Trail improvements underway at Congaree National Park

HOPKINS, SC (WIS) - In late April in Congaree National Park outside Columbia, dozens searched hour after hour, day after day for missing hiker J.R. Kimbler and his young son and daughter.

"I think they got lost off the main path or whatever, but I don't know," Tammy Ballard, the children's mother told WIS back in April.

Until finally they were found.

"Once I heard that man's voice, I was like, 'Oh, thank you, Jesus!' I was basically praying every day that we could find our way back to civilization," said Kimbler after his family was rescued.

But rangers at Congaree are about to take a big proactive step by marking trails better in the park that's always changing.

"It's essentially like an eraser on a wipe-off board," said Park Ranger Lauren Gurniewicz. "Sometimes when a flood comes in, you can't see where the trail was located."

Starting Saturday, rangers will mark the 20 or so miles of trails with numbered signs.

Ranger Gurniewicz said they'll be visible in daylight and reflect under the moonlight.

But that's not all.

"About every tenth of a mile or so, there will be GPS coordinates on the trail markers so that we are able to better find folks that are lost or if staff is out working and they need assistance, whatever the case may be, they'll be much easier to locate," Gurniewicz said.

Right now, the park marks each trail will colored dots that fade with the rain and are sometimes lost when trees topple over, like during the ice storm.

Limbs and branches still litter the Bluff Trail and others.

This summer, rangers will clean that up too.

"For a lot of the folks recently, it's been debris on trails," Gurniewicz said. "They've gone around a large tree that has fallen, and as they're making their way around, they realize that they can't find the trail again."

Park rangers are seeking volunteers to assist with the trail marking project.

For information about volunteer opportunities contact Park Ranger Lindsay Compton, 803-647-3965 or

Follow WIS:   

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.