Tag Archives: Louisiana

Kick Off Summer at National Kids to Parks Day

Get the whole family outdoors at the upcoming 5th Annual National Kids to the Parks Day! On May 16th, America’s state parks partner with the National Park Trust to host this nationwide day of outdoor play. Just a week before the official start of summer, this is a perfect day to explore and discover favorite local, state and national parks and public lands. From scavenger hunts to bird-watching, these state parks are hosting great Kids to Parks Day events:

Nature Hikes & Scavenger Hunts

A family goes hiking in Shenandoah. A great place to go for National Kids to Parks Day [Image: www.goshenandoah.com]

Image: www.goshenandoah.com

Specifically designed with the whole family in mind, the James River State Park’s Scavenger Hunt has 20 items participants have to track down. Winners will get a ride on the park’s Tye Overlook wagon for free that evening! Or learn about Leave No Trace Principles and hunt out all things that shouldn’t be on the trail on Shenandoah State Park’s “Unnatural Hike.”

Join the Lake Bistineau State Park’s Nature Hike for a memorable wilderness experience in the park’s upland mixed hardwood forest, open waters, and stands of cypress and tupelo trees. Stay the night in one of this Louisiana state park’s cabins or campsites, so you can get out on the lake in a canoe or kayak the next day!

At Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in New York, walk the towpath trails on a nature walk, and learn more about native species of birds, animals, plants and flowers. We recommend packing a lunch; there’s nothing better than having a picnic by the Aqueduct Boat Launch or the Yankee Hill Lock!

Bird-watching & Gardening

Kids birdwatching with binoculars [Image: kidsactivitiesblog.com]

Image: kidsactivitiesblog.com

Go birding at the beautiful lagoons and shoreline of Louisiana’s Grand Isle State Park. Resident bird species include a variety of songbirds and shorebirds, such as shearwaters, pelicans, herons, and cormorants. At Leesylvania State Park in Virginia, check out the Osprey Observation. Rangers will be on hand to answer all your questions about these magnificent birds of prey.

The Bristol Bird Club of Virginia will lead a special family birding session at Natural Tunnel State Park. From old growth forest to grassy area, discover all kinds of birds that live in the park’s four different habitats. Or spend the afternoon in the park’s community garden! Alongside the Scott County Master Gardeners, learn more about gardening while weeding and planting.

In Missouri, get down in the dirt at Mudpie Magic at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park! Make mudpies, dig in the dirt, explore rotten logs, and catch crawdads. There are many natural water park features at this state park, so take a dive into the river to rinse off! Or test your birding skills and so much more at Trail of Tears State Park. Join the Birder ID hike and scavenger hunt, and stick around for the “Eggstravaganza” egg hunt and egg quiz challenge at 7:30PM.

Arts & Crafts

Kids flying kites in park [Image: www.kitesclub.com/the-benefits-of-kite-flying-25.html]

Image: www.kitesclub.com/the-benefits-of-kite-flying-25.html

Learn the fascinating art of letterboxing at Shenandoah River State Park’s Letterboxing Workshop! Originating in England, letterboxing involves puzzle-solving and is a bit like geocaching. At this workshop, make your own rubber stamp and then go on a hike to discover your first letterbox.

Go fly at kite at Harry S. Truman State Park’s 3rd Annual Kid’s Kite Day! Park staff will show kids (and kids at heart!) how to assemble and decorate their very own kite. While the glue dries, settle down for a picnic or take some of the park’s example kites for a test flight.

Bluebirds are returning to Missouri on their great migration north. At Pomme De Terre State Park, learn how to build a bird house for Missouri’s state bird. All materials and tools will be provided at this event. Just bring your creativity!

