Around The Parks: Fireflies In The Smokies, Family Days Along The C&O Canal, Hiking In Acadia, Visitor Center Hours At Voyageurs

Summer can't be far off, as the fireflies will be flashing soon in the Smokies, and family days are scheduled at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

Fireflies In The Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the Elkmont Firefly Viewing event in the park that straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border will take place from Thursday, June 6, through Thursday, June 13. For this year’s viewing event, the on-line ticketing system, operated through Recreation.gov, will again provide visitors with parking passes to guarantee they will be able to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center without the inconvenience of having to arrive hours in advance.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus; a firefly species that flashes synchronously. I

In 2012 the park instituted the reservation requirement for the first time. This was in response to the increasing popularity of the event that caused management issues in the parking area and congestion for visitors accessing the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

For this year’s event, a parking pass will be required for all vehicles. The pass will cover a maximum of six persons in a single passenger vehicle (less than 19 feet in length). Four passes for oversize vehicles, like a mini bus (19 to 30 feet in length and up to 24 persons), will also be available. Each reservation will cost $1.50.

Parking passes will be non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one parking pass per household per season. Each reservation through www.Recreation.gov will receive an e- mailed confirmation and specific information about the event.

Shuttle buses, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg, will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7 p.m. The cost will be $1 round trip per person, as in previous years, and collected when boarding the shuttle.

The shuttle service will be the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors will not be allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

The park is holding back 90 passes for each day to accommodate individuals who did not learn of the need to pre-purchase tickets. Those last 90 passes will go on sale on-line at 10 a.m. the day before the event and will be available until 3:30 p.m. on the day of the event or until the passes are all reserved.

Voyageurs National Park Institutes Summer Hours At Visitor Centers

At Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, the Rainy Lake Visitor Center hours of operation will now be Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., from Tuesday, May 7 through Saturday, September 21. The center will be closed on Sundays and Mondays starting May 5.

The Kabetogama Lake and Ash River Visitor Centers are currently closed. They will open for the summer season on Saturday, May 25. Both centers will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 25 through September 21. The centers will be closed on Sundays and Mondays starting May 26.

This reduction in days and hours of operation is due to the government sequestration. Visitors also can expect continued but reduced boat tours and should call ahead for scheduled naturalist-led programs. For a complete list of up-to-date programs go on-line at www.nps.gov/voya. To make a reservation for boat tours go on-line at www.recreation.gov.

For all other naturalist-led programs visitors should inquire at the visitor center they wish to explore. Call the Rainy Lake Visitor Center at 218-286-5258, Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center at 218-875-2111, and Ash River Visitor Center at 218-374-3221.

Family Days At Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Join the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park staff and volunteers in Maryland during select weekends at Edwards Ferry as Lockhouse 25 is opened to the public for family exploration and activities.

Families will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on programs allowing them to explore and learn aout the C&O Canal in the 19th century. Four family days remain: Saturday, May 11, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday, June 1, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, July 13, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; and Saturday, August 10, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Activities will include learning about the science behind mules, what life was like for children growing up on the canal, the Underground Railroad's connection to the C&O Canal, and how soldiers communicated during the Civil War. All programs are free and are appropriate for all ages but designed specifically for grades K-6.

Also, The C&O Canal Trust is proud to be offering its third bird walk led by expert birder Jim Nelson. Mr. Nelson will lead the two-hour bird walk this Saturday, May 11, beginning at 8 a.m. from Lockhouse 22 at Pennyfield. Birders of all experience levels are welcome and a small number of binoculars will be made available for those without.

The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs to are required.

Explore Trails At Acadia National Park

Acadia Quest’s 2013 Trail Quest, a popular experiential scavenger hunt run by Friends of Acadia is all new for 2013. This year's "Trail Quest" will challenge teams to "Explore, Protect and Learn" about Acadia National Park from a trail perspective. Quest teams will walk, hike, and scramble along trails in and around Acadia, including community, village connector, pond, oceanside, and summit trails.

Each Trail Quest team will receive a park map and pass and a Trail Quest card. Teams will document each hike with a picture or trail sign rubbing to prove they completed an activity in the Quest.

Acadia National Park offers many trails perfectly suited to introducing children to the variety of nature's splendors, from easy trails along streams and oceansides to more demanding summit climbs. Hiking is a lifetime sport, which can develop an appreciation for both nature and physical activity that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Check out the Trail Quest website run by Friends of Acadia for more information, and watch the friends group's friendsofacadia.org/events/quest.shtml or Facebook page for updates.