Tag Archives: Tennessee

Spring Whitewater Rafting

For many of us the arrival of spring brings with it blooming flowers, the year’s first warm rays of sunlight, and that ache to be outside. But for others the warmth in the air conjures images of mountain snowpack melt-off and engorged rivers coursing with fury and speed where at other times of the year they seem to merely trickle, tame and listless. Spring marks the start of whitewater rafting season across much of the U.S. Here are a few parks that offer adventures that range in difficulty but are all certain to delight thrill-seekers of all skill levels.

Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park, Tennessee

[Image: tnstateparks.com]

Kayakers and rafters should be watchful for each other while taking a trip on the river, though sometimes they can seem to be swallowed from view. [Image: tnstateparks.com/]

This park is a well-known site for whitewater rafting and for having been the site of the canoe and kayak slalom races during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The two rivers in the park’s name are scenic and rife with adventure, and there is access to whitewater that ranges from Class I to Class IV.

You can find out how to get on the water by contacting the park.

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Colorado

[Image: wikipedia.org]

The Arkansas River is giving these recreationists a run for their money. [Image: wikipedia.org/]

This area spans a swath of the Arkansas River, the upper portion of which is one of the most popular whitewater runs in the U.S. In the spring and summer, hundreds of rafters take on the challenges of the Arkansas, which range from Class II to Class V in difficulty.

If you’re interested in taking on the river, the recreation area has compiled a list of outfitters for you to peruse.

Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, Washington

[Image: www.raftingamerica.com]

Lush moss and seductive green hues can be a distraction from the dangers at hand. It’s probably best to make a week-long trip of it and take lots of hikes to get used to the mesmerizing scenery. [Image: www.raftingamerica.com/]

The whitewater at Green River Gorge is best usually during spring and fall and is for expert enthusiasts only, but the incredible sights and challenges are worthy of note and aspiration. If you’re equal to the risks in the gorge, you can embark or land your boat at the park by hand. If the gorge is a bit too risky for you, there are two miles of Green River shoreline to explore, and you can at least admire the daredevils in their rafts and kayaks while you take in a stunningly beautiful hike.

For more information you can contact the park here.

[Image: advgamer.blogspot.com]

Little did we know that this would become true, brought to you through the power of Google image search. [Image: advgamer.blogspot.com/]

Rivers have kept us connected since the advent of the boat, and for just as long it’s been true that there’s rarely a better bonding experience than a trip with your team in a watercraft and the nature that surrounds you. The important things to remember, as always with extreme sports, are to know your limits and to do your homework. And as always you’ll find plenty of rivers to tackle, take in, and appreciate with our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, even if a barbecue spatula is more your speed than an oar!

Looking to State Parks during Black History Month

State parks are steeped in history, and as such, there are many that come to mind as important during Black History Month. While utilizing parks for the plethora of activities and outdoor fun available are great ways to get involved, it’s also important to recognize the work that went into their foundation and the history behind the grounds that you’re traversing over. Here are just a few that are worth a visit during this iconic month.

T.O. Fuller State Park, Tennessee

T.O. Fuller State Park.

[Image: http://tnstateparks.com/]

Known as a park full of great birding and hiking opportunities, T.O. Fuller State Park is certainly a site to behold. What makes it especially notable, however, is its ties to black history. It was the first state park open to African Americans east of the Mississippi River and was originally known as Shelby County Negro State Park in the 1930s. The name was later changed to honor Dr. Thomas O. Fuller who empowered and educated African Americans during his lifetime.

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, California

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth.

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth. [Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/]

Colonel Allensworth SHP preserves the town of Allensworth, which is the only California town to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. It was a farming community founded with the intention of improving the economic and social status of African Americans in the early 1900s. One of the founders, Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth, created the town with the hopes of it becoming known as the “Tuskegee of the West,” modeled after Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. It was a place for blacks to live and start a life outside of the confines of segregated society.

Fort Mose Historic State Park, Florida

Fort Mose.