5K & 10K Runs


Looking to keep a brisker pace on National Kids to Parks Day? Join families at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park’s Run Wild – “A Run for Wildlife!” Proceeds raised from the 10K, 5K, and Kids Run all benefit Nebraska’s wildlife. Both the 10K and 5K take runners through a scenic, naturally challenging trail. The 1-mile Kids Run is perfect for kids ages 12 and under, and parents can run alongside young children. Since none of the events are timed this year, everyone is a winner! Dressing like a wild animal for this event is strongly encouraged. Afterwards, celebrate the day with a picnic, face-painting, fishing, and touring the live animal exhibits.

Families that visit the state and national parks on Kids to the Parks Day are encouraged to submit photos of their adventures to Buddy@BuddyBison.org for possible inclusion in the National Park Trust’s commemorative map. Download your state’s free Pocket Ranger® app for more information about trails, campground reservations, and more!

Say “I Do” to a Wedding at the State Parks!

Maudslay State Park [www.aestelzerphotoblog.com/do-it-yourself-forest-wedding]

Maudslay State Park [www.aestelzerphotoblog.com/do-it-yourself-forest-wedding]

Celebrate your love for the outdoors by having your wedding at a state park! We are not lying when we say there are hundreds of breathtaking wedding venues offered at state parks across the country. In addition to getting incredible views and unbeatable wilderness ambiance, holding your wedding at a state park may be the best way to keep your budget in check. Below is just a taste of the kind of unique venues you can reserve.

Oceanside Wedding

If sandy beaches and open ocean are must-haves for your wedding day, here a few venues from both coasts that we think will fit the bill.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park [Image: fildakonecphotography.com]

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park [Image: fildakonecphotography.com]

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park, Florida

Arguably Key West’s best beach, Fort Zachary Taylor is the place for couples looking for a tropical wedding. Hold your wedding on the beach at sundown for the most epic sunset photos.

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Looking for lighthouses? Cape Disappointment State Park has two! If you have a small wedding party, hold your ceremony in the lantern room at the top of the park’s North Head Lighthouse. In addition to lighthouses, this park has an ocean-facing beach, which also makes for a spectacular ceremony location.

Big Sur Wedding [Image: vagabond3.com/woohoo-were-getting-hitched]

Big Sur Wedding [Image: vagabond3.com/woohoo-were-getting-hitched]

Big Sur Wedding, California

For a show-stopping scenic vista, go big with a wedding at Big Sur. Choose from one of the three Big Sur state parks (Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Andrew Molera State Park), and contact California State Parks weddings/special events coordinator at 831-525-5060 for more information.

Odiorne State Park, New Hampshire

With immense views of the Atlantic Ocean, Odiorne State Park is the perfect place for a warm-weather wedding. Hold your ceremony outdoors by the water, and then mosey across the lawn to a reception under the park’s large, sleek tent. During cocktail hour, your guests can pop into Odiorne’s Science Center to check out aquariums of lobster and native fish. There’s even a touch tank with starfish! This is a popular wedding location, so reserve early.

Woodsy Wedding

Custer State Park [Image: www.tomkphoto.com/kristi-troy-custer-state-park-wedding]

Custer State Park [Image: www.tomkphoto.com/kristi-troy-custer-state-park-wedding]

These wilderness venues have plenty of rustic chic ambiance plus great hiking trails. Don’t forget those hiking boots!

Custer State Park, North Dakota

One of the premiere destinations for wedding venues in the Black Hills, Custer State Park offers beautiful countryside and Sylvan Lake as a backdrop for your ceremony. Hold your nuptials outdoors and then bring the party indoors to the banquet hall at the park’s resort. If you’re lucky, maybe the park’s herd of wild buffalo will amble by, giving your wedding photos extra pizzazz.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Nebraska

Located just outside of Omaha, Mahoney State Park is the place for sweeping views of picturesque Platte River. With its many fireplaces and log-cabin atmosphere, board your wedding party at the Peter Kiewit Lodge or have guests stay over in the park’s lakeside cabins. Summer wedding? Cool off at the park’s Family Aquatic Center, which has pools and water slides. In the winter, the park is home to an exciting toboggan run, which may be the best way to warm up before taking the plunge into matrimony!

Maudslay State Park is perfect for woodsy- and garden-themed weddings, too! [Image: www.thewestchesterweddingplanner.com/fall-foliage-wedding]

Maudslay State Park is perfect for woodsy- and garden-themed weddings, too! [Image: www.thewestchesterweddingplanner.com/fall-foliage-wedding]

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

Waterfalls, bluffs, caves, forests, and lake: There are so many ceremony options at this park! Get married by Fall Creek Falls, a 256-foot waterfall or at the base of the 95-foot tall Piney Creek Falls. Or exchange vows at bluffs like Rocky Point Overlook, which has an exposed cliff that looks northward across the Cane Creek Gorge. Hold your reception at the Fall Creek Falls Inn, which offers panoramic views of Fall Creek Falls Lake. Staying the weekend? Tee off at the park’s 18-hole golf course! For information about planning your wedding at a state park in Tennessee, submit an Event Information Request Form or call Cassie Rapert (Group Sales Manager) at 615-920-3432.

Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana

Palmetto Island State Park is perfect for those couples looking for a true southern Louisiana wedding. Located on the Vermillion River, the park’s beauty comes from its interior lagoons and coastal forestland that is abundant with palmettos. A great location for larger wedding parties, reserve the park’s visitor center to host your reception.

Garden Wedding

Holding your wedding at one of these state parks means you won’t need to fuss about floral arrangements. And don’t worry about elaborate décor! The historic estates found at these parks will give your wedding all romantic, vintage flair it needs.

Vaughan Woods State Park, Maine

Once the summer retreat for New England’s poets, writers, and artists, the historic Hamilton House and gardens at Vaughan Woods State Park are a fully-realized romantic vision. The estate and perennial gardens are found atop a hillock that overlooks the Salmon River. Different flowers bloom throughout the spring and summer. Vaughan Woods State Park is perfect for engagement photos, too!

Say “I do” at the picturesque Hamilton House & Gardens [Image: www.historicnewengland.org]

Say “I do” at the picturesque Hamilton House & Gardens in Maine. [Image: www.historicnewengland.org]

Ridley Creek State Park, Pennsylvania

If you’re looking for a grand entrance, look no further than Ridley Creek State Park’s magnificent Hunting Hill Mansion. Originally, a stone farmhouse built in the late 1700s, the Jeffords family modified the estate into an English Tudor-style mansion-house in 1914, adding a ballroom and grand staircase room. The grounds are just as stately as the stone façade mansion, including several formal gardens, horse stables, tennis yard and scenic overlook. We recommend getting hitched in the formal gardens and then kicking up your heels in the ballroom.

Saint Edward State Park, Washington

Once a Catholic seminary, the stately architecture and beautiful shoreline make Saint Edward State Park an immensely popular wedding venue. The Grotto is a charming garden alcove surrounded by woods, just the place for an intimate wedding ceremony. Hold your reception at the park’s Grand Dining Hall. This beautiful space has floor-to-ceiling arched windows, dance floor, and glass chandeliers, a perfect balance of elegance and function.

Eclectic Wedding

An outdoor wedding is one thing. An outdoor wedding with mermaids, that’s a whole other thing! Give your wedding that much more character by having it at one of these three parks.

Mermaids at a wedding [Image: marrymetampabay.com]

Image: marrymetampabay.com

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Florida

Complete your tropical wedding with a few special guests: the world famous Weeki Wachee mermaids! For more than 60 years, the mermaid show has enchanted thousands of visitors to the park. Exchange vows at the Mermaid Theater, which dips 16 feet below the surface of the park’s legendary spring. Occasionally, native wildlife, such as turtles, fish, manatees, otters, and every now and then an alligator swim alongside the mermaids in the spring!

