Super National Wildlife Refuge Drives

To really explore a national wildlife refuge, of course, you’ll want to get out of your vehicle. But when time is limited or you want to get the lay of the land before you set out on a trail, a scenic drive should be considered.

For all us ‘let’s-check-it-out-first’ types, here’s a sampling of some super national wildlife refuge drives to whet your appetite for further exploration.

6. Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Stretching eight miles along Delaware Bay and covering 16,251 acres, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for wildlife. (Credit: USFWS)
Stretching eight miles along Delaware Bay and covering 16,251 acres, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for wildlife. (Credit: USFWS)

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the largest remaining expanses of tidal salt marsh in the mid-Atlantic region. The refuge, located along the coast of Delaware, is mostly marsh, but also includes freshwater impoundments and upland habitats that are managed for other wildlife.

A 12-mile wildlife drive cuts across man-made pools, salt marshes, mudflats, woodlands, and upland fields. Spring brings migrating waterfowl, wood warblers, and shorebirds. Summer draws herons, egrets, avocets, black-necked stilts, and terns. Fall and winter months provide resting and wintering grounds for Canada geese, snow geese, and a mix of waterfowl. Birds of prey are seen all year long.

The wildlife drive passes five short walking trails, three with 30-foot-high observation towers.

Wildlife to Observe: Snow geese, northern pintails, warblers, dunlins, dowitchers, avocets, black-necked stilts, yellow warblers, purple martins, red tailed hawks, and bald eagles.

Phone: (302) 653-9345

Website: fws.gov/refuge/Bombay_Hook

Friends of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge: friendsofbombayhook.org

7. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Four short (less than 0.5 miles each) and two longer (1.5 – 4 miles) hiking trails are available adjacent to the wildlife drive or Refuge headquarters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Four short (less than 0.5 miles each) and two longer (1.5 – 4 miles) hiking trails are available adjacent to the wildlife drive or Refuge headquarters. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Straddling the Pecos River, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a wetland oasis inhabited by a diversity of wildlife. Located where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the Southern Plains, Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of the more biologically significant wetland areas of the Pecos River watershed system.

The eight-mile Wildlife Drive/Auto Tour Loop is one of the better ways to observe wildlife.

Four short trails and two longer hiking trails are available adjacent to the Refuge Headquarters and Wildlife Drive.

Organized by the Friends of the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the 2013 Dragonfly Festival will take place on September 7.

Wildlife to Observe: Take advantage of the overlooks for great views of flocks of sandhill cranes and Ross’ and snow geese, or to spot the coyotes and red-tail hawks criss-crossing the wetlands. Drive slowly and watch for basking spiny softshell turtles, coachwhip snakes, and checkered whiptail lizards. More than 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonates) have been documented.

Continue reading →

Phone: (575) 622-6755

Website: fws.gov/refuge/Bitter_Lake

Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge: friendsofbitterlake.com

Dragonfly Festival: friendsofbitterlake.com/2013-dragonfly-festival

8. National Bison Range, Montana

The largest North American land mammal in existence, American bison were a key species of the Great Plains—their grazing habits helped establish the distribution of grasslands in the Plains. The current bison herd is maintained at approximately 350 animals. (Credit: USFWS)
The largest North American land mammal in existence, American bison were a key species of the Great Plains—their grazing habits helped establish the distribution of grasslands in the Plains. The current bison herd is maintained at approximately 350 animals. (Credit: USFWS)

Follow the one-way steep and winding 19-mile gravel road up Red Sleep Mountain for stunning grassland views with herds of bison, antelope, elk, big horn sheep, and deer. From the top, see the Mission Mountain range of the Rockies and enjoy panoramic views of Mission Valley. You can also access two short walks. In general, the Red Sleep Mountain Drive is open from mid-May to early October.

Due to the steepness of roads and tightness of switchbacks, no vehicles over 30 feet in length are allowed on Red Sleep Mountain Drive. They may access the shorter West Loop, Prairie Drive, and Winter Drive. No trailers of any kind may travel Red Sleep Mountain Drive.

Wildlife to Observe: Antelope, elk, mule deer, bison, mountain sheep, eagles.

