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Abstract

The lower Congaree River Valley of central South Carolina is marked by a broad, asymmetrical, well-preserved, late Quaternary floodplain landscape that is home to the largest and best-preserved example of old-growth bottomland forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Vast areas of the floodplain are protected by Congaree National Park. Portions of the southern floodplain bluffs are protected by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve. This field guide presents a geological and geomorphological case study of this protected, forested floodplain landscape by highlighting relevant references and research results at several key field stops. Stops emphasize two distinct floodplain margins; stress the importance of plants to the geology; address anthropogenic and climatic influences on the system; and provide examples of floodplain depositional environments and processes that operate independently of the main river. Stop 1.1 is a brief overview of Congaree National Park. Stop 1.2 highlights the steep southern valley bluffs where the river has incised 46 m (150 ft) into upper Coastal Plain strata. Stop 1.3 highlights a unique road-cut exposure of Quaternary gravels. Stop 1.4 highlights the active Congaree River channel. Stop 1.5 highlights Late Cenozoic to Quaternary fluvial terraces north of the floodplain. Stop 1.6 highlights a groundwater rimswamp along the northern floodplain margin. Stop 2.1 involves a paddle on Cedar Creek, a major floodplain tributary. Stop 2.2 highlights Weston Lake, an anomalously large, well-defined oxbow lake. Stop 2.3 highlights one of many subtle, but stratigraphically and ecologically significant alluvial fans in the valley.

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