Wednesday, November 16, 2016

National Park Service Announces 10 Fee Free Days for 2017

Combine great scenery and history with great savings and visit a national park for free on one of 10 fee free days in 2017. The ten entrance fee-free days for 2017 will be:

• January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
• February 20: Presidents Day
• April 15-16 & April 22-23: National Park Week Weekends
• August 25: National Park Service Birthday
• September 30: National Public Lands Day
• November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

“National parks are known for their priceless beauty,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “They are a bargain anytime but on these ten days in 2017, they really will be priceless. We want everyone to visit their national parks and the fee free days provide extra incentive to experience these amazing places.”

During the fee free days, all National Park Service sites will waive their entrance fees for all visitors. Usually, 124 of the 413 national parks charge entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. The other 289 sites do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

To continue the national park adventure beyond these fee free days, the annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks,. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current military members, fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

The National Park System includes more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 413 sites including national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park in every state.

Last year, 307 million people visited a national park. They spent $16.9 billion which supported 295,000 jobs and had a $32 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

In addition to national parks, the National Park Service works with tribes, local governments, and partners across the country to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Programs such as the National Register of Historic Places, National Heritage Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and the Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance Program revitalize communities, celebrate local heritage, and provide places for people to get outside, be active, and have fun.

The fee free days gives hikers the chance to visit several of the crown jewels in our national park system, including Rocky Mountain, Glacier, or Grand Teton National Park. Of course the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited national park, never charges a fee.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Montana State Trails Advisory Committee Meeting In Helena This Friday

Montana State Parks ( announced today that the citizen Montana State Trails Advisory Committee (STAC) will hold a meeting on Friday, November 18th, 2016 from 10am-12:30pm in the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission Rooms, located at 1420 E. 6th Avenue, in Helena.

The committee will advise staff on a number of trail issues, including FY2017 Recreational Trails Program guidelines and miscellaneous trail-related topics. State Trails Advisory Committee members represent both motorized and non-motorized trail user groups and provide advice and assistance for the Recreational Trails Program.

The meeting is open to the public. For more information contact Beth R. Shumate, Recreational Trails Program Manager at (406) 444-4585 or

The Montana Recreational Trails Program provides grant funding to support trail construction, trail maintenance and grooming efforts, as well as trail-related education so enthusiasts can enjoy trails throughout Montana.

What: Montana State Trails Advisory Committee Meeting

When: Friday, November 18th, 2016 from 10am to 12:30pm

Where: Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission Rooms, located at 1420 E. 6th Avenue, in Helena.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Interim Closure Issued for all Boating within Glacier National Park

In response to the recent detection of invasive mussel populations in central Montana, Glacier National Park is issuing an interim boating closure within all park waters, in accordance with the park’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Action Plan. The closure includes both motorized and hand propelled watercraft.

The 2014 plan calls for this immediate closure when invasive mussels are detected within a waterway in the State of Montana, as was announced on November 9 by Montana Fish Wildlife, and Parks.

The park will begin an assessment period to conduct testing, inspect park boats, and evaluate the risk boats pose to park waters and waters downstream from the unintended introduction of invasive mussels. The assessment will likely include the evaluation of further tests of waters across the State of Montana during the summer of 2017. The closure will remain in place during the assessment period, which will extend until the nature of the threat is better understood.

“Park scientists will work diligently with the State of Montana and other water quality experts to understand the scope of this threat, and identify steps the park will take to further protect our waters in the Crown of the Continent,” said park superintendent Jeff Mow.

Glacier National Park sits at the top of three continental scale watersheds. Water from the park drains into the Columbia, Missouri, and South Saskatchewan Basins. Protecting park waters from an infestation is important not only for the park’s ecosystem, but also to economic and ecological interests downstream.

Beginning in 2011, the park initiated a mandatory boat inspection and launch permit program to reduce the risk of infestation of park waters by invasive mussels. Since that time, approximately 1,000 motorized boat permits were issued annually. The park also required self-inspection and AIS-free certification of non-motorized watercraft. These boats come from many states across the country, including those with established populations of invasive mussels.

In 2016, launch permits were issued to boats registered in 13 mussel positive states following inspection.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

NPS Commemorates Veterans Day with Free Admission on November 11th

In honor of Veterans Day, many national parks across the country are hosting special events, displays, and ceremonies to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Armed Forces. The National Park Service will waive entrance fees on November 11th.

“It’s a special responsibility to be the stewards of the memorials, battlefields, and historic sites that tell the story of the honor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “All 413 of our parks nationwide offer the chance to reflect on what our veterans fought to protect, and may also provide opportunities for veterans and their families to find peace and healing.”

National parks and other public lands can be used to facilitate healing and reflection, physical and mental challenges, and rest and recuperation for veterans, active duty service members, and their families. Rivers of Recovery, one of the nonprofit organizations that uses national parks for this purpose, partnered with Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway to create the “Vets on the River” program, which offers multi-day trips on the park’s rivers to combat veterans suffering from physical or psychological injuries.

