Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening

May 21, 2020 by  
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As some of the biggest national parks start to reopen, visitors reassure themselves that it is safe to be outdoors. But unfortunately in places like the ever-popular Yellowstone National Park, everybody is crowding in to see Old Faithful. On May 18, cars with license plates from all over the country filled Yellowstone’s parking lots and hardly a mask was in sight as people crowded together to watch the park’s famous geysers. Locals worry this could spread the virus to their communities. For now, only Yellowstone’s Wyoming gates are open. The Montana entrances remain closed. Tour buses, overnight camping and park lodging aren’t allowed. The park’s official stance is to encourage the use of masks in high-density areas. Related: Best practices for outdoor exercise during COVID-19 “We checked the webcam at Old Faithful at about 3:30 p.m. yesterday,” Kristin Brengel, senior vice-president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told The Guardian . “Not much physical distancing happening and not a single mask in sight.” Cars from all over began lining up at 5:30 a.m. for Yellowstone’s noon reopening. Local Mark Segal said his was the only car he saw from Teton County. He worried about out-of-state visitors spreading the coronavirus to the local community. “What if everyone that leaves here goes and gets a bite in Jackson?” he asked. “This is exactly what we’re afraid of.” Montana and Wyoming have had fewer COVID-19 cases than surrounding states. Locals are divided on the issue, with some local business owners pressing the park to reopen and bring much needed tourism dollars, while others are more concerned about public health. Melissa Alder, co-owner of a coffee and outdoor store called Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, told NPR she’s feeling nervous. “We are fearful of the congregation of people that will come, and I don’t think we’re ready,” Alder said. “I mean, we don’t have a hospital. We don’t have a bed. We don’t even have a doctor full-time here in West Yellowstone.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via NPS / Jacob W. Frank

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Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening

US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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Tour 5 national parks from home

March 19, 2020 by  
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As people social distance and shelter in place, they may feel the walls closing in on them. Fortunately, the National Park Service has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to offer free virtual tours of five beloved parks. Of course, the online experience isn’t quite like being there, but these tours are pretty cool and may inspire dreams of post-pandemic travels . The five tours feature Kenai Fjords in Alaska , Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Hawaii Volcanoes, Bryce Canyon in Utah and Dry Tortugas in Florida. Each virtual tour is led by a National Park Service ranger. The varied terrains and activities help entertain viewers. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The tour of Kenai Fjords lets you climb down a slippery, icy crevasse in Exit Glacier — much easier done virtually than in real life. In Carlsbad Caverns, viewers get a bat’s eye view to help them learn about echolocation. Hawaii Volcanoes features a walk through a lava tube and a trip up volcanic cliffs. Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park consists of 1% Fort Jefferson and 99% underwater. Join a ranger for a virtual dive into this diverse ecosystem, including a swim through a coral reef and an exploration of the Windjammer shipwreck. As the Bryce Canyon tour points out, two-thirds of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their backyards. This tour highlights Bryce Canyon’s dark skies and allows viewers to tap around to check out constellations while listening to night sounds like owls and crickets. At press time, many National Park Service units are still open with reduced services and closed visitors centers. But this may change as the coronavirus situation progresses. “The NPS is working with federal, state and local authorities, while we as a nation respond to this public health challenge,” NPS deputy director David Vela said in a press release. “Park superintendents are assessing their operations now to determine how best to protect the people and their parks going forward.” So before setting out on that big drive to camp in a park, consider sitting tight on your couch and taking a virtual tour. + National Park Service and Google Arts & Culture Images via Wikimedia Commons

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White Sands officially becomes the 62nd national park