Phone: (406) 644-2211

Website: fws.gov/refuge/national_bison_range

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 4 Part Series on National Wildlife Refuges Scenic Drives

Part 1: Top 10 National Wildlife Refuges Scenic Drives

Part 3: Great Scenic Drives On National Wildlife Refuges

Part 4: Top 3 National Wildlife Refuges Scenic Drives

Worth Pondering…

A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

—Chinese Proverb

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Top 10 National Wildlife Refuges Scenic Drives

To really explore a national wildlife refuge, of course, you’ll want to get out of your vehicle. But when time is limited or you want to get the lay of the land before you set out on a trail, a scenic drive should be considered.

For all us ‘let’s-check-it-out-first’ types, here’s a sampling of some super national wildlife refuge drives to whet your appetite for further exploration.

10. Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan

Photographers do a wonderful job at capturing the beauty of Seney National Wildlife Refuge. (Credit: fws.gov/Dawn Kopp)
Photographers do a wonderful job at capturing the beauty of Seney National Wildlife Refuge. (Credit: fws.gov/Dawn Kopp)

Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.

The refuge is located in the east-central portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, halfway between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

A seven-mile ride along Marshland Wildlife Drive leads past wetlands and open water and through deciduous and coniferous forests in the Great Manistique Swamp, an old lumbering area. The road passes three wheelchair-accessible observation decks with viewing scopes.

The tour route is open during daylight hours from May 15 through October 15. The route does not accommodate large recreational vehicles. Bicycles are permitted on the auto tour route.

Wildlife to Observe: Beaver, river otters, bald eagles, osprey, common loons, Canada geese, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, black bear, turtles, and songbirds.

Phone: (906) 586-9851

Website: fws.gov/refuge/seney

9. Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota

The diverse habitat types found on Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge—mixed grass prairie, river valley, marshes, sandhills, and woodlands—support an abundant variety of wildlife. (Credit: USFWS/Marlene Welstad)
The diverse habitat types found on Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge—mixed grass prairie, river valley, marshes, sandhills, and woodlands—support an abundant variety of wildlife. (Credit: USFWS/Marlene Welstad)

The 19-mile Refuge Backway follows the gently rolling hills of upland prairie, offering excellent views of the wooded draws of the Des Lacs Valley with great scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities. More than 250 species of birds, including waterfowl, raptors, and many other migrants, have been seen there, along with deer, moose, and other mammals.

Also along the Backway is the trailhead for Munch’s Coulee National Recreation Trail, a mile-long loop with a universally accessible section; the trail provides panoramic views and opportunities to see wildlife close-up.

Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge was officially named one of America’s top 500 Globally Important Bird Areas (IBA) by the national non-profit organization, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), in recognition of its significance in the ongoing effort to conserve wild birds and their habitats.

Wildlife to see: Mergansers and snow geese in the spring and fall, several species of grebes in summer, as well as wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and moose.

Phone: (701) 385-4046

Website: fws.gov/jclarksalyer/deslacs

Details

National Wildlife Refuge System

The 2013 Federal Duck Stamp. Robert Steiner, an artist from San Francisco, Calif., is the winner of the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. (Credit: fws.gov)
The 2013 Federal Duck Stamp. Robert Steiner, an artist from San Francisco, Calif., is the winner of the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. (Credit: fws.gov)

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska.

National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals are protected on wildlife refuges.

Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stepping stones while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes.

The Refuge System is a division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of the Interior.

Phone: (800) 344-WILD (9453)

Website: fws.gov/refuges

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 4 Part Series on National Wildlife Refuges Scenic Drives

Part 2: Super National Wildlife Refuge Drives

Part 3: Great Scenic Drives On National Wildlife Refuges

Part 4: Top 3 National Wildlife Refuges Scenic Drives

Worth Pondering…

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Eagle

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Michigan Recreation 101 Receives National Recognition

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Recreation Division has been honored by the National Association of State Park Directors.

The association recently gave its 2012 President’s Award to the agency in recognition of its Recreation 101 program—a popular and growing series of instructional events and workshops that encourage residents and visitors to get out, learn new recreation skills, and enjoy the outdoors.

The award honors statewide organizations that have made an extraordinary contribution to the goals of a state park system.

