Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Severe Storm Damage Closes Road in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

The Shillalah Creek Trail, used to access the historic Hensley Settlement in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, has been closed to all visitor use due to severe damage caused by recent heavy rains.

Deep ruts and undercutting of road edges have made the 4.6-mile-long road impassable and very unstable. Heavy water continues to run off of the mountain and down the road, eroding its surface and subsurface. Any type of visitor use – whether by pedestrians, horses, bicycles or vehicles - could result in serious injury.

Hensley Settlement tours, conducted by park staff, have been cancelled for the season. The August 12th Shooting Star Spectacular at Hensley Settlement has also been cancelled.

For more information, visitors can call the park visitor center at 606-246-1075.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

National Park Service Launches Kentucky National Park Pentathlon

This week the National Park Service (NPS) launched the Kentucky National Park Pentathlon, inviting those who visit all five NPS sites in the state to earn a special free commemorative patch. The Pentathlon is in recognition of the NPS 2016 Centennial.

"The National Park Service was created 100 years ago to protect America's national treasures and provide opportunities for people to enjoy and understand them," said Stan Austin, NPS Southeast Regional Director. "During the NPS Centennial, we encourage everyone to find a park that has special meaning to them and enjoy what it has to offer."

Pentathlon participants can earn the commemorative patch by visiting all five Kentucky national parks by April 2017 and participating at a least one activity at each park. Kentucky has all or part of five national park sites within its borders:

• Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park (Larue County) includes the country's first memorial to Lincoln, built with donations from young and old, and enshrines the symbolic birthplace cabin. For over a century, people from around the world have come to rural Central Kentucky to honor the humble beginnings of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. His early life on Kentucky's frontier shaped his character and prepared him to lead the nation through Civil War.

• Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (McCreary County) encompasses 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau and protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The area boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, is rich with natural and historic features and has been developed to provide visitors with a wide range of outdoor recreational activities.

• Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Bell and Harlan Counties) provided the first great gateway to the west. The buffalo, the Native American, the longhunter, the pioneer - all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky. Modern day explorers and travelers continue to explore this great gateway and the many miles of trails and scenic features found in the park.

• The Fort Heiman unit of Fort Donelson National Battlefield (Calloway County) and the rest of the area played a critical role in the Civil War. After the fall of Fort Donelson, the South was forced to give up southern Kentucky and much of Middle and West Tennessee. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and railroads in the area, became vital Federal supply lines. Nashville was developed into a huge supply depot for the Union army in the west. The heartland of the Confederacy was opened, and the Federals would press on until the "Union" became a fact once more.

• Mammoth Cave National Park (Edmonson, Hart, and Barren Counties) preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley and hilly country of south central Kentucky. This is the world's longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles explored. Early guide Stephen Bishop called the cave a "grand, gloomy and peculiar place," but its vast chambers and complex labyrinths have earned its name - Mammoth.

Possible activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, canoeing, camping, volunteering, attending a ranger-led tour/presentation, bird-watching, visiting a park's museum, seeing a park's film or any other activity available at the parks. Participants can do the same activity at all five parks or try something different at each location.

"The Kentucky Parks Pentathlon is a wonderful way to experience the five national parks across the state," said Niki Stephanie Nicholas, Big South Fork Superintendent. "Each one has spectacular resources and a wide range of recreational opportunities."

For more information on the Kentucky National Parks Pentathlon, call the Big South Fork Park's Headquarters at (423) 569-9778.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Yellow-Poplar Trees Damaged By Weevils in Cherokee National Forest

U.S. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest (Forest) say visitors to the Forest may see areas of dead foliage on some trees. Leaves are dying and turning brown as a result of damage caused by the yellow-poplar weevil. The insect primarily impacts yellow-poplar trees, but can also feed on other species in the magnolia family and sassafras trees.

Adult weevils begin feeding on leaf and bud tissue in April and May. They mate, lay eggs, and newly pupated adult weevils emerge in late spring/early summer. The newly emerged adults may cause extensive damage to leaf tissue. As a result, the leaves die and turn brown. By mid-July the weevils will drop to the ground and remain inactive until the following spring.

When abundant, the weevils destroy the leaves and buds of terminal and upper branches and in extreme cases may defoliate entire trees. Growth of trees may be slowed and tree form may also be affected. Most healthy poplar trees will be able to withstand the defoliation caused by the weevils, but they may suffer aesthetic damage.

The yellow poplar weevil is native to the eastern U.S. The last recorded significant outbreak has not been recorded since the late 1960’s. Adult weevils are about 1/10 of an inch long and are a dark brown or black in color. There are at least five recorded parasitic wasp species that are known to prey on the weevils and their larva. Frost in late spring also reduces the size of weevil populations.

Foliage destruction temporarily reduces the aesthetic values of yellow-poplar trees and sometimes reductions in growth may be experienced. However, most healthy trees are able to withstand an infestation. The outbreak should subside on its own.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Wild Way to Move

This is a pretty cool video from Parks Canada, which shows how wildlife crossing structures and highway fencing in Banff National Park have reduced large animal deaths by more than 80%.

As you travel through Banff, animals are traveling as well - over your roof and under your wheels. So which animals adopted these crossing structures first? Which animals prefers overpasses versus underpasses? This video captures five years of wildlife movement through the lens of a remote camera in Banff National Park, and provides some interesting insights on how these structures have saved the lives of both animals and humans:

You can learn more about this project here and here.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Kayaker Dies In Accident On Little Pigeon River

The NPS Morning Report disclosed today that rangers in the Great Smoky Mountains responded to a report of a kayak accident in the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River in the Greenbrier section of the park.

On the evening of July 2nd, Kenneth C. Worthington, 53, of Apex, North Carolina, capsized his kayak and floated to the river edge, where friends pulled him from the river. Rangers, Gatlinburg Police Department officers, and Gatlinburg Fire Department personnel performed CPR on Worthington before he was transported to LeConte Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Mariposa Grove was one of the first federally protected tracts of land in the world. In 1864 Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, which deeded the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees to the state of California for protection as a forest reserve. Due to concern over damage from livestock and logging, John Muir led a movement to establish a larger national park that encompassed the surrounding mountains and forests. However, when Yosemite National Park was established on October 1, 1890, it excluded the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. In 1903 Muir took President Theodore Roosevelt on a three-day camping trip near Glacier Point. During the trip Muir convinced Roosevelt to take control of the valley and the grove away from California. Finally, on June 11, 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that would merge the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove with Yosemite National Park.

Hiking in the Smokies

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throwback Thursday

The first automobile to make the drive to the Grand Canyon began its journey on January 4, 1902. Anticipating that the 60-mile drive would take only four hours, Oliver Lippincott, along with a guide and two writers from Los Angeles, left Flagstaff without any extra food or water. Unfortunately their Toledo Steamer, a 10-horse power engine built by the Toledo Automobile Company, really wasn’t ready for the rough drive as they traveled cross-country without roads, and broke down several times. Two days later, the hungry and dehydrated party finally arrived at their destination at the Grandview Hotel on the South Rim. Three years later a three-day drive from Utah was required to reach the North Rim for the first time.

Hiking in the Smokies