December 26, 2019 by  
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Last week, President Donald Trump signed legislation, seen here , designating White Sands National Park as the 62nd national park. Since 1933, the country’s largest gypsum dunefield has been a national monument. The recent signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (the 2020 defense spending bill), with a provision on White Sands, has now upgraded the national monument to its new national park status, thereby protecting its glistening white sand dunes, which are visible even from outer space. In 2018, a study conducted on eight national monuments that were upgraded to national parks found that redesignation increased visits by an average of 21 percent in the five years after redesignation. Projections further estimate that White Sands’ redesignation will bring $7.5 million in revenue and $3.3 million in labor income. Related: How national parks benefit the environment Wondering why the provision was included in the 2020 NDAA? The reason stems from White Sands National Monument sharing land with White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), the long-standing national military weapons testing area and site of the first atomic bomb detonation. By 1963, NASA established the White Sands Test Facility at WSMR, which eventually became the primary training ground for NASA space shuttle pilots and a rocket research test site. However, White Sands’ appeal goes beyond strategic military and aerospace history, extending to its geological, biological and anthropological assets. For instance, the endless dunes’ surreal beauty makes White Sands one of Earth’s natural wonders. Gypsum, which makes up the dunes, is a common sedimentary mineral, usually forming via precipitation from highly saline waters. Thus, White Sands’ landscape formed because Lake Otero dried up millennia ago . Its predominantly desert habitat today supports unique wildlife , with five endemic species and many well-adapted flora and fauna. Archaeologically, the area was home to hunter-gatherers as far back as 10,000 years ago and even has the planet’s largest collection of Ice Age fossilized footprints. “Our staff are very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public,” shared Marie Sauter, superintendent of White Sands National Park. “We are so appreciative of our partners, local communities and congressional leaders who made this achievement possible and look forward to continued success working together.” With national park 36 CFR 2.1 protections, desert sand and other resources cannot be removed from White Sands. This ensures the ecosystem thrives and remains in tact for future generations to enjoy. + National Park Service Via EcoWatch Image via White Sands National Monument

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White Sands officially becomes the 62nd national park

5 sustainable activities to make the most of a winter wonderland

December 17, 2019 by  
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Winter is meant for reveling in nature’s snow and ice. While the chill in the wind can drive some people indoors, you should try your best to get outdoors and enjoy all that this snowy season has to offer. Just be sure to do so sustainably, of course. Here are some eco-friendly recommendations for your winter itinerary. Go snowshoeing Snowshoeing brings one closer to nature, and just a couple hours of practice boosts self-assurance. Where can one learn to snowshoe? Try the ranger-guided snowshoeing tours at Bryce Canyon National Park , Crater Lake National Park , Glacier National Park , Grand Teton National Park , Lassen Volcanic National Park , Mount Rainier National Park and Sequioa & Kings Canyon National Park . While Yellowstone National Park offers no ranger-led snowshoeing tours, there is a list of authorized businesses that provide the service here . Greet December’s solstice dawn Winter solstice is the year’s shortest day. Did you know ancient civilizations welcomed the rising winter solstice sun by building temples and monuments that intentionally faced the emerging sunrise? To greet the solstice light this December, make your way to any number of locations with prime views, from America’s Stonehenge to England’s Stonehenge or even your own backyard! Alternatively, with summer’s solstice light in the southern hemisphere, bask in the light at New Zealand’s Stonehenge Aotearoa and Peru’s Cerro del Gentil pyramid. Stay in a treehouse Winter is a unique time to stay in a treehouse . What better way is there to appreciate a frost-filled forest than cozily atop the snow in a treehouse that is tailor-made for the cold? Related: 8 cabins that are perfect for a dreamy winter getaway For a winter treehouse escape brimming with creature comforts, visit Treehouse Point , Montana Treehouse Retreat near Glacier National Park, Hermann Bed and Breakfast Treehouses , Branson Treehouse Adventures , Treehouse at Moose Meadow or Treetop Sanctuary . You’d be surprised to find just how many treehouses you can book within a short distance of your home! Considering a treehouse stay abroad? There are plenty of treehouses in idyllic winter wonderlands around the world. Unwind in Vancouver Island’s Free Spirit Spheres , Quebec’s Les Refuges Perchés or Treepods at Treetop Haven in Prince Edward Island. If you’re hankering for a Scandinavian treehouse experience, sample Nordic options like the Hawks Nest , the Owls Nest or Å Auge Treehouse . Meanwhile, Sweden has a wealth of Treehotel rentals. If you’ll be in Finland anytime this winter, delight in a stay at the Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Santa Claus Village. Prefer spending winter in warmer regions? Then opt for Sir Richard Branson’s Kenyan Canopy Camp at Mahali Mzuri , South Africa’s Tsala Treetop Lodge , New Zealand’s Hapuku Lodge Treehouses or Raglan Treehouse . Visit ice castles and ice hotels Each year, Jack Frost crafts castles, palaces, villages, fortresses and even hotels from ice and snow. Whereas beaches have sandcastles, snow correspondingly has ice castles, like that exhibited at the Winter Carnival Ice Palace at Saranac Lake . Similarly, the multi-city Ice Castles company builds several each winter in Alberta, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin. Related: This tiny house on a sled is the perfect way to see the Northern Lights You can even stay inside any of these icy accommodations: Austria’s Alpeniglu Village in Thale, Iglu Village in Kühtai, Canada’s Hôtel de Glace in Quebec, Finland’s Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos , Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Snow Igloos in Saariselka, Lapland Hotels SnowVillage in Kittilä, SnowCastle of Kemi , France’s Blacksheep Igloo in Lyon, Village Igloo Morzine Avoriaz , Norway’s Hunderfossen Snow Hotel in Fåberg, Snowhotel Kirkenes in Sor-Varanger, Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel at Alta, Romania’s Hotel of Ice in Balea Lac, Sweden’s IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi or the multi-city Igloo-Dorf Hotel with locations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Take a dip in winter’s natural hot springs All of the festivities of winter can be overwhelming and stressful. If you want to unwind, you might just need a soothing soak in natural hot springs . Luckily, there are an abundance of hot springs to thaw out in across the U.S. and Europe. Venture to Castle Hot Springs , Sierra Hot Springs Resort , Dunton Hot Springs , Indian Hot Springs , Iron Mountain Hot Springs , Mount Princeton Hot Springs , Old Town Hot Springs , Pagosa Springs Resort , Strawberry Park Hot Springs , Lava Hot Springs , Maple Grove Hot Springs , North Carolina’s Hot Springs Resort , Oregon’s Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat , Utah’s Homestead Crater Hot Springs at Midway Utah Resort and Wyoming’s Saratoga Hot Springs Resort . Want to rejuvenate abroad? Consider Canada’s Miette Hot Springs , England’s Thermae Bath Spa , Iceland’s Blue Lagoon , Italy’s Terme di Saturnia or New Zealand’s Kerosene Creek and Glacier Hot Pools to restore your mind and body this winter. Images via Shutterstock and Pixabay

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5 sustainable activities to make the most of a winter wonderland

