The Georgia Wild newsletter last month highlighted some really great cams on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ website that are getting better with each passing day. The Landings Bird Cam features a recently expanded family of great horned owls, who live in a nest that was originally built by bald eagles. The nest is occupied most of the day since great horned owls are primarily nocturnal. So there’s a good chance you’ll see a vigilant parent atop or beside the two growing owlets in the nest if you take a peek during EST daylight hours.Speaking of eagles, if you’re in the mood for dynamic and large birds of prey tending to their young and want a little more daytime action, you can go right to the bald eagle source. The Minnesota DNR’s EagleCam has plenty of action to satisfy any appetite. The dark, fluffy eaglets have very recently hatched, and they’re just about as cute as they come, especially when one of their parents is feeding or teaching them bird basics. For those looking to observe nesting habits from the beginning, the Falcon Cam run by the Nebraska Games and Parks Commission shows a fairly consistent peregrine occupant. The nest, perched a dizzying 18 floors up at the Nebraska State Capitol, is still awaiting its clutch! And still, if 24-hour streams of miniature yet budding sky predators isn’t your thing, the Bella Hummingbird Nest cam in La Verne, California may be the nectar to your cheery blossom. Bella, an Allen’s hummingbird, and her two roughly Tic Tac-sized eggs can brighten even an already sunny day. The eggs are expected to hatch within the next two weeks! Whew, technology is something! But it’s still a lot more than cleverly camouflaged cameras that let you keep an eye on and learn from birds and other animals anywhere there is a screen and an Internet connection. If you’re looking for more hands-on adventure, especially as the winter thaws, the Pocket Ranger® mobile apps have got the goods. Download and get out for some spring adventuring near you!
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 HuntsSpecifically 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 & GardeningGo 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 & CraftsLearn 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!
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, 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, 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 WeddingThese 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!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.
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!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.
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.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.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.
There’s no reason to say indoors this January! We’ve found some great winter fun at the state parks that is sure to keep you warm and active outdoors.
KentuckyWinter is a great time to see wildlife at the Kentucky state parks. Bundle up and bring the binoculars for a Winter Elk Watch at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park. Elk were reintroduced to Kentucky in 1997, after being extinct from the region for 150 years. There are now around 10,000 elk within the state, and many opportunities for sightings. Or visit Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park to partake in The Gathering of the Eagles. For one weekend every year, the park offers visitors the opportunity to see migrating Bald eagles. There are interpretive programs, as well as guided tours by bus and luxury cruise ship.
Learn about winter survival at the Cold Day, Warm Hearts, & Family Fun Day at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. Enjoy fishing and birding activities, and create winter crafts. Make some great family memories while roasting hotdogs and s’mores over an open fire.
With tons of powder, get up to Cobscook Bay State Park for their Winter Family Fun Day! Family-friendly activities will be happening all day long, including sleigh rides, nature walks, skating, and sledding, plus free equipment rentals for those wanting to cross-country ski or snowshoe. Get cozy at the warming station and let the park staff serve you a delicious hot lunch.
For a night of rousing music under a full moon, come to Myakka River State Park to hear the popular Americana band, Have Gun Will Travel. This band was featured on NPR, and also has their own award-winning craft beer, High Road Ale. Grab your favorite beverage and head to the South Pavilion to see one of the best Americana bands around!
If you’re looking to partake in something a bit quirkier, Koreshan State Historic Site will be hosting the fascinating interpretive program, Archeology of Poop: The Truth Comes Out in the End. Limited to just 90 participants, this program will focus on the archeological study of paleofeces and privy deposits. Participants will also get to try their hand at archeology with a hand-on activity consisting of “replicate” materials found in a historic privy. Make sure to reserve your spot!
New JerseyThe Annual Winter Festival at High Point Park State Park is a celebration of all things snow and ice. Bring the whole family for a day full of winter activities, such as guided hikes, sing-alongs, and winter-themed crafts. There will also be snowshoeing and ice-fishing demonstrations. Take along your Pocket Ranger® app and mark waypoints of places that you’d like to revisit in the spring. Later, help yourself to some complimentary hot cocoa and cookies and warm up by the fire.
Hit the trail on horseback to celebrate MLK Day in the winter woodlands. On this guided trail ride at F.D. Roosevelt State Park, a naturalist and wrangler will share tidbits about the natural history of the Pine Mountain Ridge area. President Franklin D. Roosevelt liked to picnic at this park because of its gorgeous hardwoods and pines, creeks, and small waterfalls. Horse rentals are possible through Roosevelt Riding Stables.
Want to learn more about dog-sledding? The Siberian Husky Club of Greater Cleveland will be holding an informational afternoon about this thrilling winter activity at Punderson State Park. Visitors can meet working sled dogs and learn more about the Husky breed. See these Huskies in action during the sledding demonstrations.
