Congaree National Park is hosting a Smithsonian traveling exhibition on water that opens Friday. The 26,276-acre park in Hopkins, South Carolina, is home to the largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States.  Photo credit: Hallie Hayes

For those who enjoy nature and the outdoors, get ready for an opportunity to dive into a new exhibition.

Congaree National Park and Friends of Congaree Swamp will co-host Water/Ways, a Smithsonian traveling exhibition Nov. 13 to Jan. 13, 2021. It will be held in the park’s Harry Hampton Visitor Center Auditorium.

Water/Ways takes a close look into water, an essential component of life on our planet, environmentally, culturally and historically.

“Water is so fundamental to understanding and experiencing Congaree National Park and the Lower Richland community has a rich cultural history tied to the creeks, rivers and lakes that make up the region,” Greg Cunningham, supervisory park ranger of Congaree National Park, said.

This will be the second exhibition that Congaree National Park and Friends of Congaree Swamp have collaborated on. In 2019, they presented the traveling exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America at the Historic Harriet Barber House in Hopkins, South Carolina, hosted by the Southeast Rural Community Outreach.

“It is not often that a rural community gets the opportunity to host an exhibit from a world-class institution such as the Smithsonian, let alone two back-to-back,” Congaree National Park Superintendent K. Lynn Berry said in a press release. “Water/Ways offers another wonderful opportunity for our neighbors in the Lower Richland community.”

According to Cunningham, visitors of the exhibition will see how different themes surrounding water intersect with their own lives and experiences.

“The vast majority of Congaree National Park is a floodplain forest which exists in large part because of the regular flooding events that occur,” Cunningham said. “We wouldn’t have such a vibrant forest rich with biodiversity without these floods.”

“Historically, the waterways in and around the park played important roles in transportation, commerce, sustenance and the spiritual life of the community. Today, the same waterways offer important recreational opportunities for local residents and tourists alike.”

Cunningham said that this exhibition is also meant to be a vocal point for the community.

“Water/Ways isn’t meant to be just a static exhibit, but should serve as a starting point for important conversations,” Cunningham said. “There are a lot of amazing stories out there in the community and we are really hopeful that this exhibit will help bring out some of those stories.”

“I think many of us, myself included, give little thought on a day-to-day basis to water, its impacts and its importance. We hope that the Water/Ways exhibit will help folks gain a better appreciation to its importance, power and the need for all of us to be good stewards of this limited resource.”

The exhibition is a part of Museum on Main in Columbia, a collaboration between Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, state humanities councils and local host institutions. Support efforts in different areas for the exhibition include DominionEnergy and Richland County’s government hospitality tax funds, according to officials. 

The Congaree National Park is an American national park located at 100 National Park Rd., Hopkins, South Carolina. It is rich in wildlife and offers hiking trails, picnic areas, a campground, areas to canoe and fish, and more. The park itself is opened 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Friends of Congaree Swamp are advocates of the national park and is an organization that pushes to raise public awareness and importance of Congaree National Park.

Water/Ways will be open everyday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. with free admission. Due to COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of everyone involved, only 10 visitors will be allowed in the exhibition at one time. Time reservation tickets will be required for each Saturday and will be available on the Congaree National Park website soon.

The Water/Ways exhibition opening Nov. 13,2020 will be held inside the Harry Hampton Visitor Center at the Congaree National Park. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes

Greg Cunningham, the supervisory park ranger at Congaree National Park, said he hopes that Water/Ways exhibition brings out interesting stories from the community on how water intersects with their daily lives. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes

One of the photos advertising Water/Ways is what it looks like to fish in the Chattahoochee River in Georgia, another aspect that intersects water with an activity that many enjoy doing.  Photo credit: Steve Harwood

The Boardwalk at the Congaree National Park is a trail itself that leads to other trails and offers beautiful scenery along the way. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes