A stand of trees at Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve, South Carolina

The Open Space Institute Celebrates Major Addition to South Carolina’s Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve

Image Credit: Hunter Desportes

COLUMBIA, SC (October 27, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today celebrated the successful addition of more than 600 riverine acres to the popular Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve near downtown Columbia, South Carolina. The Taylor tract, which OSI acquired in 2022, has been transferred to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), more than doubling the size of the preserve and expanding opportunities for recreation, habitat restoration, and historic preservation.

The 641-acre Taylor tract — home to extensive longleaf pine habitat, high bluffs, and stands of rare Atlantic White Cedar trees — is located along the banks of the Congaree River and features numerous nature trails. The property is home to a wealth of wildlife, including hawks, waterfowl, deer, and more than 30 amphibian species. The addition of the land to the park offers the potential for 10 additional miles of hiking trails and 10 miles of paddling and fishing along the Six Mile and Congaree creeks, important in an area with limited access to outdoor recreation opportunities.

The purchase was funded by OSI in partnership with the S.C. Conservation Bank, with additional funding from the SCDNR’s Heritage Trust Program.

"Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve is now one of the largest, most ecologically diverse, and culturally noteworthy urban forests in the eastern United States,” said Nate Berry, OSI’s Chief Land Conservation Officer. “We appreciate the partnership and dedication of the Taylor family, S.C. Conservation Bank, and SCDNR.”

"SCDNR has been fortunate to protect more than 300,000 acres of significant habitat in South Carolina with the help of conservation partners,” said Ken Prosser, Assistant Deputy Director, SCDNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “The Congaree Creek-Taylor tract acquisition is another example of collaboration in which the Open Space Institute and the S.C. Conservation Bank provided valuable assistance. Without their help, it would not have happened."

The Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve, already one of the largest urban preserves of its kind in South Carolina, now stands at more than 1,200 acres. The newly-expanded preserve is nestled along one of the most scenic, wildlife-rich stretches of river in the Columbia area, and within one of the most quickly developing counties of South Carolina. Protection of the Taylor tract creates additional opportunities to protect the Congaree and Six Mile creek watersheds and opens the door for comprehensive watershed preservation.

"Rarely does a property offer such a high degree of important wildlife habitat, archaeological significance and opportunities for public recreation all within a stone’s throw of a major population center,” said Raleigh West, Executive Director, S.C. Conservation Bank. “I believe, in time, Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve will emerge as one of the most popular natural resource areas in the Midlands."

In addition to its lush habitat, the land is rich in history. Indigenous peoples are believed to have inhabited the land starting some 12,000 years ago. Based on artifacts, archeologists believe these hunter-gatherers, drawn by the proximity to the Congaree River, would set up camp in the area during the winter months before departing down the river to the Atlantic Ocean.

Starting in the 1700s, the land was settled by Europeans and Colonists before serving as an outpost during the Revolutionary War. Later, it was the site of a Civil War standoff between Sherman’s troops and Confederate soldiers.

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