Bannack State Park, Montana

Dreaming of a gold rush wedding? The Old West lives on at Bannack State Park, the site of Montana’s first major gold discovery in 1862. This historical landmark includes 50 well-preserved buildings that line Main Street of the ghost town. At different times of the year, the park hosts historical re-enactments. In stark relief next to Montana’s open countryside, this ghost town makes for some stunner wedding photography.

Get hitched in Bannack State Park’s ghost town [Image: somethingblue22.blogspot.com]

Get hitched in a ghost town! [Image: somethingblue22.blogspot.com]

Maudslay State Park, Massachusetts

With its plethora of gardens, Maudslay State Park is an excellent late spring and summer venue. However, Maudslay’s haunted-look in the fall is perfect for couples planning a Halloween-themed wedding. In addition to the pet cemetery and remains of the estate’s original mansion, there are rumors that the park is haunted by a few spirits. Fall foliage combined with looming pines that line the paths of the once grand estate hit just the right gothic note in September and October. Hold your ceremony outdoors in the gardens and then move the party indoors to the park’s historic barn, which boasts high ceilings, large windows and rustic charm.

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Wild, Old, and Beautiful Trees

There’s nothing that nature cannot cure. Vast landscapes, rolling hills, and tall mountains soothe the mind, and bring new thoughts to the surface. What’s more exciting is discovering wild, old, and beautiful trees! If you’ve seen one, you know it’s not a sight to miss. They stand tall with their branches reaching out, their century-old roots spreading out endlessly. Some are considered rare due to age, stature, width, or just being a good-old natural wonder. Find out where these beautiful trees live, hide and reign over their kingdom.

General Sherman, Sequoia

Found within Sequoia National Park, California, General Sherman is the largest living single-stem tree in the world, measuring 274.9 feet, and believed to be around 2,500 years old.  Another similar tree is General Grantthe third largest tree in the world at 267.4 feet, found in Kings Canyon National Park, California. The name was take from Union Army general and 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant. Giant Sequoias are one the oldest living things on Earth. They are fibrous and thick at the base of the trunk, making for superior fire protection. Their leaves are evergreen, awl-shaped, and arranged spirally on the shoots.

Two people hugging General Sherman in California, a beautiful tree.

General Sherman receiving two hugs. [www.2.bp.blogspot.com]

Hyperion, Coast Redwood

Standing at 379.1 feet, Hyperion is by far the tallest tree, based on height, and found in a remote area of Redwood National and State Parks. It’s so tall, it trumps over the Statue of Liberty and England’s Big Ben clock! The tree was discovered in August 25, 2006, by naturalists Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor. If you’re dying to make the trek, know that the location is kept secret to protect the tree. Many hikers have tried, but few have seen it. The same secrecy follows the Lost Monarch, measuring 320 feet. The Lost Monarch is the largest coast redwood in volume size. It lives in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park‘s Grove of Titans among other giant redwoods, including the Screaming Titans and El Viejo Del Norte. The coast redwood has a conical crown, with horizontal to slightly drooping branches. The bark is thick, up to 1 foot, soft and fibrous, with a bright red-brown color when freshly exposed (hence the name redwood), and weathering darker. The root system is made up of shallow, wide-spreading lateral roots.

Beautiful trees of Hyperion, Coast Redwood at a distance

Hyperion, Coast Redwood [Image: www.scinotions.com]

Quinault, Western Red Cedar

The Quinault Red Cedar is the largest of its kind, measuring 174 feet tall with a diameter of 19.5 feet. It lies in the northwest shore of Lake Quinault, north of Aberdeen, Washington, at the southern edge of Olympic National Park. Though its age is not certain, some individuals live over a thousand years, with the oldest discovered to be 1,460 years. Usually trees in dense areas will have a crown on top where light is abundant, but in open areas the crown will reach the ground. The foliage consists of flat sprays with scaly leaves going in opposite pairs. When the foliage sprays are crushed, there’s a strong scent reminiscent of pineapple.

the top of the Quinault Lake Red Cedar

Quinault Lake Red Cedar [Image: www.flickr.com/photos/mallady/4477638737/]