Trailhead Ambassador Program enhances hiking in Oregon

August 30, 2019 by  
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Wilderness lovers often see dismaying things on hiking trails: litter , thirsty people in flip flops who forgot to bring water, rambunctious dogs whose owners have never heard of leash laws, clueless couples who carve their names into trees. Instead of simply griping about these miscreants, some parks and wilderness areas have developed constructive ways to educate the public and make recreation safer and more fun for everybody. The Trailhead Ambassador Program at Oregon’s Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge recruits volunteers to greet hikers at trailheads, answering questions and offering suggestions. Inhabitat talked to Lizzie Keenan, wilderness lover and co-founder of the program, about how trailhead ambassadors can make tangible differences in the local environment. Inhabitat: Tell us about your involvement with the Trailhead Ambassadors Program. Lizzie Keenan: I co-founded the program with Friends of the Columbia Gorge in the summer of 2017. The program was a mesh of an idea the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Tourism Alliance had merged with Trail Talks, a program Friends of the Columbia Gorge piloted that summer. The Tourism Alliance, which I manage, has funded the bulk of the program since its inception, and I have been there every step of the way helping to shape and grow it into what it is today. Related: Seven commandments of Leave-No-Trace camping Additional partners to get it launched included U.S. Forest Service for the Columbia River Gorge and U.S. Forest Service for Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon State Parks, and local tourism entities like Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory . The idea came from increased feedback from our local communities in the region that search and rescue at our trails was at an all-time high, that congestion at trails was becoming unmanageable and there was a general call for help for educating visitors on best practices in our recreation areas. I did some research and found a couple of programs in different parts of the U.S. running something like what we were looking for. In the end, we mirrored a lot of our program from the White Mountain National Forest Trailhead Steward Program . Inhabitat: What are some of the more unusual questions ambassadors have heard? Keenan: Upon seeing the dog that our volunteers brought with them to the trail, a young boy asked, “Will I see other mountain lions like that one on the trail?” Ambassadors working at Multnomah Falls have been asked by visitors, “How do I get to the Columbia River Gorge from here?” The answer is usually, welcome! You made it! Someone asked at the Dog Mountain Trailhead, “Is there a restaurant or store on top of Dog Mountain, so we can buy food?” Inhabitat: What kind of traits should a volunteer have? Keenan: Being a trailhead ambassador requires someone who enjoys talking with people. We ask that our volunteers study up on the trails they will be volunteering at so they can share advice with confidence and authenticity. Finally, ambassadors should love the region. Love the trails, the communities, the culture of the area. That translates to visitors loving and appreciating the land they are recreating on more. Inhabitat: Have you seen any results? Keenan: Yes! In our first season, which ran over the course of 20 weekends, our volunteers talked to over 23,700 visitors in the Gorge and on Mt. Hood. They helped to shape visitors’ experiences. Example actions visitors have taken after speaking with a trailhead ambassador include going to their car to get better shoes and/or water, taking a picture of the map of the trail so they can reference it on their hike, getting a parking pass when they didn’t have one already and much more. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials Other results include fewer car break-ins on the weekends that volunteers staffed the trails as well as a feedback loop of trail information that would go directly to the local land manager. One example of this was at Starvation Creek; after speaking with hikers in the area, the ambassadors found out there was a landslide on the trail. They were then able to inform Oregon State Parks about it, and soon rangers came in to close off that portion of the trail. Inhabitat: What kind of feedback have you received from visitors? Keenan: It has been 99 percent thankful and supportive. Both regular recreators and new folks visiting from out of town have been incredibly thankful to have trailhead ambassadors stationed at their trail. Those who are local are thankful to have people sharing advice at the trails, because they have seen and helped unprepared visitors in the past. Those new to the trails are excited to have someone nice and approachable to talk to, to ask questions of and feel more confident about heading out on a new adventure. Inhabitat: Do you have any advice for other places interested in starting similar programs? Keenan: Borrow materials from another program who is running a program like the one you want to do; don’t recreate the wheel. Start small and develop your dedicated group of volunteers. Finally, collect data. This program has been a huge opportunity for us to learn and track common issues and trends at our trailheads that we and the other agencies involved can use to better serve the land and visitors in the future. + Trailhead Ambassadors Program Images via Trailhead Ambassadors Program and Bureau of Land Management

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Trailhead Ambassador Program enhances hiking in Oregon

Almost All U.S. National Parks Have Polluted Air

May 9, 2019 by  
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Sure, we know that cities can be congested and polluted, but at least we have the national parks to escape to when we want to breathe in some fresh air, right? Wrong. According to a new report released by the National Park Conservation Association, 96 percent of all parks experience significant air pollution problems. The bipartisan nonprofit organization published a report, “Polluted Parks: How America is Failing to Protect our National Parks, People and Planet from Air Pollution” that analyzed air quality in 417 parks. Their findings assess the impact on nature, hazy skies, unhealthy air and climate change . Related: Plastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air “The poor air quality in our national parks is both disturbing and unacceptable. Nearly every single one of our more than 400 national parks is plagued by air pollution. If we don’t take immediate action to combat this, the results will be devastating and irreversible,” said President of the National Park Conservation Association Theresa Pierno. Although most national parks are located in areas of so-called pristine wilderness, air travels widely and freely. The Grand Canyon, for example, is down-wind from a coal-fired power plant, a mine and multiple industrial pollution sources that reach the park from both Mexico and California. The report is also filled with many alarming findings, including: 85 percent of national parks have air that is unhealthy to breathe at times 89 percent of national parks have haze pollution 88 percent of national parks have soil and water affected by air pollution 80 percent of all national parks will be directly impacted by climate change, with 100 percent indirectly impacted “America’s national parks are some of the most beloved places on earth and provide once in a lifetime experiences, but the iconic wildlife and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources that make these places so special are being seriously threatened by climate change and other effects of air pollution ,” said Stephanie Kodish, the Clean Air Program director for the National Parks Conservation Association. 330 million people visit America’s national parks every year, and most are in search of fresh air. The solution to ensuring our national park air remains fresh and clean is the same strategy for protecting clean air everywhere: reduce fossil fuel emissions and switch to clean energy sources. Air quality experts had reported positive results of the Clean Air Act, however, the current administration has rolled back on environmental regulations and invested in the fossil fuel industry. Via  Tree Hugger Image via PELSOP

