Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Yellowstone Geyser Eruption Predictions Now Available On Your Smartphone and Tablet

The largest concentration of active geysers in the world—approximately half of the world’s total— is found in Yellowstone.

You can now discover the natural wonder of the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful, and other geysers with a free app that you can use during your visit to the park and at home. The new app will help you find out when Old Faithful and five other predictable geysers could erupt.

The app also features a link to a webcam so that you can view live eruptions of Old Faithful and other nearby geysers. The FAQ section provides answers to several of the frequently asked questions that explain how a few geysers can be predicted and other fascinating details about Yellowstone’s geysers.

You can follow the Social Media Feed and see what’s happening in Yellowstone by browsing the park’s Twitter, YouTube and Flickr sites. Because every eruption is different, the app’s Photo Gallery contains an array of geyser eruption photos.

The NPS Geysers app was developed in partnership with Dr. Brett Oppegaard, Washington State University (Vancouver) and University of Hawaii, and the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park and Harpers Ferry Center. The app was made possible, in part, by a donation from Canon USA, Inc., through the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

The NPS Geysers app is now available in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Concession Contracts Awarded for Guided Backpacking Services

National Park Service (NPS) Intermountain Regional Director Sue Masica announced Friday, December 12, that two separate offerors were selected to receive concession contracts to provide guided backpacking services for youth within Grand Teton National Park. The two contracts were awarded to Wilderness Ventures, Inc. and The TVRC Education Foundation, doing business as Teton Valley Ranch Camp. Each contract will cover a term of ten years.

Guided backpacking for youth participants—including associated transportation and food service—is currently provided at Grand Teton National Park by Wilderness Ventures, Inc. and The TVRC Education Foundation. Both contracts became effective January 1, 2005, and will expire on December 31, 2014. The NPS determined that these two existing concessioners were preferred offerors for the new contracts, pursuant to the terms of 36 Code of Federal Regulations,Part 51.

"Wilderness Ventures and The TVRC Education Foundation have provided a quality outdoor educational and recreational experience to young people for decades, and both concessioners have given youth a unique opportunity to enjoy and appreciate lands within the park that are listed as recommended wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System," said David Vela, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. "We look forward to working with these outstanding concessioners for another contract term."

The NPS Intermountain Region solicited proposals for these business opportunities through a prospectus issued August 13, 2014. Bid proposals were accepted through October 30, 2014. The proposals were evaluated and selected under the provisions of the 1998 Concessions Management Improvement Act. The Act made a number of changes in how concession contracts are awarded with the intent of ensuring quality visitor services, protecting park resources, and enhancing the competitive contract process for NPS concession contracts.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Time-lapse Video of Inversion at the Grand Canyon

A rare ground inversion last Thursday filled the Grand Canyon from rim to rim with a sea of clouds.

Ground inversions at Grand Canyon are a sight to behold – clouds fill the canyon with sunny, blue skies above the rims. The topography of Grand Canyon enhances the effect of inversions, creating the dramatic views of a sea of fog and clouds seemingly dense enough to walk out on.

Ground inversions occur when cold air is trapped by a layer of warm air. On clear, cold nights ground temperatures cool rapidly. Air in contact with cold surfaces cools and sinks. At Grand Canyon cold, moist air drops into the canyon forming cascading “waterfalls” of clouds pouring down the rim filling the canyon. Warm air above the rim holds the clouds in place until enough solar radiation is received to warm the surface of the rocks, heating the cold, dense clouds in the canyon and causing them to rise.

Visitors at Grand Canyon during an inversion are challenged to be patient. Waiting out the warming process is well worth the effort; when the clouds start to lift the currents of air swirl and turn on themselves parting like curtains to reveal bursts of color and light, a breathtaking spectacle.

Below is a one minute time-lapse video from the Grand Canyon National Park showing what happened last Thursday:


Usher in the New Year with "First Day Hikes" at Montana State Parks

Montana State Parks invites the public to usher in the New Year with "First Day Hikes" at Montana State Parks on New Year's Day, January 1, 2015.

