Tag Archives: Native Americans

American History Through State Parks

Ever want to step into American history by visiting state parks? Well then read on.

While the United States’ official foundation is July 4, 1776, its history began well before the American flag flew high in the skies. In the years that followed its official independence date, the United States went on to its more formative years, which contributed to shaping the country’s massive culture and history. History was made when the first explorers stepped foot into what is now commonly referred as “The Land of the Free,” and it continues to be made today.

Check out these important historical and cultural sites that contributed to American history!

Trail of Tears State Park

The Trail of Tears was the forced removal of various Native American tribes in the southeastern U.S. to “Indian Territory,” a designated area west of the Mississippi River. While there was a preexisting treaty between the federal government and the Native Americans that served to honor the interests of both sides, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 signed by President Andrew Jackson made this obsolete. Largely due to a desire to acquire more land in the Midwest, which was occupied mostly by the Five Nations, the Trail of Tears became one of the darkest parts of U.S. history.

The forced relocation caused thousands of Native American deaths due to terrible conditions they faced. These relocations happened during the coldest and hottest days of the month in closed quarters, which led to exposure to communicable diseases; depleted rations led to starvation; and horrible treatment from soldiers, which included extortion and violence, were the leading causes of death. The death march significantly reduced the Native American population in the United States.

Trail of tears

Trail of Tears [Image: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/]

You can delve into this part of American history by visiting the Trail of Tears State Park in Missouri. The visitor center tells a more comprehensive breakdown of this time, and hiking is available for those that want to walk a day in the shoes of the Native Americans. Picnic sites, horse trails, camping, and fishing activities are also available alongside the majestic views of the park.

More information can be found by visiting the Missouri State Park website.

Fort Phoenix 

Located in Fairhaven Massachusetts, Fort Phoenix was involved three times in United States history: The American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. It was brought down during the American Revolutionary War when British troops sent 4,000 troops to New Bedford and raided the harbor on September 5–6, 1778.

Following the attack, the fort was rebuilt and renamed “Fort Phoenix” after the mythical phoenix bird that rises from its ashes after death. Later, the fort helped the American troops repel a British attack in June 1814.

Fort Phoenix

Fort Phoenix [Image: http://www.fortwiki.com/]

It officially went out of service in 1876 and was registered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The fort is a state reservation that features picnicking, hiking, swimming, and scenic viewing areas.

Visit Massachusetts’ Energy and Environmental Affairs website for more information.

Robert Frost’s Farmhouse 

On the other side of history, visit the connected farm and home of one of America’s most distinguished literary poets. Robert Frost was a highly-regarded American writer who was known for his realistic depictions of rural life, in addition to his command of colloquial speech. Famous for his works, Fire And Ice and The Road Not Taken, he was the winner of four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, was a Congressional Gold Medal awardee for his poetic works in 1960, and was heralded as the Poet Laureate of Vermont in 1961.

Robert Frost Farmhouse

Robert Frost’s Farmhouse in fall. [Image: http://www.english.illinois.edu/]

The Robert Frost Farmhouse is located in Derry, New Hampshire and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1968. It is currently managed by the New Hampshire Parks and Recreation department.

For more information, visit their website.

These three sites are only part of a plethora of historic sites located within our various state parks in the country. The United States’ history is colorful, embedded with stories of the past and how it formed our present country, and these sites are certainly worth a visit. Pack your bags, and visit a historic state park today!

Why Are Wolves So Scary?


Wolves with a crow

Image: www.pinterest.com

Wolves once roamed far and wide from Canada to Mexico, until the arrival of Europeans who killed them off to protect livestock and domesticated animals. Large-scale predator control programs continued in the U.S., further dwindling their numbers. To this day, some states allow the hunting of wolves although they’re listed as endangered. By the 20th century, the species had almost disappeared from the eastern U.S., except in some areas of the Appalachians and Northwestern Great Lakes Region. Wolves are natural predators, which makes our fears justified. But there are myths behind the obsession of killing wolves, which continues to exist despite their numbers low numbers. After all, why are wolves so scary?

Wolves Howling at the Moon and Other Myths

Image: www.tumblr.com

Image: www.tumblr.com

It’s widely accepted that wolves howl at the moon, but the function of howling has little to do with this folklore gossip. The Big Bad Wolf tales of Aesop’s fables, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and the werewolf further add to the gossip. Popular mythology, folklore, and let’s not forget movies, paint the wolf as an evil omen— a bloodthirsty animal who attacks children, cattle or sheep. Sheep are usually connected to a godly goodness, but the wolf is no better than the devil. Unlike the Europeans, Native Americans viewed the wolf as a guide, once being men and now seen as brothers. Some tribes respected their hunting skills and tried to emulate them.