Tour the salt marshes at Fort Mose while learning about its rich history. [Image: http://audubonoffloridanews.org/]

Found in St. Augustine, Florida, Fort Mose is possibly one of the most important pieces of black history in America. It was founded in 1738 and was the first legally sanctioned free community comprised of ex-slaves. The park includes an interactive museum that helps visitors dive into the history of this site, complete with staff reenacting history while dressed in traditional garb.

Underground Railroad Heritage Trail, New York

Underground Railroad map.

Map of various Underground Railroad routes. [Image: http://newyorkhistoryblog.org/]

New York was a haven for many slaves seeking freedom, and it was accessed best through the Underground Railroad. With the help of abolitionists, the Underground Railroad was a series of safe houses and secret routes that slaves would use to escape to free states or Canada. New York was often sought out due to its proximity to water and Canada. It was also home to many free slaves who fought for equality since New York’s manumission of slaves in 1827. There are many sites across the state that delve further into this part of New York’s history.

Make sure you use our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to help aid you in your adventuring this month. Our handy park history section can help inform you on the early days of your favorite sites.

Urban Parks: An Important Resource

We often talk about getting away from it all or heading out to the woods. We emphasize raw nature and the importance of communing with it. We focus on the splendor available to us here in the States and, when we think generally of the parks, we envision something remote and out of the way. But there’s plenty of natural beauty to take in, whether you’re in rural Colorado or a bustling California metropolis. Here are a few urban parks we shouldn’t take for granted.

Warner Parks–Nashville, TN

A tree in the fall at Nashville's Warner Parks one of the lovely urban parks

The open space of the steeplechase at Nashville’s Warner Parks. [Image: www.warnerparks.org/]

Green, open spaces are necessary for the health of a city and its inhabitants. This point is well understood in Nashville where the beautiful Warner Parks serve this purpose for the nearly one million visitors they host annually. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks offer many ways for Nashvillians to get outdoors, including golf courses, hiking, and equestrian trails as well as a handsome, natural space for a picnic or escape from the urban hustle of the Music City.

Central Park–New York City, NY

Central Park is a familiar urban park to most of us, whether one happens to reside in New York City or not. With over 37 million visitors annually, the park harbors Strawberry Fields, Pale Male the red-tailed hawk, a zoo with snow leopards, horse-drawn carriage rides, and activities as extensive and diverse as New York is itself. But it’s also a very cultivated natural space with over 25,000 trees and miles of walking, biking, and jogging paths—as well as paths that lead to pretzels. The original plan, dreamed up by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, has been largely maintained since 1857, despite some periods of neglect, and adapted to the realities of serving as the primary green space on the island of Manhattan.

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park–Jackson, MS

LeFleur's Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com]

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com/]

How often does one get to go camping in the heart of a city? At LeFleur’s Bluff State Park—a 305-acre gem located right in the thick of Jackson, Mississippi—you can do just that. Or you can check out the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science if you’re not too busy unwinding with a fishing rod, supervise your kids while they enjoy the 16,000 square foot Kid Zone Playground, try your hand at the disc golf course, launch a kayak when the weather’s right, or enjoy any of the numerous nature trails the park offers. The multi-functionality and proximity to nature in this park makes it an asset to Jackson, and certainly a destination for visitors to the city.

Topanga State Park–Los Angeles, CA

Everything the light touches... is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org]

Everything the light touches…is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org/]

Topanga State Park is made up of 11,000 rugged, wild, gorgeous, and minimally-developed acres—all located within the city of Los Angeles. It offers well over 30 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders along with backpacking and traditional campsites, many spots with picnicking opportunities and scenic mountain views, and a general escape from the metropolitan airs of L.A.—a city notorious for its smog, gridlock, and sprawl. And while the city is implementing its plan to reduce the environmental issues that plague its populace, Topanga State Park continues to prove to be a necessary open area for city dwellers.

Cities in the United States are built upon industry and hustle, and urban parks give the people who live in cities an opportunity to revel in the benefits of nature and open space, even if most of what surrounds them is man-made. Urban parks, like all of the great and protected natural spaces we enjoy, are entirely relevant and important no matter where we live.

