A grab bag of items from around the National Park System.
While Clingmans Dome Road traditionally reopens each spring on April 1, this year that schedule is being moved up two days, to March 30, this Wednesday.
Park officials say the snow melted off the road early enough for crews to get the Visitor Contact Station, restrooms, and other facilities are ready to go, so the road will open Wednesday morning.
If you love national parks, and love road cycling, this is for you.
For the next three weeks wheeled-traffic will be banned in most of Yellowstone while crews work at removing the winter's snows from the roads. However, as those roads are cleared, cyclists are more than welcome to pedal through the park.
With vehicle traffic not expected to be allowed before April 15, cyclists can take to the roads between West Yellowstone, Madison, Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs. The brief bicycle-only season on this section of road is possible because the northwest section of the park typically receives less snowfall than the rest of Yellowstone. Unfortunately, there is no spring season bicycle-only access to Old Faithful or Canyon.
Yellowstone officials point out that cycling in the park during this time of year is not for the faint of heart, and extreme safety precautions should be followed by all riders.
Spring in the park often brings cold temperatures, blustery winds and falling snow. Even cleared sections of roads are narrow and covered with a layer of snow, ice and debris. Pullouts and parking areas remain inaccessible and filled with snow.
Most importantly, no park services will be open in the interior of the park. Riders need to be prepared to be out in the elements for an extended period of time in case they experience a mechanical breakdown, injury or other emergency.
Cyclists should expect to encounter snowplows or other vehicles operated by park employees or construction workers traveling in conjunction with park operations. In addition to road hazards, cyclists are likely to encounter bison, elk, wolves or bears on or along the roads. They are required to ride single file, strongly encouraged to carry bear spray, and should be prepared to turn around and backtrack when encountering wildlife on the road.
Snow removal efforts may also allow for a brief period of bicycle-only access into the park sometime in May from the South Entrance to West Thumb and from the East Entrance toward Sylvan Pass. The road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., to Cooke City, Mont., at the park's Northeast Entrance is open all year to cyclists and automobiles, weather permitting. Some interior park roads don’t open to automobile travel until Memorial Day weekend.
Cyclists are urged to call 307-344-2107 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays for updated road access information, or call 307-344-2113 for 24-hour weather information before traveling to the area. Additional planning information is also available online at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/springbike.htm
The South Unit Visitor Center is open 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MDT. Barring unforeseen inclement weather, the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, located on I-94 east of Medora, will open for the season; hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MDT. The North Unit Visitor Center will be open 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CDT. All will be open daily, with expanded hours Memorial Day through Labor Day.
"Spring is a wonderful time to visit the park," said Superintendent Valerie Naylor. "As the snow melts and the vegetation starts to green up, visitors can get out into the park to hike and to see migratory birds returning to the area, and newborn animals such as bison, elk, and feral horses."
All three park visitor centers offer information, maps of the park, audio-visual programs, and exhibits. For further information and current road conditions, call 701-623-4466, the North Unit Visitor Center at 701-842-2333, or visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/thro.
It's no small task to take down the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams in Olympic National Park, and that's why the National Park Service is spending more than $2.5 million for a company to manage the construction process.
The contract was awarded March 18 to URS Corporation of Seattle, Washington, with a total value of $2,563,395.79.
URS Corporation will provide construction management services for the duration of the dam removal contract. Construction management services include inspections, monitoring and construction administration tasks. Dam removal work will begin this September and take up to three years to complete.
The $26.9 million dam removal contract was awarded in late August 2010 to Barnard Construction, Inc. of Bozeman, Montana.
The $324.7 million Elwha River Restoration project will free the Elwha River after nearly a century. Removing the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams will allow fish to access spawning habitat in more than 70 miles of river and tributary stream, most of which is protected inside Olympic.
Ahh, the bears are on the move in Glacier, and that means be careful when you're hiking in the park.
“Bear tracks in the snow are a good reminder that Glacier National Park is bear country and park visitors need to be alert for bear activity and to be familiar with and comply with safety regulations,” says park Superintendent Chas Cartwright.
Hikers should travel in groups and make loud noise by calling out and/or clapping their hands at frequent intervals, especially near streams and at blind spots and curves on trails. These actions will help avoid surprise encounters. Do not approach any wildlife; instead, use binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses to get closer looks.
Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in use. Garbage must be deposited into a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. These actions help keep bears from becoming conditioned to human food, and help keep park visitors and their personal property safe.
“One of the reasons people visit the park is to experience a vast wild land, capable of supporting a healthy population of both black and grizzly bears. While here park visitors are encouraged to carry, and know how to properly use, bear spray," said Superintendent Cartwright. "We want everyone to have a safe experience while enjoying the park.”
No single deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms,
proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved, he said.
Federal law allows the carrying of firearms within national parks and wildlife refuges consistent with state laws. Glacier managers agree with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ statement: "If you are armed, use a firearm only as a last resort; wounding a bear, even with a large caliber gun, can put you in far greater danger."
Returning to Zion on Friday -- the park's shuttle buses.
The shuttle operations will provide daily service through October. This marks the 12th year of operation for the popular shuttle system in Zion and Springdale, its gateway town. The shuttle system is supported by park entrance fees and all shuttles are fare-free.
The shuttles make nine stops in Springdale and nine stops inside the park. The Zion Canyon Shuttle provides improved access to points of interest, trailheads, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, and facilities such as the Zion Lodge and Zion Human History Museum. While the shuttle system is in operation, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles.
Confirmed guests at the Zion Lodge may drive to the lodge, but cannot travel past the lodge or make any stops along the way. All other roads in the park are open to private vehicles, including the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway which connects to State Route 9 at the south and east entrances of the park.
Daily operation begins with an express shuttle departing from the Majestic View Shuttle Stop in Springdale at 6:35 a.m. and departing from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center Shuttle Stop in the park at 6:45 a.m. Regular shuttle service starts at 7:00 a.m. Initially, the last shuttle traveling up canyon from the visitor center will depart at 9:30 p.m. and the last shuttle traveling into town will depart from the Zion Canyon Theater Shuttle Stop at 10:00 p.m.
Hours of operation will expand during the summer. Shuttles depart from designated stops every seven to ten minutes during the middle of the day and approximately every 10-15 minutes in the morning and evening.
Gettysburg will move to its summer visiting hours this Friday.
The grounds of the battlefield will stay open to the public from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. The Museum and Visitor Center’s operating hours will be from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily.
These summer visiting hours will continue through October 31. For more information about visiting the park go to the park web site at http://www.nps.gov/gett and opening and visit our park partner site at http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org