It turns out that long howl, sometimes heard as far as 5 miles is a form of communication used to attract mates, assemble a pack, signal alarm or scare off predators. Wolf howling increases during evening and early dawn, and more so during winter or breeding season. The mythic image of a wolf howling at the moon fits right in since the moon is always hanging around when the wolf is howling!

What are the Benefits of Wolves in the Wild?

To prevent total extinction, wolves have been reintroduced in the wild. One of those efforts is the well-known, gray wolves restoration in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. During 1995 and 1996, 31 gray wolves from western Canada were relocated to Yellowstone where they had been absent since the 1920s. Now 20 years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, estimates that there are 1,691 wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain in areas of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, and with a few brave ones venturing as far as Utah, California and Colorado.

The reintroduction of wolves in the wild is beneficial for biodiversity. Wolves are apex predators that eat off sick and dead animals, and also control the population of species. For example, elk eat vegetation, such as aspen and willow trees, grazing heavily to an unsustainable level. The presence of the wolves changes these patterns; the elk no longer venture far, instead they limit their grazing. This vegetation then becomes available to smaller species like the beaver, which in the case of Yellowstone National Park had become extinct. Experts say the red fox has recovered as well as small predators, rodents and birds thanks to wolves hunting coyotes. Without predators our ecosystems are out of balance. There are many levels and connections between organisms; by removing a level, this disrupts the balance, created from millions years of evolution.

Image: www.lh6.ggpht.com

Image: www.lh6.ggpht.com

There’s also an economic benefit as it relates to wildlife tourism. From 2004 to 2006, Yellowstone National Park conducted a survey of visitors, and found that more than 150,000 people a year from different parts of the world came to Yellowstone for one reason alone: wolves.

Should We Continue to Hunt Wolves?

The conventional reasoning for hunting wolves falls within this spectrum: to prevent attack on humans and and livestock. Wolves only occupy about 5 to 8 percent of their former range thanks to human persecution and destruction of habitats. A new study published last year finds that killing wolves to protect livestock is actually counterproductive. When a wolf is killed, livestock are more likely to get killed the following year, by 5 to 6 percent. More livestock die even when only a few wolves get killed off, possibly because wolf packs get broken up into two groups when either the alpha female or male die.

After recent recovery efforts and a praise-worthy rise in wolf population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections in 2011-2012 from wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Montana, parts of Washington, Oregon, and Utah. Since their reintroduction into the wild, 2,000 wolves were killed by 2013. Wisconsin hunters killed more than 150 gray wolves just this past year during a state-sanctioned wolf hunt. Many wildlife advocates argued that it was too early to remove wolves from the Endangered Species list. Last year, the rule was overturned in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan after complaints from conservationists that hunting would ruin recovery efforts in those states. What’s worse is that even when the wolf is federally protected, rules allow shooting wolves when livestock are threatened. Hunting also continues in Alaska and Canada, where the wolf population is steady.

Farmers and ranchers worry about their livestock, and typically oppose the recovery of wolves and support hunting efforts. Defenders of Wildlife has compiled A Guide to Nonlethal Tools and Methods to Reduce Conflict with useful tips for farmers and cattle owners who want to keep wolves away from their livestock without killing them.

Human and Wolf Interaction

Human touching wolf's neck.

Image: www.alphahowlin.tumblr.com

Wolf attacks are considered rare but they do happen especially in the wild areas of Canada and Alaska. Wolf attacks are often in retaliation to the invasion of their habitats, but this is not always the case. They don’t readily attack humans who keep their distance, and not all wolves behave aggressively, but if provoked they will react like any other animal. A wolf’s hunting instincts detect weak animals or injured ones, knowing full well they’ll win in a fight.

Sometimes wolf attacks occur when prey are scarce, and they must resort to scavenging close to human areas. L. David Mech, a wildlife research Biologist with the International Wolf Center explains that wolves lose the fear of humans when there is a chance for reward. Though it’s not always true, this seems to be a necessary condition for an attack.

“This combination of lack of fear, proximity to humans, and the presence of many small children in heavy cover may promote in some bolder wolves the tendency to experiment with this new type of prey,” says Mech.

In some cases, wolves lose fear of humans, but yet they don’t attack. How is this possible? Since humans stand on two legs, they have a slight resemblance to bears and wolves generally avoid bears. None of a wolf’s prey stands on two legs. It’s also true that wolves have learned to avoid humans after all those years of persecution. For example, the wolves on Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, which haven’t been harassed by humans since their arrival on the island in 1949, retain their extreme shyness of humans. There are a few places, however, where wolves have either lost their shyness of people or perhaps never developed it.