Start your New Year off on the right (or left) foot with a "First Day Hike" at your local state park. Explore history, view winter wildlife, enjoy fresh air and connect with nature at this fun, family-friendly event. "First Day Hikes" are a healthy way to rejuvenate with family and friends after the long holiday rush.

These free, guided hikes are easy to moderate in difficulty and range from 1 to 3.5 miles in distance. Hikers should dress for the winter weather, wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots appropriate to the conditions, and bring water and snacks.

"First Day Hikes" is an annual, nationwide special event co-sponsored by America's State Parks. Last year, the event saw record participation with over 800 hikes and 28,000 participants across all 50 states.

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Last year marked the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

To find a Montana State Parks' First Day Hike near you, please click here.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Monday Marks Start Of Yellowstone's Winter Season

Yellowstone National Park will open to the public for motorized oversnow travel as scheduled on Monday morning, December 15th.

Recent warm weather and limited snowfall has resulted in very little snowpack on many of the park’s interior roads. Until appreciable snowfall is received and conditions on the park’s packed, groomed roads improve:

- Visitors will be able to take commercially and non-commercially guided snowmobile trips or travel by commercial snowcoach between the park’s South Entrance and Old Faithful.

- Commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or large oversnow tires or other high clearance commercial wheeled vehicles will be permitted to transport visitors between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful.

- Commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or large oversnow tires will be permitted to offer visitor travel on road segments linking Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris, Madison, Canyon, and the northern end of Hayden Valley.

The road from the northern end of Hayden Valley through Fishing Bridge Junction to West Thumb is not currently suitable for any type of guided visitor travel. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass to Fishing Bridge is scheduled to begin Sunday, December 22.

Park staff members will continue to closely monitor conditions and weather forecasts. Additional sections of the park will open to guided snowmobile and snowcoach travel as soon as enough new snow permits.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Mont., outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to automobile travel all year.

At Old Faithful, the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center open for the season on December 15th. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on Thursday, December 18th.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room, and gift shop will open for the season on Saturday, December 20th. The Yellowstone General Store, the medical clinic, campground, post office, 24-hour gasoline pumps, and the Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year.

All communities around and on the way to Yellowstone are open year-round, with local businesses offering a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone is available on the park website.


Friday, December 12, 2014

$20,000 Matching Challenge to Fund High Priority 2015 Glacier Projects

Last month the Glacier National Park Conservancy announced an initial grant of $450,000 to be awarded to Glacier National Park for the 2015 season. This represents an increase of $100,000 over 2013 figures.

The National Park Service submitted a request for over 50 projects to the Conservancy for funding consideration, totaling $1.7 million. The Conservancy is now endeavoring to fund as many additional projects as possible between now and the end of the year to support high priority 2015 Glacier initiatives.

To help with the effort, the Windmill Foundation has stepped forward with a $20,000 matching challenge. All new donations to the Conservancy will be matched one to one up to $20,000, now through December 31, 2014.

“This represents a significant opportunity for our community to support projects and programs that are important for our families. Trail improvements, activities for children, and wildlife research are all possible with this matching challenge,” said Glacier National Park Conservancy President Mark Preiss.

In fact, just 400 people would need to donate $50 to help the Conservancy win the $20,000 matching challenge.

Since announcing the Glacier Champions campaign in the middle of November, the Conservancy has already brought in an additional $65,000, which will be directed to high priority projects that have not yet been funded, including popular visitor programs like Native America Speaks and project supplies for upcoming trail rehabilitation.

“In an era of flat public funding, private philanthropy provides for a margin of excellence beyond just the basics,” said Glacier Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Through Glacier Conservancy investment, the park is able to accomplish projects and launch new initiatives that benefit our visitors and park natural and cultural resources that would not otherwise be possible.”

Projects that still need funding include significant trail improvements to Avalanche Lakeshore and Trail Of The Cedars on the west side of the park, and upgrades to Iceberg Lake Trail and the trail system around St. Mary Lake on the east side. Each trail receives high visitation, and rehabilitation is necessary to make hiking experiences exceptional, and to restore areas that become damaged by increased foot traffic.