According to DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson, the Recreation 101 program, which is currently in its second year, has proved to be an excellent example of a successful collaboration between many sectors of the recreation community.

“Recreation 101 has grown from 87 events in 2011 to more than 300 introductory programs in 2012, offering almost everything from archery to windsurfing, that have led people into our parks and recreation areas, and also into a healthy, more active lifestyle,” Olson said.

He added that the program has reached thousands of people in the last two years and has involved a successful partnership between volunteer instructors and nearly 100 Michigan outdoor recreation businesses.

The award was presented during the National Association of State Park Directors’ annual conference that took place September 4-7 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Details

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.

Website: michigan.gov/dnr

Recreation 101

Michigan is rolling out the “green” carpet to welcome everyone to the woods and waters! Recreation 101, or “Rec 101,” is a series of intro-to format classes taught by DNR staff or expert volunteers from organizations, guide services, outfitters, and more.

These volunteers offer their time and knowledge at no charge to the DNR or the participants. The program began with state parks in 2011, and is offered statewide in 2012 in Michigan State Parks as well as community recreation agencies through collaboration with the Michigan Recreation and Park Association.

Website: michigan.gov/dnr

Recreation Passport

The Recreation Passport is an easy, affordable way for residents to enjoy and support outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan.

By checking “YES” for the $10 Recreation Passport ($5 for motorcycles) when renewing a license plate, Michigan motorists get access to state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, nonmotorized state trailhead parking, and state boat launches.

In addition, Recreation Passport holders can enjoy real savings at businesses and retailers that participate in the Passport Perks discount program.

The Recreation Passport is valid until the next license plate renewal date.

Nonresidents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($29 annual; $8 daily) at any state park or recreation area or through the Michigan e-Store.

Website: michigan.gov/dnr

Worth Pondering…

Another thing I like to do is sit back and take in nature. To look at the birds, listen to their singing, go hiking, camping and jogging and running, walking along the beach, playing games and sometimes being alone with the great outdoors. It’s very special to me.
—Larry Wilcox

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Vintage Boat Show Includes Vintage Travel Trailers

Outdoors enthusiasts have an opportuni­ty to take an up- close look at some classic boats to­day (August 26) at the Vintage Holland (Michigan) Boat Show.

Everything from wood­en to fiberglass boats will be on display for people to enjoy. More than 25 boats will be in front of the Hol­land Museum on 10th Street, between River and Central avenues. The event runs from 10 a. m.-4 p. m.

In its seventh year, the boat show displays a va­riety of boats. This year, there is something new added to the show: vintage travel trailers, reports HollandSentinel.com.

Three travel trailers will be on display. Visitors will have the opportunity to look inside the trailers to see how they are decorated on the interior.

“You’d think you’d stepped into a 1960s TV show when you enter the trailers. These people go all out,” said Geoffrey Reynolds, co- chairman of the event.

The idea to expand the boat show to include vin­tage travel trailers came from Holland Histori­cal Trust board member Mary Bamborough.

Bam­borough and her husband, Tom, belong to several vin­tage travel trailer clubs.

“These trailers are Mich­igan outdoor enjoyment,” Bamborough said.

Bamborough bought her 1965 Airstream Globetrot­ter seven years ago, when her father spotted one up north. After some reno­vations, the trailer was ready for use. The Bambo­roughs have since joined other vintage travel trailer enthusiasts at rallies and use the travel trailer for camping, HollandSentinel.com reports.

This 1965 Airstream Globetrotter, belonging to Tom and Mary Bamborough, will be part of the Vintage Holland Boat Show. (Source: HollandSentinel.com)

People are surprised at the spaciousness of the trailers, Bamborough said. Many trailers are decked out with a bed, shower, toilet, dinette, and other accommodations.

Peoples personalities come out in the way the interiors of the trailers are decorated.

“Even though the trail­ers have the same floor plan, people decorate them differently,” Bamborough said.

People will have oppor­tunities to look inside the trailers. Bamborough will be available to answer questions about her trailer.

Besides the new addi­tions, all types of boats will be on display for those who enjoy looking at and learning about vin­tage boats. Most of the boats are from the 1960s and from previous de­cades. The oldest boat is a 26- foot 1902 Jesiek from Eldean Shipyard.

Holland has had an il­lustrious boat-making past. There were 52 boat companies in Holland over the years. Everything from schooners built in the 1880s to powerboats were created in Holland.

Now, only two boat companies remain Tiara Yachts and Grand Craft.

Reynolds believes it’s the long history of Holland’s rich boating industry that draws people to the boat show.

“You have boats that many people might have owned or there are boats that people saw out on the water. Holland made boats and used them,” Reynolds said.

The admission to the boat show allows people free admission that day into the museum and ice cream.

Holland Museum, 31 W. 10th Street, Holland, Michigan

“You’d think you’d stepped into a 1960s TV show when you enter the trailers. These people go all out.”

Geoffrey Reynolds, co­chairman of the Vintage Holland Boat Show

Details

Vintage Holland Boat Show

Date: August 26, 2012

Time: 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Location: Holland Museum, 31 W. 10th Street, Holland, MI 49423

Phone: (616) 796-3329

Website: hollandmuseum.org

Worth Pondering…

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

—Mark Twain

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New Casino RV Park Opens in Michigan

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan recently celebrated the grand opening of the Soaring Eagle Hideaway RV Park.

The property features 67 RV sites each 50 feet in length with water, sewer, and 30-amp electricity service, concrete pads, fire pits, grill, picnic tables, and free Wi-Fi access.

The campground is situated on a 25-acre lake that’s fully stocked for fishing.

Visitors also can enjoy a clubhouse, walking trails, laundry facilities, and a playground.

The Horizon Construction Group, based out of Madison, Wisconsin, was hired as the general contractor for the project in conjunction with the construction of the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel.

Soaring Eagle Hideaway RV Park

Access to the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotels pool, club house, steam room, hot tub, sauna, fitness center, Nbakade Restaurant, and Cyber Quest arcade is also available (indoor waterpark admission not included).

Free shuttle service is available to the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel, Waabooz Run Golf Course, the Green Suites, Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, and the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways.

A house designed by architect Alden B. Dow has been converted into a registration office, camp store, and guest activity area.

Other amenities include a walking trail, laundry facilities, pet area, beach, horseshoes, volleyball, park fire pit, pavilion with picnic area, activity, library, game room, sitting room with fireplace, and deck overlooking lake.

Details

Soaring Eagle Hideaway RV Park

Address: 5050 E. Airport Road, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858 (Exit143 on U.S. 127)

Phone: (989) 817-4800 or (888) 7EAGLE7 (toll free)

Rates: $29 (April)-$49 (July-August); $218.40 weekly; $819 monthly; $1,000 seasonal (May-September); all rates subject to taxes and fees

Website: soaringeaglehideaway.com

Worth Pondering…
As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.

—Margaret Mead

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Pure Michigan Caramel Apple: Official Ice Cream for Michigan State Parks

Kids let their taste buds do the judging

Judges taste-test flavors of ice cream at Hudsonville Ice Cream. (Source: hollandsentinel.com)

Naming the official Pure Michigan ice cream flavor of Michigan state parks? Tasty work if you can get it, and the 2012 Outstanding Outdoor Kids did just that!

Selected by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), this year’s winners—Lexi Loehfelm, 11, of Ada; Noah Ekdom, 12, of Roscommon; and Jimmy McGrath, 15, of Carleton—let their taste buds do the judging, when they, along with Meijer Corporate Research Chef Ray Sierengowski, picked the official Pure Michigan ice cream flavor of Michigan state parks: Pure Michigan Caramel Apple.

Representatives from the DNR, Hudsonville Ice Cream, Pure Michigan, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), and Meijer gathered with friends and family of the judges for the event, which took place at the Livonia Meijer store on Middlebelt Road.

While the judges deliberated over the winning flavor, guests took in live Dixieland music, enjoyed free samples of Hudsonville ice cream from the mobile Hudsonville café, and learned about Michigan’s many outdoor recreation options.

Official ice cream: 'Pure Michigan Caramel Apple' (Source: wnem.com)

The DNR joined with Hudsonville Ice Cream and Pure Michigan to launch the “Create a Flavor” contest in January, and interest was immediate. More than 3,000 flavor suggestions were submitted, ranging from Tahquamenon Falls Root Beer Sundae to Hex Hatch Jubilee, each evoking the sights, sounds, and nostalgia of getting away from it all in Michigan’s great outdoors.