Find Elk Roaming in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

Forget the stigma and stereotyping you’ve heard about where to see elk roaming and grazing in wide open fields. Unless you’ve heard that you can see them on the east coast in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, because that’s true. We usually associate elk with western states like Wyoming and Montana, but elk are also indigenous to eastern states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

For centuries, elk roamed and grazed the southern Appalachian Mountain valleys. There were once thousands of elk on the east coast, until settlers came through and over-hunted them, pushing the animals out of their natural habitat. It’s believed that the last elks were shot in North Carolina in the 1700s and in the 1800s in Tennessee. Centuries went by before elk would roam the southern Appalachian Mountains again.

Part of the National Park Service’s goal is to reintegrate indigenous animals and plants that have been extradited from the areas in the past. Fast forward to 2001 when the National Park Service reintroduced 25 elk to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then another 27 the next year. Now the herds are doing well, and the park visitors love to see them graze when they come.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sign

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

You need to be at the right part of the park at the right time of the day and year. Cataloochee Valley is where they hang out, and you’ll need to take exit 20 of I-40 in North Carolina. Turn right onto Cove Creek Road and hang on for the 11-mile ride through the mountains to get to the gate of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Drive safe, and plan for it to take 45 minutes from the exit to the park entrance.

Keep your eyes peeled because the herd could be anywhere—you just have to find them. Most of the time, they’re grazing in a big field surrounded by a wooded area at the back of the park. Follow the one and only road all the way back and set up your viewing area. Sometimes the herd is grazing in a field just off the side of the road.

Elk grazing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

You might want to bring a blanket, chairs, binoculars, and a camera to see them. If you’re into photography, bring a lens that’s at least 200mm since the elk are usually far away in the field. Be sure to keep your distance, staying at least 50 yards from the elk all the time. They are wild animals after all.

Your best chance at seeing some elk in Cataloochee Valley is in the spring and fall months. Get to the park early and enjoy the park, hiking and exploring the trails and learning the history. Or get to the park late to do the same. Then turn your attention to looking for some elk. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to view them.

Two elk at Smoky Mountain National Park

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

Celebrate Thanksgiving at Your Favorite State Park!

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to spend in mother nature’s warm embrace: The weather is crisp yet not too cold to make you want to bundle up inside, and the changing foliage presents a gorgeous backdrop to any outdoor activity. It probably goes without saying, but we’re big proponents of not spending the day after Thanksgiving stuck on long lines buying discounted electronics and would much rather be outside at our favorite state parks. Luckily, many state parks feel the same way as us.

After Thanksgiving Hike, Tennessee State Parks

Tennessee's After Thanksgiving Hikes.

Work off all the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing on any of Tennessee’s state parks. [Image: http://tnstateparks.com/]

Eat as much as you want on Thanksgiving, then work it off while also avoiding the Black Friday craze at any of Tennessee’s lovely state parks through their After Thanksgiving Hikes series. Hikes range from easy to more challenging and are of varying distances. Get totally immersed in any of the parks and reconnect with your roots a bit along the way.

Thanksgiving Day Buffet, Ohio State Parks

Thanksgiving dinner.

Celebrating Thanksgiving the way it was meant to be—alongside family and friends. [Image: http://www.decoist.com/]

Don’t feel like cooking this Thanksgiving? You’re not alone on that front. Head on over to any of Ohio’s state park lodge and conference centers or dining lodges where they’ll do the cooking for you—your biggest responsibility will be relaxing, eating delicious food, and chatting with friends and family. And really, is Thanksgiving meant to be spent any other way?

Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot, Choke Canyon State Park

Wild turkey.

A little inspiration for the event perhaps? [Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/]

If you’re looking for a unique way to spend your Thanksgiving weekend, then you’ll definitely want to check out Choke Canyon State Park’s Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot. Learn the history and basics of archery with trained instructors, and maybe even learn a bit about turkey hunting as well. It’s a great event for the entire family! If you’re looking to exert yourself on an exciting hike, want to play around with arts and crafts, or just want a tasty Thanksgiving dinner, many other Texas state parks have events going on for the long weekend as well. Don’t let the opportunity to spend the weekend outside and with other outdoor enthusiasts pass you by!

