlands, floodplains, and streamside buffers. It also will highlight the need for clean water and sufficient flows for boaters, anglers, and fish habitat. Plans to expand this blue trail to include the Wateree River are underway.


graphic photo of cypress swamp
Cypress swamp (Photo from Congaree National Park)

Congaree National Monument

Congaree National Monument is one of the most unique gifts that nature has left to the state of South Carolina, a gift that The State newspaper has called an “international treasure.” With towering pines and giant hardwoods, Congaree National Monument includes one of the highest canopies in the world and some of the tallest trees in the Eastern United States.

The Monument is a congressionally designated wilderness area protecting all plants and animals in the park. However, all visitors are encouraged to observe and photograph along the boardwalks that take you through the unique habitat of a South Carolina swamp.

The Congaree National Monument is not only a visitor’s attraction but also a space for research. The staff of the park are not only interested in, but promote the preservation of natural habitats and encourage visitors to learn more about conservation and environmental protection through guided tours, informed staff and an educational visitors center.

For more information:

American Rivers
Southeast Regional Director
2231 Devine Street, Suite 202
Columbia, SC 29209
(803) 771-7114

Download the Map and Brochure for the Congaree River Blue Trail (pdf 412 ib)

trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


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