The entries were narrowed down to a field of four finalists:

  • Michigan Chocolate Covered Cherries, submitted by Heather Klaver of Grand Rapids
  • Pure Michigan Jubilee, submitted by Gary Kesler of Grandville
  • Shiver MI Timbers, submitted by Carla Reczek of Oak Park
  • Pure Michigan Caramel Apple, submitted by Dawn Dummer of Houghton Lake

In the end, the judges decided that Pure Michigan Caramel Apple was the favorite!

For submitting the winning flavor combination, Houghton Lake’s Dummer has earned sweet bragging rights, along with free Hudsonville ice cream for a year, a one-week stay in a Michigan state park or harbor of her choice, a $1,000 Meijer gift card, and Pure Michigan merchandise.

“I’ve never entered a contest before other than bingo, but I had to do this one! It’s about Michigan and I love Michigan—it’s my home state and I’m proud of it,” said an excited Dummer. “I’m just beside myself right now!”

“This contest has been an exciting partnership with Hudsonville and Pure Michigan, and a creative way to get people thinking about recreation-based tourism,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Just about everyone has favorite memories of time spent at our state parks. Now they can enjoy an ice cream that sparks those same good feelings and memories.”

Attendees of the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism, March 25-27, will enjoy Pure Michigan Caramel Apple at the conference’s Stars Dinner.

Hudsonville Director of Sales and Marketing Bruce Kratt said the “Create a Flavor” contest marked the start of a campaign that will run throughout the summer with a statewide RV ice cream tour to help promote Recreation 101, the DNR’s popular outreach/education program at Michigan state parks. Meijer will serve as the official retail partner in this campaign, set to begin in early May.

“We will distribute samples of the winning flavor—the official ice cream of Michigan state parks and Pure Michigan—to Meijer and other retail outlets and ice cream parlors throughout Michigan and the Midwest, as well as at stops along our summer ice cream tour,” he explained. “What better way to welcome summer in Michigan!”

Meijer Corporate Research Chef Ray Sierengowski said he was excited to join the three Outstanding Outdoor Kids on the ice cream judging panel.

Dawn Dummer of Houghton Lake (center) is the first place winner in the Pure Michigan “Create a Flavor” ice cream contest. Standing with her are judges (from left) Jimmy McGrath, 15, of Carleton; Noah Ekdom, 12, of Roscommon; and Lexi Loehfelm, 11, of Ada, along with Meijer Corporate Research Chef Ray Sierengowski. (Source: michiganadvantage.org)

“I had so much fun partnering with Hudsonville Ice Cream and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on this creative event that helps promote our fantastic state,” Sierengowski said. “And what better way to celebrate than with ice cream.”

A key goal of this campaign is to build awareness of the DNR’s Recreation 101 program and Recreation Passport.

“Rec 101″ is a series of free, intro-to programs with all the gear and expert instruction included. The RV ice cream tour will also highlight the Recreation Passport—Michigan residents’ $10 ticket to Michigan state parks, recreation areas and boat launches.

The Recreation Passport—which also supports state forest campgrounds, trails, and historic treasures and provides grants to neighborhood parks—can be purchased by Michigan residents at a Secretary of State venue when renewing a vehicle registration. By purchasing the Passport through the Secretary of State, residents can also take advantage of the Passport Perks program that offers discounts at hundreds of local businesses throughout the state.

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Worth Pondering…

Life is like an ice-cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time.
—Charles M. Schulz

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Five Things You Need to Know Today: February 17

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. Tire Inflation

Proper tire inflation is more important to your safety when traveling than many RVers realize.

Under-inflated tires create excessive heat, break down tire walls, create greater instability while driving, and decrease fuel economy. A vehicle with under-inflated tires is slower to respond to steering corrections.

Over-inflated tires, on the other hand, can cause an RV to ride rough. Tire over-inflation can also increase your risk of hydroplaning on wet roads.

Check your tires’ air pressure at least once a month, before each trip, and ideally each morning you drive during a road trip. Inflation pressures should be checked when tires are cold, which means before they are driven.