Thanksgiving Dinner, Kentucky State Parks

Turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

Cue mouth watering and stomach rumbling. [Image: http://www.lexingtondowntownhotel.com/]

All of Kentucky’s resort state parks are offering delectable buffet-style meals on Thanksgiving so you don’t have to slouch over your stove for a whole week to prepare it yourself. So kick your feet up, stuff yourself full of tasty food, and join other state park lovers to start off the holiday season on a positive note. Use the weekend to camp out in one of these gorgeous parks rather than on a long line at your local Best Buy.

Are you totally convinced yet that you need to spend Thanksgiving and the following long weekend outside? We knew you would be. Make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to enhance your outdoor experience throughout the fall, too.

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day 2015 - Square Banner - Solo Hiker [Image: www.publiclandsday.org]

Image: www.publiclandsday.org

Each year, Americans are asked to set aside one day—the last Saturday in September—to “lend a hand to the lands” that we use to enjoy the outdoors. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands, and this year, it’s taking place on Saturday, September 26th.

You can join thousands of volunteers who will gather at parks, forests, reservoirs, and other public areas to help improve and steward our nation’s natural resources. There will be opportunities to build bridges and trails, plant stream banks, restore lakes and wetlands, remove invasive plants, improve wildlife habitat, repair cultural resources and recreational facilities, and carry out hundreds of other projects. Volunteers will also learn about the importance of public lands to the nation’s environmental, economic, and social health as well as get a firsthand perspective on the problems and issues facing land managers.

If you love the outdoors, here’s your chance to give back to nature! Mark your calendar for September 26th, and find a NPLD site near you by checking the list below or visiting publiclandsday.org. And don’t forget to use our Pocket Ranger® apps during your visit to our beloved parks, forests, and lakes!

Red Rock State Park – Sedona, AZ

Maintenance and cleanup of park facilities, trails, and Oak Creek riparian areas. Park interpreters will be available for questions regarding the Oak Creek and its importance to Arizona.

Call 928-282-6907 or click here for more information.

Lake Dardanelle State Park – Russellville, AR

Join Lake Dardanelle State Park to celebrate this national cleanup event in conjunction with the Great Arkansas Cleanup to help pick up trash along the lake and throughout the community. Volunteers clean trails, shorelines, and public parks around Russellville. Following the cleanup will be a ceremony for all those who volunteered and a free lunch along with activities for the whole family.

Call 479-890-7479 or click here for more information.

The Barnacle Historic State Park – Coconut Grove, FL

Partake in a morning of park cleanup, landscape beautification, and exotic plant removal. At the conclusion of the event, Park Rangers will provide free lunch and a tour of the historic house for registered volunteers. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Call 305-442-6866 or click here for more information.

George L. Smith State Park – Twin City, GA

Saturday, September 26th is Your State Parks Day. Come out and help with park cleanup and beautification projects. Free T-shirts, water bottles and other goodies will be given to all volunteers.

Call 478-763-2759 or click here for more information.

Sterling State Park – Monroe, MI

Help collect native prairie seed from grasses and wildflowers to restore Lakeplain Prairie.

Call 517-719-2285 or click here for more information.

Tombigbee State Park – Tupelo, MS

Beginning in 2015, Toyota Mississippi will kick-off a five-year NPLD project at Tombigbee State Park. Kids Camp will be offered to children under age 12 with projects that include an interactive water conservation activity provided by Mississippi 4-H as well as painting and building bird houses and feeders. NPLD will conclude with a volunteer celebration including a BBQ lunch, fishing, disc golf, live music, and door prizes (must be present to win). Over the five years, the park will be completely renovated including cabin restoration, bridge construction, installation along nature trails, removal of invasive vegetation, planting flowers and shrubs, welcome center renovations, and overall park beautification.

Call 662-317-3038 or click here for more information.