There are so many ways to get outside in Pennsylvania’s state parks this January! The Winterfest at Hills Creek State Park will have sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and skating. There will also be kids crafts, guided hikes, and hot drinks and snacks. Best of all, ski and skate rentals are available and free of charge! The highlight of the Ice-O-Rama event at Lyman Run State Park will be the unveiling of the thought-to-be extinct Giant Ice Shark of Lyman Run. Activities will include sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoe and ice fishing clinics. Soup and hot beverages will be available at the event. The Snow Festival at Bendigo State Park includes a snow box derby, winter survival demonstration, and guided tree identification walks. Hot food will be provided by the local scout troops.
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 YorkThe 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.
TennesseeCold 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!
AlabamaWinter 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.
Georgia150th 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.
WisconsinWinter 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!
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.
Greetings, blogosphere! Today we’ve decided we’re over New York (where PBN is headquartered), so we’re following our healthy sense of wanderlust and heading to the Midwest. We’d tell you to grab your tent and camping gear and come along for the ride, but we’re not sure of your schedule, so we figured you can experience the trip vicariously until you’re ready to plan your own.
The good thing about this virtual trip is that it isn’t subject to normal constraints, like time, so man, that was fast! We’ve arrived! Our first (and only) stop on this trip is Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Nebraska, which is in between Omaha and Lincoln. Since we want to be the best tour guides we can be, we’re enlisting the help of our Pocket Ranger® apps. And, lo and behold! Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is one of the places participating in the Post Grape-Nuts Fit “What’s Your Mountain?” Challenge. Wow, can you believe this luck?! (You shouldn’t. We fixed it!) But we did that for good reason! Because, honestly, the only way to tour a park should be with this fun and useful scavenger hunt game. It leads you to all the best features of the park and gives you the chance to win prizes. So, now that that’s established, let’s get GeoChallenging.
The first stop on our tour is the Activity Center, where you will find, for lack of a better word, lots of activity! The park is great for all seasons, partially because the Activity Center provides year-round entertainment by housing an indoor playground, a concession stand, and an ice skating rink. In fact, there’s so much fun to be had there that you may not even want to leave to visit the rest of the park! (Not that we recommend that. We’re just saying it’s a pretty fantastic place!) It’s so fantastic, in fact, that visiting will put you ahead in the (GeoChallenge) game. For more information, see here.
The Family Aquatic Center
The next stop on the tour is the Family Aquatic Center. Here, you’ll find a 0-depth swimming pool, a wave pool, yet another concession stand, and curling, 200-plus foot waterslides! It’s open daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, weather-permitting. And, you’ll earn points on your GeoChallenge for swimming, splashing, and sliding.
In addition to what we’ve already seen, there are tons of other things to do! What do we have here, you say? We’ve got miniature golf! We’ve got a driving range! We’ve got tennis and basketball courts and softball fields! We’ve got horse trails and hiking trails and biking trails! And we’re still not done yet! We’ve got a 70-foot observation tower (which will get you points on the Challenge!) We’ve got picnicking and crafts and fishing! We’ve got paddle boating and a nature conservatory! And now we’ve got a sore throat from listing all of the many and wonderful activities we’ve got.
And even more activities (but now we’re talking winter-focused)
Lest you forget, Mahoney is truly a year-round destination. Depending on conditions, you can cross country ski, sled, go on toboggan runs, snowboard, and ice fish!
The Many Lodging Options
So now that we’ve seen and done most of the many things Mahoney has to offer, (which is a pretty incredible feat, considering we were able to snowboard and swim outdoors on the same day. Seriously, what an advantage this whole virtual tour thing is!) we should probably find a place to stay the night. Lucky for us, the park has loads of options!
First there’s the Little Creek and Lakeside campgrounds, which offer spacious pads under the trees near Owen Marina Lake. Modern shower and latrine buildings, along with drinking water, are located nearby.
We can also choose to stay in the Eugene T. Mahoney State Park cabins, which are modern housekeeping cabins “secluded on wooded ridgetops”. They’re equipped with linens, basic cookware, outdoor decks, and other amenities, and have either three, four, or six bedrooms.
Last but not least, there’s the Peter Kiewit Lodge, which contains 40 guest rooms. Each room has AC and heat, wireless Internet, a private bath, a TV, and a telephone. If you’re feeling luxe and don’t want to camp, it’s a great option. Most of the rooms have decks with a great view of the Platte River.
[7-10 Hours Later]
Hey, we don’t know how long you sleep (especially in virtual reality.) But now that we’ve camped, the tour is over. We hope you’ll come back in real life to play the Post Grape-Nuts Fit “What’s Your Mountain?” Challenge!