2. Save money with Georgia ParkPass

Those who love hiking, fishing and other outdoor pursuits can save money during 2012 with an Annual Georgia ParkPass. The $50 pass covers the usual $5 parking fee at all of Georgia’s State Parks.

Georgia’s State Parks offer a wide range of outdoor activities, including swimming, hiking and biking, miniature golf and disc golf, birding, geocaching, and paddling. Park rangers lead an impressive variety of events, ranging from moonlit hikes to bike races. The Annual ParkPass is good for one year from purchase date, and senior and military discounts are available.

The ParkPass program generates around $3.7 million annually for outdoor recreation improvements.

To purchase an Annual ParkPass, stop by any Georgia State Park office or visit the Georgia State Parks website.

3. 2012 Indiana Recreation Guide available

Your guide to Indiana’s best values in outdoor recreation this year is available now.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 2012 Indiana Recreation Guide is an extensive source for information on state parks, reservoirs, state park inns, fish and wildlife areas, state forests, state historic sites, and other DNR properties.

Local retail outlets, state parks, reservoirs and other DNR properties have free printed copies available. The guide is available free online.

4. Texas State Park Fundraising Update

More than $1.14 million in generous donations to Texas State Parks has been received since the appeal for help two months ago. Hundreds of donations have been received from individual donors, as well as a significant donation of $500,000 from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and a $250,000 gift from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation.

“We’re off to a very promising start,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “People of Texas truly care about their state parks and want to see them stay open for all to enjoy.”

Now as the weather warms to spring, one of the best ways to help state parks is to visit them with your family and friends. Almost 50 percent of the parks’ operating budget comes from visitor fees, including the sale of state parks passes. For only $70, a State Parks Pass waives daily entrance fees for everyone in your vehicle for a whole year.

The $4.6 million fundraising campaign was triggered by a budget shortfall created by heat, drought, wildfires, and a drop in park visitation.

5. Michigan Announces Newest State Park

Recreation officials say 4,200 acres of land along the shores of Lake Huron have become Michigan’s newest state park.

North of Alpena, Rockport State Park includes a deep-water protected harbor, 300-acre old limestone quarry, series of sinkholes, dedicated Natural Area (Besser Natural Area), and a variety of vegetative cover. The park also features a boat launch facility and several opportunities for recreation, reports CBS Local.

The property had been managed as part of the state forest system before being transferred to the Parks and Recreation Division. Administration of the park will be handled by nearby Harrisville State Park.

A recreation passport is required to enter any state park, recreation area, or boat launch in Michigan.

Have a great weekend.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…

It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.

—Dale Carnegie

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Official Ice Cream for Michigan State Parks

Michigan will be getting an official state park ice cream—and you can help pick the flavor.

Hudsonville Ice Cream to scoop out a Michigan State Park flavor. (Credit: flickr.com/photos/54397539@N06)

If your favorite state park experience was a flavor of ice cream, what would it taste like?
Maybe it will be Seven Layer Fantasy, Captain America, or even Chai Latte.

Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company is partnering with Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a cross-promotional marketing blitz starting this month (January).

The push will include a website where anyone can upload outdoors-themed ideas for a new flavor of ice cream.

“Everybody has a great memory that could be put into a flavor of ice cream,” said Bruce Kratt, marketing director for the Holland, Michigan-based ice cream manufacturer. “It might be blueberry picking with grandpa and grandma in Allegan County.”

“It will be the limited edition official flavor of Michigan State Parks,” said Maia Stephens, a DNR recreation programmer working on the project.

“In January, we are going to kick off a flavor recipe and naming contest. People will be able to submit their own ice cream recipes.”

Scoop of Hudsonville Strawberry Chocolate Chunk. (Credit: hudsonvilleicecream.com)

After the public input, Hudsonville will narrow the field of competitors down to four or five flavors, which would be produced at the company’s test kitchen, Kratt said. The winning flavor would be selected from a panel of children and celebrity judges.

The winner would receive a prize, and the winning flavor would be produced as a limited-edition flavor, distributed to ice cream parlors and grocery stores throughout the Great Lakes region, Kratt said.

The contest is just one part of a larger public relations push tied to the Pure Michigan campaign that Hudsonville is planning, Kratt said. Eighty-five percent of the campaign’s events and activities still have not been unveiled.