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Almost All U.S. National Parks Have Polluted Air

Cooling breezes blow straight through a low-energy brick house in Indonesia

May 9, 2019 by  
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In the city of Depok in West Java, Jakarta-based architectural firm DELUTION architect has completed the Flick House, a two-story home with a brick facade and a contemporary design that stands out from its more conventional neighbors. Created to follow sustainable and low-energy principles, the house features cooling microclimates and is optimized for natural ventilation . Daylight is also maximized in the house to reduce reliance on artificial lighting while a second “skin” facade helps buffer unwanted solar gain. When the clients approached DELUTION architect with the commission, they asked for a large home that would feel “humble and warm.” In response, the architects suggested a brick facade, which they said can create a welcoming atmosphere no matter the size. The warm and inviting character is carried through to the light-filled interior, which features an open layout conducive to large family gatherings. Energy efficiency was also a major design objective for the architects. To keep the spacious, 3,326-square-foot house naturally cool, the architects added four gardens — Main Garden, Private Garden, Floating Garden and Innercourt — and a fish pond to create cooling microclimates . The cooled air from the gardens is swept into the rooms through the sliding doors and windows that promote airflow throughout. Perforations in the brick facade also allow for natural ventilation while blocking unwanted solar gain. Related: Rammed earth addition brings light and energy savings to a Melbourne home “Besides applying the green architecture concept, Flick House also has quite unique architectural and interior details,” the architects added. “Some parts of the walls even seem to be floating. On the first floor, bathrooms are hidden behind the mirrored closet, and on the second floor, the bathroom has a semi-outdoor concept so that if the curtain is opened it can be seen from the outside.” + DELUTION architect Photography by Fernando Gomulya via DELUTION architect

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Cooling breezes blow straight through a low-energy brick house in Indonesia

