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With walking history and ecology tours at Cayce’s 12,000 Year History Park on hiatus because of Covid 19, the folks who usually guide those excursions offered virtual tours in November and December. Their talks were recorded and now are available on YouTube.

The sessions provide a lot of information to wade through, so I’ll give a breakdown to help you decide which ones fit your tastes. One warning: These are recordings of Zoom meetings, so the production quality is a major step below professional history presentations you might see on television. And the virtual tours simply can’t bring to life either the history or the ecology as well as in-the-park walks, when you can see the Civil War earthworks, the meandering Congaree Creek, and the still intact State Road corridor. The information provided on the virtual tours, however, is accurate and explained well.     

Basic history tours                                                                                                                                                   

One tour covers the time period of the first European settlement on the Congaree River in this region, delving into the first Fort Congaree and the interactions between those settlers and the indigenous people of the region.

Another tour is broken into three separate videos that cover archaeological research into the first Fort Congaree (the production quality is poor in this one, and it ends abruptly), the  ground-breaking botanical work of naturalist Mark Catesby in the early 1700s, the history of the Cayce House, the impact of the French and Indian War, and the 1730 township plan that led to the establishment of the Granby community.

And a tour that deals with the Civil War Battle of Congaree Creek is divided into the lead up to the battle, the actual confrontation on State Road, and an examination of the earthworks built by enslaved and free Africans hurriedly before the battle.

More in-depth discussions

The virtual tours feature volunteer guides who touch on the basics and work mostly from a script. Additional presentations expand the knowledge base from school history textbook levels to research project levels. There’s one on the Civil War battle, one on the 18th Century settlements in the area, and one on the origin and history of the Congaree Indian tribe. And local amateur historian David Brinkman uses modern map overlays and the results of archaeological work on his property to bring home the connection between the region’s past and its present. Of course, these videos cover more ground so they last longer than the basic tour videos. All videos include questions from those who joined the original Zoom presentations.

Congaree National Park interpretive ranger Jonathan Manchester, who helped with some of the history videos, provides details on the bird life and tree/forest ecology of the 12,000 Year History Park in two more videos.

Another couple of the presentations seem aimed more toward folks who provide tours than toward the general public. One of those is on interpreting artifacts and another introduces the S.C. Native American Archive.

While the presentations make use of images, for the most part you can treat these like a podcast. I watched/listened to them on my laptop while frequently toggling over to check emails or social media. That’s convenient, but I’d still prefer to be out in the park listening to these folks bring the history and ecology to life. Maybe sometime this spring, we can get back to that.