Bennett, Western Juniper

The 8,500-foot-tall Bennett, located in Stanislaus National Forest, California is considered the oldest and largest example of a western juniper tree, possibly 3,000 to 6,000 years old. The western juniper is native to the western United States, typically reaching 50 to 70 feet. Its red, fibrous bark is similar to a coastal redwood, and the gnarled branches have lichen on top and reach out to small, shrub-like green leaves. It’s named after the naturalist Clarence Bennett, who began studying the species in the early 1890s. During his initial research from Oregon to Mexico, he mostly found 1,000-year-old tree core samplings, until a Tuolumne County rancher showed him a large western juniper. This wrinkled and knotted tree was Bennett the Western Juniper, measuring 80 feet tall. For centuries it has suffered through droughts, harsh winters, and lightning strikes, but it is still standing today. The last known measurement was taken in 1983; at that time, Bennett was 86 feet in height with a 58-foot crown spread.

A person standing next to Bennett Juniper in  California.

Bennett Western Juniper [Image: www.conifers.org]

Seven Sisters Oak

You’re not in a fairytale; this is a real tree in a place not so far away. The Seven Sisters Oak is the largest certified southern live oak tree. It’s located in Mandeville, Louisiana, and is estimated to be 1,500 years old with a trunk that measures 38 feet, a crown spread of 139 feet, and a height of 68 feet. Not that it would be hard spotting this giant beauty, but live oak trees have stiff and leathery flat leaves with shiny dark green tops and dull gray bottoms. This tree was originally named the Doby’s Seven Sisters Oak tree by one of the former owners, Carole Hendry Doby, who is one of seven sisters. Coincidentally, there are seven sets of branches leading away from the center trunk.

Seven Sister Oak in Louisiana.

Seven Sisters Oak in Louisiana [Image: www.lgcfinc.org]

The Angel Oak

This beautiful, yet eerie oak tree resides in Johns Island, South Carolina, and believed to be 400 to 1,400 years old. This is the tree of dreams and hideaways. What’s most impressive about the Angel Oak is not its height, but its wide canopy. Their limbs are heavy, almost like tree trunks; they rest on the ground. The area of shade measures 17,000 square feet. The Angel Oak is a native species found throughout the Lowcountry (Coastal Carolina). Surprisingly the name does not come from its characteristic massive, draping limbs and spreading wide canopy, but rather from the tree’s previous owners, Martha and Justin Angel.

Angel Oak on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina.

Angel Oak in South Carolina [Image: www.joanperry.smugmug.com]

Methuselah, Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

Methuselah is a 4,846 year-old bristlecone pine found in the White Mountains of Inyo National Forest. To put it into perspective, it germinated during the invention of writing by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. Methuselah’s exact location is kept secret for fear of vandalism, but there’s a whole trail of ancient bristlecone pines in the White Mountains waiting for you. So, the title of the oldest known living non-clonal organism on Earth goes to Methuselah? Not just yet. In 2012, an older bristlecone pine of 5,064 years old was found in the area, and in the same fashion, its location is kept secret.

Ancient Bristlecone [Image: www.historylines.net]

Ancient Bristlecone [Image: www.historylines.net]

Pando, Quaking Aspen

Utah’s Fishlake National Forest is home to an ancient clonal colony of quaking aspen. This 105-acre colony is made up of genetically identical trees, called stems, connected by one root system, known as Pando. Pando is the heaviest and oldest living organism at approximately 80,000 years old and weighing six million kilograms! The aspens have smooth bark, mostly greenish-white to gray, and are marked by thick black horizontal scars and obvious black knots. If you see parallel vertical scars it means elk have stripped off the aspen bark using their front teeth.

Quaking Aspen in Utah [Image: [www.ravishly.com]

Quaking Aspen in Utah [Image: www.ravishly.com]

To find more rare and natural wonders, download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps for a park near you.