3 Fed. Hist. 1 (2011)

handle is hein.journals/fedhijrl3 and id is 1 raw text is: Federal History 2011

A Place of Nature and Culture: The Founding of
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
By Elizabeth J. Almlie
On October 18, 1976, when Congress established Congaree Swamp National Monument for its
significant ecological and geological resources, the Swamp was not and had never been a land-
scape empty of human history. That history has made it not only a place of nature but also a
place of culture. Although, resource management
continues to separate natural and cultural under-
standings of place, the story of establishing the
Congaree Swamp as a designated wilderness area
shows that ideas towards nature and culture were
often interconnected within wilderness advocacy.
During the founding of the park, proponents
and opponents of making the Congaree Swamp
a preserve debated the Swamp's ecological and
its historic value. While the park's enabling leg-
islation created a landscape of wilderness focused
on natural values, this paper examines advocacy
materials, congressional testimony, and manage-
ment documents to reveal how participants dis-
cussed historical value. All of those different
knowledges and valuations of the Swamp's his       Proponents of the park spent time researching the natural re-
tory have in turn affected the stewardship of cul- sources of the Congaree River floodplain as they built a case
for national significance. Shown here counting tree rings, from
left to right: John Cely, Jim Elder, and Dr. James Tanner, 1974.
time, Congaree Swamp National Monument
(later Congaree National Park) has increasingly devoted more time and resources to the historical
subjects important to its past. Just such an interdisciplinary approach will best preserve and pro-
mote the complex identity of this park and all others within the National Park System.
The strength of the human history in the Congaree Swamp is not only the physical built remnants
of past activity, but the whole, long, deep, rich, valued, and even unmarked history of the landscape
of a place that is at once both natural and cultural. Human history is not an appendix, or worse an
intrusion, on a wilderness story; it is part of how a place comes to presently have such valued natural
characteristics. Without undermining wilderness management, the National Park Service can pre-
Elizabeth J. Almlie is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Public History program at the University of South Carolina,
Columbia, and the Certificate program in Historical Archaeology and Cultural Resource Management. This article is based
on her M.A. thesis, Seeing History in a Wilderness Landscape: Valuing Cultural Resources during the Establishment of Con-
garee National Park, South Carolina, 2010.
1 Peter Landres, et al. Keeping It Wild: An Interagency Strategy to Monitor Trends in Wilderness Character Across the National
Wilderness Preservation System. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-212 (Fort Collins, Colorado: USDA-Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, July 2008), 24.

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