“It’s unlike anything Hudsonville has done before,” he said.

The ice cream partnership is the latest effort by Michigan State Park to develop promotional and sponsorship agreements with the private sector, a move that began in earnest in 2009.

Stephens said the DNR frequently partners with private companies to promote state parks. “We want to reach out. … We don’t have a lot of money for advertising,” she said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to partner with outside entities.”

Stephens said no money is exchanged in the partnerships. “In the end, the overall winner is Michigan moving forward,” she said.

Details

Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company

Scoop of Hudsonville Grand Traverse Bay Cherry Fudge. (Credit: hudsonvilleicecream.com)

Hudsonville Ice Cream started when a group of local farmers who were looking for a better way to sell their dairy products banded together to form a new co-op. They chose a location on Chicago Drive in Hudsonville, Michigan, for this new venture, and in 1895 the Hudsonville Creamery was born.

In 1926, the Creamery began churning ice cream during the summer months—producing six flavors—vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, orange pineapple, and tootie fruitie. That same year, the first commercially successful Continuous Process Freezer, developed by Clarence Vogt, was introduced. The continuous freezer would revolutionize the ice cream industry, allowing manufacturers to mass-produce their product for the first time, creating a new demand for what had traditionally been a summertime treat.

Scoop of Hudsonville Mackinac Island Fudge. (Credit: hudsonvilleicecream.com)

Fourteen years later, ice cream had become a staple product for the Hudsonville Creamery, and in 1940 the company began producing the six original flavors of ice cream year-round.

Today, Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company produces Original ice cream, Creamery Blend ice cream, Heritage Edition ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and sherbet. There are more than 30 flavors in 1.75 quart containers and still more than 50 flavors available in three gallon containers.

Hudsonville Ice Cream is available throughout Michigan, and selected areas of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.

Address: 345 East 48th Street, Suite 200, Holland, MI 49423

Phone: (616) 546-4005

Website: hudsonvilleicecream.com

Worth Pondering…

Life is like an ice-cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time.
—Charles M. Schulz

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Michigan: Recreation Passport a Success

Michigan’s new method of paying for state park operations and maintenance met its fundraising goal for the first year and is proving to be a reliable system, the Associated Press reported Thursday (October 20).

Starting last October, residents were given the option of paying $10 for a “recreation passport” when renewing their vehicle registration. Good for a year, the passport grants access to all 98 state parks and recreation areas, plus boat launches. Under the old system, park visitors were charged $6 per day or $24 for an annual pass.

Revenue from passport sales has totaled nearly $18.9 million, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said. The previous system had averaged $11.7 million annually over the past three years.

Officials said the change was needed because entry and camping fees failed to cover the park network’s costs since it was dropped from the general fund budget—state government’s primary checkbook—in 2004. The money they raised was just enough for basic operations, creating a backlog of repairs and improvements that has reached $340 million.

The DNR said 24.7 percent of the state’s motorists participated in the license check-off plan over the past year, just over the goal of 24.3 percent. Director Rodney Stokes said next year’s goal will be 30 percent.

“We think it has every indication of being a successful and stable source of revenue,” DNR spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said.

Ludington State Park, Michigan. (Credit: MI DNR)

The funds raised in the first year of sales for the Recreation Passport are split according to a formula in the law that created the program. The Secretary of State’s Office is reimbursed $1 million for administrative costs, and the state parks operational budget ($10.7 million) and the Michigan Water Ways budget ($1.03 million) each get an amount equivalent to the revenue that the former Motor Vehicle Permit (window sticker) system brought in averaged over the last three years. After that revenue is deducted, the remaining revenue for 2011 was divided as follows:

  • State Parks – Capital Outlay (50 percent): $3,043,250
  • State Parks – Maintenance (30 percent): $1,825,950
  • Local Park Grants (10 percent): $608,650
  • State Forest Recreation (7 percent): $426,055
  • Cultural/Historical Facilities in State Parks (2.75 percent): $167,379
  • Marketing (0.25 percent): $15,216

“Even if you think you will never go to a state park or enjoy one of our state forest campgrounds or trails, supporting the recreation passport is a good way to support your county, community, or township parks,” Stokes said.

