While every day of the year offers opportunities to explore the National Park System and learn something about this unique collection of properties, once a year the president proclaims "National Park Week" with hopes folks will get out and enjoy the parks. This year that week starts Saturday, April 18, and runs through next Saturday, April 26.
Unfortunately, my opportunity to get back out into the park system doesn't arrive until next weekend, when I'll set off on a five-day float trip down the Yampa River through Dinosaur National Monument.
But hopefully you'll find time this coming week to celebrate National Park Week. You can do everything from joining ranger-led canoe or kayak tours in Everglades National Park or taking in a program on the "Lost Colony" at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site to chipping in to help clean up the North Cascades National Park Complex.
Here's a brief glimpse of some of the activities scheduled to take place:
"Caring for your park is a great way to celebrate National Park Week,” says Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “And, we also have many other stewardship opportunities for you throughout the summer.”
April 21: North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) Litter Pickup
Mosey along the scenic highway through the park and pick up litter before the summer crowds begin whizzing by. Enjoy camaraderie, tranquility, scenery, and wildlife. Call Joyce Brown at 360-854-7301 to join the carpool and meet at 8:00. at the Park and Forest Information Center in Sedro-Woolley.
April 22 (Earth Day):Newhalem Creek Campground Spring Cleaning
Celebrate Earth Day by helping to prepare the Newhalem Creek Campground for the busy season ahead. Landscape with native plants, maintain campsites, and improve trails. Call Joyce Brown at 360-854-7301 to join the carpool and meet at 7:45 a.m. at the Park and Forest Information Center in Sedro-Woolley or meet at the Newhalem Creek Campground at 9:00 a.m. Please bring a potluck item to share at lunch.
May 1-3: Hands to Work –Learning Center Stewardship Weekend
Join park and North Cascades Institute staff tending to the native flora and the habitat surrounding the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. There will be projects for all abilities and interests, from thinning, weeding, and trail maintenance to cataloging projects in the Wild Ginger Library. Your hard work will be rewarded when our talented kitchen crew serves up delicious, meals using locally grown food, and local experts share evening presentations and campfire discussions. $40 per person (includes two nights lodging and six meals). Register at this site or by calling 360-856-5700 x.209
“I urge you to explore our Outer Banks Group parks” says Superintendent Michael B. Murray. “Whether you seek active recreation, immersion into the natural world or intellectual stimulation, our parks offer exceptional experiences.”
During National Park Week, you can learn how our world was changed by two brothers at Wright Brothers National Memorial. Take time to enjoy Cape Hatteras National Seashore ocean and sound-side beaches – take in their natural beauty and sounds. You can hike trails at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, not only for exercise, but as an exploration through the same woodlands traveled by our country’s first English visitors.
A great way for kids to learn about national parks is through the National Park Service Junior Ranger Program. Along the Outer Banks, children can actually become three different kinds of junior rangers: a Seashore Ranger at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a Flight Ranger at Wright Brothers National Memorial, and a Roanoke Ranger at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Just go to the visitor centers located at these national park sites, and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet to get started. These Junior Ranger programs are designed for ages 5 to 13.
Special programs during National Park Week include: a Lost Colony presentation at noon daily at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site; the first full week of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse climbing season, open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and daily programs at Wright Brothers National Memorial at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.
For a fun and free way to learn more about the National Park Service during National Park Week, you can take a free on-line course titled Introduction to the National Park Service: Its History and Mission. This 30-40 minute course, available at this site, is designed for anyone who has an interest in the National Park Service. Completion of this course can provide teachers with 0.12 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota’s National Park, encompasses 218,000 acres along the northern border shared with Canada. With water covering 40 percent of the Park, Voyageurs is the premier fresh water-based national park in the country. More than 30 lakes dotted with hundreds of islands make Voyageurs National Park a water-recreation destination, well worth the journey.
Voyageurs National Park will host a National Park Week Open House/Junior Ranger Day on April 25. The event, sponsored by the Friends of Voyageurs National Park, will include activities for all ages from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A ceremony at noon will honor the winners of the Annual Youth Art Contest. Cake and lemonade will follow with a swearing in of Junior Rangers by Voyageurs National Park Superintendent Mike Ward.
“As the weather begins to move towards the season of growth, vibrancy, and enthusiasm, Voyageurs National Park offers a great range of recreational experiences, opportunities to learn and grow, and places of quiet refuge," says Superintendent Ward. "National Park Week also focuses on the importance of our children and offering them the opportunity to become a new generation of caretakers of National Parks.”
Everglades National Park and the National Parks Conservation Association are presenting a special event on Earth Day, April 22, as part of the National Park Week Celebration. This event kicks off the new on-line education course, Eco-Mariner Florida Bay, designed to help boaters and anglers enjoy and preserve Florida Bay.
The premier will be held at Green Turtle Hammock, MM81, 81224 Overseas Highway, in Islamorada. The Eco-Mariner course and Earth Day activities include free hammock walks, kayak tours, boat tours, educational talks and more, offered from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Contact for the Earth Day event is firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-852-3671. Starting April 22, Eco-Mariner Florida Bay, can also be accessed on-line at this site.
National Park Week offers many other opportunities for families and individuals to experience great wildlife viewing, bird watching and boating opportunities at Everglades National Park. Both free and concession operated activities are offered around the 1.5-million-acre park that can be reached within a half day's drive from Miami.
The park’s main entrance is reached via SR 9336 from US 1 at Florida City. The scenic Tamiami Trail (US 41) skirts the park’s northern border and leads to the Shark Valley and Everglades City entrances. Commercial Tram tours depart daily from the Shark Valley visitor center on US 41. Reservations are recommended; phone (305) 221-8455. Commercial boat tours depart daily from Flamingo Marina and from the visitor center in Everglades City. Reservations are recommended; phone (239) 695-3101 or (239) 695-2591, respectively. Come on out for a fun filled day enjoying the natural and cultural resources of your national park!
Everglades National Park Free Ranger-led activities daily:
Flamingo - Phone (239) 695-2945
Morning Bird Walk 8:30 a.m. - an easy stroll to observe some of the amazing birds of the Flamingo area.
Discovery Walk 1:30 p.m. - learn about the many plants, animals and people that call Florida Bay home.
Naturalist’s Knapsack Talk 2:30 PM - learn what is fact or fiction about the sharks found in Florida Bay.
Evening Program 7:30 PM- (Sunday & Monday only) – learn about the unique way animals survive in the Everglades.
Royal Palm - phone (305) 242-7700.
Anhinga Amble -.10:30 a.m - Exploring the Anhinga Trail where alligators, wading birds and other wildlife can be easily and frequently spotted.
Gator Spy - 1:30 p.m. This short walk is all about alligators.
Pahayokee – 3 p.m. A short walk to one of the highest points in the Everglades offers sweeping views of the river of grass.
Gulf Coast visitor Center - Phone (239) 695-3311
Canoe Explorations -10:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 19 only - take a half day paddle through the Ten Thousand Islands. Reservations required.
Eyes on the Everglades -2:00 p.m.- Learn about ecology, history, and environmental issues.
Nature Walk - 4:15 p.m. -Take an easy stroll to learn some of the natural history of the Gulf Coast.
To find out what's going on at your favorite park, check out the Park Service's National Park Week website, which lists activities across the system.