And while no one wants to be Timothy Treadwell, making the grave mistake of setting camp near bear-central in times of food scarcity, the video below illustrates how it’s possible for men to interact with some wild animals.

If you want to see where wolves still roam, download out Pocket Ranger® Guide for Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Apps. And if you spot a cool wolf, share it on our social media sites, like our Pocket Ranger® or Trophy Case Instagram accounts.

Winter Events at the State Parks

Take a break from all that holiday shopping, and make merry at one of these winter events in the state parks. From fruitcake chucking to solstice night hiking, bundle up because we’ve got lots of great ways for you to get outdoors and make the most of this December!

New York

Men with muskets perform a Christmas tradition at night

The grand feu de joi [Image: www.wnypapers.com]

The Castle by Candlelight
Old Fort Niagara State Historic Site
December 6, 2014

The windows and walkways of this beautiful, 288-year old French castle will be lit for the annual Castle by Candlelight night. Located within the Old Fort Niagara Historic Site, soldiers will perform a grand “feu de joi” (firing of joy) with musket- and cannon-fire in honor of the holidays. Fifes and drums will play historic tunes, and chefs will prepare a feast of traditional holiday fare. Characters in period dress will share tales about wintertime in the 18th century, and also demonstrate woodworking and hornsmithing. Head to the Fort’s Log Cabin for hot beverages and more live holiday music.


Mound Bottom landscape covered with snow

Wintertime at Mound Bottom [Image: www.nativehistoryassociation.org]

Cold Moon Tour of Mound Bottom
Harpeth River State Park
December 6, 2014

Dating back to A.D. 1100 and 1300, Mound Bottom is one of the largest prehistoric mound groups built by early Native Americans. Guided by prehistoric archaeologist Aaron Deter-Wolf, hikers will learn about the historical significance of the site while watching the full moon rise. This two-hour tour at Harpeth River State Park will traverse moderately steep terrain, so make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and dress warmly. Use your Pocket Ranger® app to mark waypoints!


A person lights a bonfire outside in the wintertime

Learn how to light a survival fire [Image: boreal.net]

Winter Survival Class
DeSoto State Park
December 6 – 7, 2014

This exciting, weekend-long Winter Survival Class at DeSoto State Park will help you get a handle on the ins and outs of weathering the winter in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Topics ranging from clothing, shelter, fire, and rescue will be covered. This class is provided by the non-profit One World Adventure Company, and requires registration and a fee to participate.


Troops collide at the Winter Muster in the woods

Troops collide at the Winter Muster [Image: redtri.com]

150th Winter Muster
Fort McAllister State Park
December 13, 2014

150 years ago, General Sherman successfully took Fort McAllister from the Confederates. Volunteers will reenact this significant Civil War event that marked the end of Sherman’s March. Skirmishes, drills and other living history interpretive programs will take place around Fort McAllister State Park. The final battle reenactment will occur at the end of the day.


A trail winds through the snow woods

Pike Lake Trail [Image: travelingted.com]

Winter Solstice Night Hike
Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit
December 19, 2014

Celebrate the winter solstice with your family at Kettle Moraine State Forest! The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year. Before heading into the woods, cozy up by the fire where rangers will share the history of solstice traditions. While hiking through the dark woods of the Zillmer Trails Area, keep an eye out for wildlife!


A man tosses a fruitcake in a contest

Try your hand at the National Fruitcake Fling! [Image: siouxcityjournal.com]

Ponca State Park
December 27, 2014

With so many free winter activities at this year’s Winterfest, there’s no excuse for missing out! At Ponca State Park, get moving in the 3K Quest for the Yule Log. Afterwards, hitch a ride on one of the lighted hayrack rides. There will also be seasonal crafts, cookie decorating, good eats, and a bonfire. The National Fruitcake Fling is a favorite attraction at the festival. All fruitcakes are baked using ingredients that are safe for wildlife to eat, making them the perfect treat for the park’s furred and feathered residents.

Wild Turkey: 5 Reasons to Admire Them

A flock of wild turkey in a meadow

A flock of wild turkeys [Image: www.carolinabirdclub.org]

This time of year, turkey is on the brain. Some may believe all turkeys are bloated, sedentary birds destined for roasting and open-faced sandwiches, but wild turkeys are very different from their domesticated brethren. These tall birds are agile, speedy survivalists, adept at flying, running, and protecting themselves. Ben Franklin once envisioned the wild turkey as an emblem of America. Although slightly vain, Franklin saw them as respectable, courageous birds. Still dubious? Here are five reasons why America’s wild turkeys deserve your admiration.