Other initiatives that still require support include an ambitious Crown of the Continent Wildlife study that would stretch beyond Glacier into neighboring states and across the border to Canada. Also requested are studies on Glacier’s wolf, chipmunk, and mountain goat populations.

For a full list of projects, and to donate, please click here.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trails Forever Funding Needs in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park has recently submitted an ambitious $1.7 million funding request to the Glacier National Park Conservancy for 2015. This includes more than 50 project proposals in areas such research, education, and preservation. The Conservancy has already awarded an initial grant of $450,000 to the park for the upcoming season.

In response to this additional funding request, the Glacier National Park Conservancy has launched a seven week Glacier Champions campaign to raise additional funds for 2015 projects that have not yet been funded.

Projects that still need funding include significant trail improvements to Avalanche Lakeshore, Trail of the Cedars, and the Iceberg Lake Trail, as well as the trail system around St. Mary Lake on the east side. Each trail receives high visitation, and rehabilitation is necessary to make hiking experiences exceptional, and to restore areas that become damaged by increased foot traffic. The following is a quick run-down on the hiking related improvement projects for 2015:

Rehabilitating The First Mile Of The Highline Trail - Work would include replacing hundreds of feet of worn cable and anchors that make up the safety line, to reworking switchbacks and widening narrow and difficult to hike areas near Rimrock. This project is currently fully funded for an estimated cost of $20,000.

Rerouting Iceberg Lake Trail - Approximately 1/8th of a mile up the trail is a steep section that is eroding into a gully. This project would build two switchbacks to decrease the trail grade and rehabilitate some trail segments by installing log checks. The new trail would be less steep, easier to maintain on a yearly basis, and elevate the hiking experience for thousands of visitors each summer. Funding needed = $12,000

Improve St. Mary Lake Trail Access - Portions of the trail to the St. Mary boat dock flood in the early summer, creating access challenges to St. Mary, Virginia, and Baring Falls. This project would repair 50 feet of trail down to St. Mary Lake, reconstructing a rock wall and elevating the trail above the high water line. The result would be a well-maintained trail to a popular location, accessible even during the high water periods in the spring. Funding needed = $6,000

Reconstruct Trail Of The Cedars - This project would reconstruct the trail surface (along the paved segment of the trail), laying down a “green” resin pavement, and would showcase sustainability and accessibility in our national parks. Funding needed = $30,000

Improve Avalanche Lake Shoreline Access - Access to the lake is currently not well defined in places, leading visitors to group in certain spots, or create their own trails to move further along the lake. This project would support walkways and other gravel surfaces along some portions of the trail, would define trail access along the lake, would replace the broken wooden walkway and handrails leading down to the lakeshore, and would rebuild benches from the head to the foot of the lake to allow hikers to spread out and find less congested spots to enjoy their visit. Funding needed = $24,000

Build A Raised Walkway To Two Medicine Pray Shelter And Boat Dock - In the early summer, the entire area at the head of Two Medicine Lake floods. This project would construct a 200 foot raised walkway to the Two Medicine Pray Shelter and Boat Dock. The raised walkway would allow visitors to travel to the boat dock and pray shelter, over the flooded area, and back to dry trail. It would also facilitate hikes to other locations up valley including Twin Falls and Dawson Pass. Funding needed = $15,000

Trail Use Study For All Trails Outside Of The Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor - The project would purchase trail counter and camera equipment to be placed in some or all of the following areas: North Fork, Many Glacier, Goat Haunt, Middle Fork, Two Medicine and Belly River. The study would analyze trail use over a two-year period, calibrating and refining data based on trail counter results. A basic equipment purchase, even without additional support to analyze the data would allow the park to immediately begin collecting some preliminary data, even if the whole project wasn’t entirely funded in 2015.

Trail use data allows the park to chart a sustainable path forward and make informed decisions about how best to direct visitors to the best places to visit, while preserving Glacier’s wild places. Funding needed = $14,000 - $64,000

For a full list of projects, and to donate, please click here.