Onondaga Cave State Park – Leasburg, MO

Attend the Green Living Fall Festival and National Public Lands Day Bio-Blitz! The day’s activities will center around villages and will contain a variety of topics, including educational activities, hands-on activities, vendors, displays and demonstrations, green products, local farming, and sustainable living. The bio-blitz, in honor of National Public Lands Day, will feature experts in a variety of scientific and ecological fields leading groups to identify and record species of flora and fauna throughout the park. The public is invited to voluntarily participate in any group. The Onondaga Friends Association will be demonstrating the making of apple butter and freshly canned jars will be available for sale along with many, many other vendor items.

Call 573-245-6576 or click here for more information.

Elk Knob State Park – Todd, NC

Head over to Elk Knob State Park for National Public Lands Day where you can help work on maintaining the Summit Trail or the new Maple Run Trail. Tools will be provided. Bring water, lunch, and work gloves and wear close-toed shoes.

Call 828-297-7261 or click here for more information.

Black Moshannon State Park – Philipsburg, PA

Help beautify Black Moshannon State Park! Projects include trail maintenance, native plant gardening, litter pickup, and planting. Pre-registration is required. Lunch will be provided and free camping is available that weekend for volunteers.

Call 814-342-5960 or click here for more information.

Bledsoe Creek State Park – Gallatin, TN

Help put together playground equipment at Bledsoe Creek State Park!

Call 615-347-3639 or click here for more information.

Celebrate the Summer Solstice at a State Park Near You

Two hands that look like they're holding the sun.

Welcome back, summer! Oh, how we’ve missed you. [Image: http://www.care2.com/]

Although the warm weather has arrived, summer hasn’t officially begun until this weekend during the summer solstice. Typically falling between June 20th and June 22nd, the summer solstice is the longest day and shortest night in the northern hemisphere (the opposite occurs simultaneously in the southern hemisphere during their winter solstice).

The summer solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is farthest from the equator and is also known as the “estival solstice” or “midsummer.” Around the world and across many different cultures, the summer solstice has been recognized as a time to celebrate through holidays, rituals, and festivals. So what better way to welcome the warmth than heading out to a state park? Here are just three of the many state park summer solstice activities occurring this weekend.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, Florida

A group of people in a circle in the woods holding drums.

Grab your bongos and drum in the season! [Image: http://projectavalon.net/]

A Tequesta Drum Circle will be held from 7 p.m. until midnight at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Florida hosted by the Moon Path Circle. The event is named to honor the Tequesta Indians, and there will be belly dancers, a gigantic bonfire, nature poems, and, of course, drums. It’s a holistic, environmentally aware way to celebrate summer and connect with the planet as it flows along its natural path.

More info: 954-564-4521

Old Stone Fort State Park, Tennessee

Sun shining through daisies.

Visit a spot that had prime views of the summer solstice sunrise. [Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/longint57/539260752]

Tennessee’s gorgeous Old Stone Fort State Park is full of exciting fishing and hiking opportunities. The main trail follows the walls of Old Stone Fort and traverses through areas that were once used as Native American ceremonial gathering places. At the original fort entrance, there was a perfect view of the spot on the horizon where the sun rises during the summer solstice. Learn about the fort through interpretive panels, check out the gorgeous waterfalls, and end your tour at one of the best spots for greeting summer.

More info: 931-723-5073

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, Arkansas

Toltec Mounds in Arkansas.

Tour the gorgeous Toltec Mounds and ring in the summer. [Image: http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/toltecmounds/]

Bring the whole family out to Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park in Arkansas to celebrate the summer solstice and official arrival of the season. There will be primitive-styled weapons to play around with and crafts. At 6 p.m., the park staff will explain the correlation of the mounds’ alignment with the summer solstice sunset and then provide a guided sunset tour of the mounds at 7 p.m. Ease into the summer’s inevitable heat by relaxing at the Toltec Mounds.

More info: 501-961-9442 or toltecmounds@arkansas.com

We’re thankful that the cold months are behind us for now, and we’re fully ready to soak up the sun this summer. Make sure you’ve got all your summer gear, and start making plans to head out to a state or national park near you!