1. Built for Speed, Wired to Fly

Unlike domesticated turkeys, wild turkeys are well-equipped for running and flying. Using those very long legs, these turkeys can reach speeds of up to 25 mph when running. Their giant wingspan of 4 to 5 feet enables turkeys to fly up into the trees to roost at night. Wild turkeys have even been clocked at flying 55mph!

2. Warrior Mentality

Don’t let those goofy looks fool you – Wild turkeys can be fierce! Both males and females are armed with spurs on the backs of their legs. A mature tom’s spurs, however, grow to be at least two inches in length and are very sharp. This makes them the perfect weapon for deterring would-be turkey suitors (or unlucky humans). When agitated, a wild turkey will chase down and fly at anything it sees as a threat. 

3. A Good Conversationalist

Wild turkeys can be chatty birds. They have an array of calls for signaling danger, assembling a scattered flock, and communicating reassurance and contentment to one another. And yes, wild turkeys also gobble. (A gobble can carry up to a mile away!)

While foraging for dinner, eating wild seeds, berries and insects, turkeys keep up with their neighbors using a series of clucks and purrs. When roosting at night, turkeys cackle to signal their presence to other flock members. A wild turkey sounds the alarm with a series of yelps, and a turkey that’s lost cries, “Kee-Kee-Run!” 

4. Indigenous Fowl

A ceremonial turkey feather prayer/smudge fan made by the Ojibwe tribe

A ceremonial turkey feather prayer/smudge fan made by the Ojibwe tribe [Image: moose-r-us.com]

There are only two species of turkey in the world, and both are indigenous to the North American continent. There is the North American wild turkey we frequently see in the States, and then the Ocellated turkey found only within a 50,000 square mile area in the Yucatan Peninsula. Native Americans saw the turkey as a spiritual symbol, and used their feathers in ceremonial practices and garb. Tribes also hunted turkeys for meat and eggs, sometimes making a kind of turkey jerky to eat throughout the winter.

Once European settlers arrived on the continent, wild turkey became an important source of food. A deadly combination of year-round hunting and loss of wooded habitat, however, pushed the wild turkey population to near extinction by the early 1900s. Thanks to the efforts of many conservationists, new hunting laws and habitat restoration in the mid-20th century ensured the survival of America’s turkeys. Wild turkeys are now found throughout the country, and there are five subspecies: Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s, Rio Grande, and Gould’s.

5. Simply Delicious

A pioneer woman hunting turkey in West Virginia

A West Virginian Huntress [Image: www.improvisedlife.com]

Turkey hunting is a favorite pastime of hunters countrywide. All states except Alaska hold turkey hunting in the spring and fall. Wild turkeys are difficult quarry, providing a challenge even for the most seasoned hunter. Turkeys are known to be exceptionally skittish and elusive whenever hunting season rolls around.

While most of us will have farm-raised turkeys on our table this Thanksgiving, a lucky few will have called in a wild gobbler just in time for the feast. For more information about how to prepare the perfect wild turkey roast for your Thanksgiving dinner, check out this great blog post from our sister site, Trophy Case® Fishing & Hunting.

July’s Best State Park Events

park rangers, demos, festival, Eno River, state park, kids

Image: www.ncparks.gov

July is bursting with great events (and fireworks!) at state parks around the country. We’ve combed through the event calendars and uncovered the ones that you won’t want to miss:

Three Rivers Regatta
Point State Park, Pennsylvania
July 2 – 4, 2014

Three Rivers Regatta, Point State Park, Pennsylvania, crowd, boats, water, festival

Three Rivers Regatta [Image: www.brooklineconnection.com]

Point State Park is the place to be this summer! Just a few weeks after holding the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Point State Park gears up for another colossal event: the Three Rivers Regatta. Work on your summer tan while at Regatta Beach (one of only two makeshift inner city beaches in the world), then mosey on over to the larger-than-life replica of the Battle of Ft. McHenry made entirely of sand. Don’t blink or you could miss the powerboat races, where boats frequently top speeds of 125 mph!

Looking for more excitement? This year, the Regatta is hosting the XPogo World Championships in addition to BMX and agility dog stunt shows. A fan favorite is “Anything that Floats,” a parade of handmade, crazily decorated parade floats that bob down the river. This year’s headliners include American rock singer Steve Augeri, former lead vocalist for the rock group Journey, jazz musician Kenny Blake, and Beatlemania Magic. The Regatta culminates with Pittsburgh’s Official 4th of July Celebration fireworks, widely considered to be one of the Top 10 Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country. And did we mention that all of this fun is free? There is no admission fee and no charge for any of the Regatta’s concerts, acts, activities, or events!