Legislation that created the program allows the DNR to raise the passport’s cost at the rate of inflation, but Dettloff said it would remain at $10 in 2012.

About 22 million people visit Michigan’s state parks every year and pump about $650 million into the economy by spending on food, fuel and other supplies, she said.

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Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan. (Credit: planetware.com)

Website: michigan.gov/dnr

Recreation Passport

Michigan’s Recreation Passport is one way you can show your support for outdoor recreation and help preserve green spaces for future generations.

Website: michigan.gov/recreationpassport

Worth Pondering…

The RV lifestyle is like nothing else.

It’s leaving home, exploring America, and yet bringing your home along with you!

Stopping at a wayside picnic area, preparing lunch in your kitchen.

It’s sleeping in your own bed every night, yet waking up to a new vista each morning!

The sounds of a crackling campfire; of a mountain stream, of frogs, and crickets.

It’s families drawn closer; it’s retirees being rewarded for many years of labor.

—Loren Eyrich, Two-Lane Roads

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10 Ways for Kids to Play in America’s National Parks

With 395 parks across the country consisting of over 84 million acres, there are endless adventures custom-made for kids of all ages in America’s national parks. In honor of National Public Lands Day tomorrow (September 24), when national parks across the country will waive their entrance fees, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation have unveiled ten great ways for kids to get out and play in America’s national parks.

Kicking things off tomorrow, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation will welcome Nickelodeon and their 8th annual Worldwide Day of Play to Washington, D.C.’s President’s Park. Located next to the White House, President’s Park will be home to the largest Worldwide Day of Play to date, with an entire day of activities and games—encouraging kids to get up, get out, and get to a national park! In that spirit, Nickelodeon’s television networks and websites will go off-air and offline from 12 noon to 3 p.m. EDT as a signal to kids and families nationwide to get active.

Whether it is this weekend or any weekend, America’s national parks offer endless activities the whole family can enjoy. This National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation invite everyone to go out and play.

Following are ten fun-packed national park adventures for kids and their families:

Maine: Acadia National Park

Sea-life bingo keeps youngsters excited tallying green sea urchins, orange sea stars, and other curious marine creatures that reside in tide pools that surface at low tide. Watch for harbor seals farther out in the water.

Florida: Biscayne National Park

Families visiting Biscayne between December and April can sign up to attend “Family Fun Fest”—a day-long program held on the second Sunday of those months and focused on activities tied to the park’s diverse resources.

Massachusetts: Cape Cod National Seashore

Cycling is one of the best ways to get around the Cape thanks to its paved rail trail, which leads through the woods, pass kettle ponds created by retreating glaciers, and to spurs leading to Coast Guard, Marconi, and Le Count Hollow beaches.

Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park

Teens looking for a challenge can measure themselves against the Tetons, thanks to climbing schools where world-class guides will teach them the basics and lead them to the summit of 13,770-foot Grand Teton.

Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Kids love to get sandy on the tallest sand dunes in North America. Rising to about 650 feet, these dunes in the heart of the park are perfect for skiing, sand-boarding, or just plain old rolling down.

California: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Budding geologists will be fascinated with Lassen Volcanic, as it can count all four major types of volcanoes—shield, plug, cinder cone, and composite. There’s even a Volcano Club kids can join to learn more about this volcanic landscape.

Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park

Let's Go RVing to Joshua Tree National Park, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Mammoth Cave trip is built around a cave tour with the family, or three! Take the Violet City Lantern Tour to experience the passageways by flickering lamp light as many of its first visitors did, view the incredible flowstones on the Frozen Niagara Tour, or visit the Snowball Room with its ancient autographs inscribed with soot.

Washington: Olympic National Park

Kids can start the day with a snowball fight (on Hurricane Ridge) and end it soaking in warm springs (like those at Sol Duc Hot Springs).

Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Winter isn’t the off-season here, as there are trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And if there’s enough snow, kids and adults can even sled down the 100+ foot-Dune Climb.

Details

National Park Service

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 395 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

Website: nps.gov

National Park Foundation

You are the owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites — all protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks. We work hand in hand with the National Park Service to connect you and all Americans to the parks, and to make sure that they are preserved for the generations who will follow.

Website: nationalparks.org

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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