National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

April 19, 2019 by  
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Take advantage of the warmer weather by visiting any number of the hundreds of national parks across the country on April 20 for absolutely free. The National Parks Service is celebrating National Park Week by offering free entry into all of the 418 parks spread throughout the United States. If you have never been to a national park or if it has been a while since your last visit, you may be surprised to learn about all the fun and excitement that awaits you. Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular national parks in the country and how you can spend your time in the great outdoors. Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and one of the most famous parks in the U.S. The park is known for its abundant wildlife , hot springs and exploding geysers. Given its enormous size, there are plenty of things to do at Yellowstone for children and adults alike. Related: An adventurer just journeyed into America’s largest national park — here’s what he found Located mostly in Wyoming, the park boasts 12 campgrounds with tent and RV access, plus 300 isolated campsites. There are nearly 1,000 miles of hiking trails that offer plenty of photo opportunities. You can also bike at the park and enjoy some kayaking on one if its many lakes. If you plan on bringing your family along for the ride, the park offers specialized programs for children as well as horseback riding. Yosemite Established in 1890, Yosemite National Park  attracts many visitors for its beautiful waterfalls. But the 1,200-square-mile park also features vast meadows, large sequoias and a grand wilderness section. While sightseeing is the main attraction, there are plenty of things to keep your entire family busy. Common activities at California’s Yosemite National Park include biking, wildlife watching, camping , fishing, horseback riding and water activities. Before booking your trip to Yosemite, check with the park for any closures due to inclement weather. Glacier Point Road, for example, is often closed until May because of excess snowfall. Great Smoky Mountains The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the country. According to DK , the Smoky Mountains record more than double the number of tourists every year than any other location. While this is a popular destination, there are ways to avoid the large crowds. Skip out on the popular scenic highway and opt for one of the many side trails. The ancient mountain range features one of Earth’s most widespread deciduous forests and boasts a wide diversity of life. This includes a large selection of wildflowers and black bears . When it comes to activities, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, wildlife watching, fishing and scenic driving. Acadia If you are looking for a good coastal drive, then Acadia National Park is right up your alley. Acadia National Park is the only one of its kind in Maine and features some dramatic views of the Atlantic coastline. You can also hike some trails on Cadillac Mountain, kayak in the ocean or partake in some amazing whale watching from just outside of Bar Harbor. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials A good strategy to see most of Acadia is to navigate the Park Loop Road, either by bike or motor vehicle. The 27-mile road has an array of different viewing points. One of the more popular stops is Otter Cliff, which overlooks a 110-foot drop. The park, of course, also features plenty of other things to do, such as camping, climbing, geocaching, fishing , swimming and bird watching. Tips for visiting a national park Once you decide to visit a park , it is always a good idea to call or stop by the visitor center and check in. Park rangers are valuable sources of information and can tell you what type of activities are available during the time of your visit. They can also tell you if there are any construction projects going on or special events that might make navigating through the park difficult. Speaking of the visitor center, it contains everything you need to know about the park, including typical rates and interesting places to visit. You can also find guided tours, which are a great way to get introduced to the history of the park and learn why it is significant to the region. Free admittance on April 20 In honor of National Park Week, the National Parks Service is offering free admittance to all parks in the United States on April 20. That day coincides with National Junior Ranger Day, which is geared toward children, making the free offer perfect for families. According to Matador Network , there are other themes throughout the rest of week, including Military and Veterans Recognition Day,  Earth Day , Transportation Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Friendship Friday, Bark Ranger Day and Park Rx Day. You can learn more about National Park Week, plus find important information about a national park near you, by visiting Find Your Park and the  National Parks website . Images via Ian D. Keating , Mobilus in Mobili , Jeff Gunn , Thomas , Eric Vaughn , Badlands National Park and Grand Canyon National Park

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown

January 4, 2019 by  
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As the government shutdown continues, many National Parks are suffering from a lack of staff as well as a complete disregard for the rules by visitors. According to multiple reports, some parks — like Yosemite National Park in California — are being overwhelmed by trash, vandalism, human waste and destructive off-roading. “It’s a free-for-all,” said Yosemite worker Dakota Snider, who added that the heartbreaking situation is the worst he has seen in his four years living there. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that people had seen some visitors at Yosemite dumping bags of trash from their cars, and the park closed two campgrounds and a redwood grove because of issues with human waste and a lack of staffing. Related: Air pollution levels in national parks rival those of major US cities “With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,” said National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz. At the beginning of the shutdown, the Trump administration kept most of the National Parks open with skeleton staffs on site to make sure visitors followed the rules, like no littering and no hunting. But because there was no one to collect admission fees, the number of visitors has surged, and the skeleton crews can’t handle the park traffic. Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park has locked its restrooms and trash bins because of human waste issues, wildlife concerns and public health, according to a notice on the park website. In addition to the human waste problem, the weather has also been an issue in some locations. Arches and Canyonlands in Utah have closed because there is no money to plow the snow. The state of Utah was paying to staff all five of its National Parks , but as the new year started, it decided to staff only Zion. At Joshua Tree in Southern California , local residents and businesses are volunteering to help keep the restrooms functioning by cleaning them and hauling out trash, and private park tour companies are doing similar work in Yellowstone. In New York , the state is funding both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to make sure they continue to operate during the shutdown. Via Huffington Post and LA Times Images via Joshua Tree National Park ( 1 , 2 )

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National Parks are being trashed during the government shutdown

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