Festival for the Eno
Durham City Park, North Carolina
July 4 – 5, 2014

Festival for the Eno, drums, band, live music, North Carolina, crowd, summer, tents

Festival for the Eno [Image: blog.fmrealty.com]

Looking for fantastic music this Independence Day weekend? Check out the 35th Annual Festival for the Eno in Durham, North Carolina. With over 65 acts on four stages, there’s sure to be something that strikes your fancy. All proceeds of ticket sales go towards funding important conservation of the Eno River Basin. An assortment of local food trucks will be serving up some great bites, and the Sweetwater Beer Garden at the heart of the festival will be happy to pour you a local brew. Be sure to rent a kayak or canoe so you can spend some quality time paddling around on the festival’s namesake! Need a place to crash for the night? Using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for North Carolina State Parks, you can easily rent a campsite or vacation cabin at Eno River State Park.


World Championship of Catfishing & Independence Day Celebration
Pickwick Landing State Park, Tennessee
July 4 – 6, 2014

Catfish, World Championship, Tennessee, fishermen, summer

World Championship of Catfishing [Image: www.tnvacation.com]

Catfish, fireworks, bluegrass, golf. What better way to celebrate Independence Day? Pickwick Landing State Park will present an excellent fireworks display over Pickwick Lake on July 4th. Spend the night at Pickwick Landing’s inn, so you can tee up at the golf course or lounge at the beach bright and early the next day.

Nearby Savannah, Tennessee, also known as “Catfish Capital of the World,” is currently hosting the National Catfish Derby. Through July 5, any catfish caught in the Tennessee River is eligible to win. (Don’t forget to upload photos of your own monster catch onto Pocket Ranger Trophy Case®!) On July 6, the World Championship of Catfishing will have its final weigh-in at Pickwick Landing State Park with cash and prizes awarded to the winner. Not so interested in noodling for your own catfish? Then stick around for the after-party for free catfish and live music. Or grab a lawn chair and head to the 35th Annual Savannah Bluegrass Festival to listen to the best that Tennessee has to offer.


11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival
Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
July 12 – 13, 2014

Toledo Lighthouse, girl, sunglasses, water, Lake Erie, lighthouse

Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival [Image: www.toledoblade.com]

Looking to tour the inside of a 100-year old lighthouse this summer? Head to the 11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival at Maumee Bay State Park! Since Toledo Lighthouse remains active, this festival is one of only two times annually that the lighthouse is open to visitors. Afterwards, visit the Nautical Village arts & crafts show to pick up some lighthouse-inspired souvenirs and try your luck at the silent auction. With over 200 items at the auction, you’re bound to win something! Help yourself to delicious food like brats, homemade fries, shrimp, and funnel cake while listening to Jimmy Buffet-style musical entertainment at the park’s amphitheatre. And while you can’t spend the night in the lighthouse, you can reserve a campsite (or a yurt!) at Maumee Bay State Park.


Bannack Days
Bannack State Park, Montana
July 19 – 20, 2014

Bannack Days, Montana, collage, pioneers, old, horses, gunfight

Bannack Days [Image: blog.rv.net]

A fun-filled weekend celebrating 152 years of history, Bannack Days at Bannack State Park is something you don’t want to miss! Learn how to shoot a black-powder rifle, pan for gold, and hand-dip a souvenir candle. Watch the local blacksmith forge incredible works of art and take a wagon ride along Bannack’s historic main street. Get ready for good eats like ice cream, kettle corn, fry bread, corn on the cob, and fresh lemonade. Throughout both days, there will be plenty of live bluegrass, gospel, and old-time fiddler music. And keep your eyes peeled for a few staged gunfights!


4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival
Glen Elder State Park, Kansas
July 19 – 20, 2014

Wakonda Indian Festival, Native American, dance, feathers, tribal dress, haybale

Wakonda Indian Festival [Image: www.sparkpeople.com]

Dancing, drumming, storytelling: Learn all about Native American culture firsthand at the 4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival at Glen Elder State Park. Waconda Lake was once a spring, believed to hold great healing powers. On the shores of this lake, there will be traditional and contemporary Native American drumming and dances, such as the Hoop Dance and Crow Hop Dance. Stories and legends will be told by master storyteller Ron Brave in the festival’s tipi. Help yourself to delicious Indian tacos, fry bread, and buffalo burgers, and browse the fine silverwork, leatherwork, jewelry, and dreamcatchers on display. Since it’s sure to be a bit warm that day, bring along a bathing suit so you can take a dip in Waconda Lake.