“Vets on the River is an amazing program that provides a great opportunity for veterans suffering from PTSD, an opportunity to gain another support group,” said Rob Boss, a participant who shared his experience in a video. “Just being with nature and being outdoors, being on the relaxing river, it allows us to open up with each other, which we so need.”

The National Park Service cares for many sites across the country related to the military experience, including more than 25 battlefields, 14 national cemeteries, and hundreds of memorials and monuments. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, Manhattan Project National Historical Park, and other historic sites tell greater story of contributions, sacrifice, and consequences of conflict off the battlefield.

Active duty military members and their dependents can pick up a free military annual pass at any national park that usually charges a fee. A free lifetime pass is also available to disabled veterans. These passes provide free entrance to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal recreational areas. More information about the passes can be found at


Sunday, November 6, 2016

West Glacier Weather Station Records Rainiest Month on Record

The weather station in West Glacier recorded the rainiest month on record in October. Glacier National Park has collected weather data since 1914. The weather station is a partnership project with the National Weather Service, the Regional Climate Center, and the National Centers for Environmental Information.

The data helps the park and surrounding community anticipate the severity of the summer fire season.

"Historically, June has been the month with the most precipitation, closely followed by January and then December," said Lead Fire Effects Specialist Michael McClellan. "But not this year, obviously." The Fire Management Program monitors the weather station in West Glacier, sending someone out at 4 pm every day to measure precipitation and temperature. The station is one of three actively monitored each day by employees at the park. The other two are in St. Mary and East Glacier.

“The unexpected early October severe weather and subsequent ongoing precipitation temporarily hampered efforts to remove the guardrails from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, encasing the road and rails in more than six inches of ice,” said park Chief of Maintenance Jim Foster. “However, road crews got a break in the weather on October 25 and we were able to remove the last of the rails, preventing potential avalanche damage over the winter.”

The previous precipitation record at the West Glacier weather station was set in December of 1917 at 9.48 inches. However, data collection at that time was done monthly and subject to error.

West Glacier COOP Weather Station October Precipitation Highs:

1. 2016: 10.60’’ – October 3rd, 12th, and 24th were the only days that did not have measurable amounts of rain.
2. 2012: 6.18’’
3. 1933: 5.96’’
4. 1950: 5.87’’
5. 1930: 5.64’’

West Glacier COOP Weather Station Monthly Records:

January 2006: 7.66’’
February 1940: 5.87’’
March 2014: 6.49’’
April 2011: 4.72’’
May 1996: 6.09’’
June 2012: 7.90’’
July 1993: 5.11’’
August 1954: 5.14’’
September 1968: 6.17’’
October 2016: 10.60’’
November 1995: 7.53’’
* December 1917: 9.48’’ / December 1964: 7.42’’

Notes: December 1917 from monthly weather summary. The park does not have daily records from that time period. November 1917 showed only .14’’ so potentially there was some carryover in record keeping.

Records are taken from the best available data. The park has copies of monthly weather summaries starting in 1914 and daily records have been entered into the park’s weather database beginning in 1945. However, some months are missing data up until approximately 1961.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Study to Uncover Yellowstone's Subsurface Mysteries

A new study providing an unprecedented regional view of the earth’s crust beneath Yellowstone National Park will begin with a helicopter electromagnetic and magnetic (HEM) survey on November 7, 2016. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Wyoming and Aarhus University in Denmark hope to distinguish zones of cold fresh water, hot saline water, steam, clay and unaltered rock from one another to understand Yellowstone’s myriad hydrothermal systems. The flights will continue for the next two to four weeks.

Although the park’s iconic hydrothermal systems are well mapped at the surface, their subsurface groundwater flow systems are almost completely unknown. The HEM survey, operated by SkyTEM, will provide the first subsurface view of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal systems, tracking the geophysical signatures of geysers, hot springs, mud pots, steam vents and hydrothermal explosion craters to depths in excess of 1,000 feet.

A low flying helicopter, about 200 feet above the ground’s surface, will travel along pre-planned flight grids focusing on the Mammoth-Norris corridor, Upper and Lower Geyser Basins and the northern part of Yellowstone Lake. An electromagnetic system, resembling a giant hula hoop, will be suspended from the helicopter’s base. The equipment senses and records tiny voltages that can be related to the ground’s electrical conductivity.

These observations, combined with existing geophysical, geochemical, geological and borehole data, will help close a major knowledge gap between the surface hydrothermal systems and the deeper magmatic system. For example, research shows that the hot water spurting from Yellowstone’s geysers originates as old precipitation, snow and rain that percolates down into the crust, is heated and ultimately returns to the surface. This process takes hundreds if not thousands of years. Little, however, is currently known about the paths taken by the waters.

The data collected from the flight will guide future ground-based geological, hydrological and geophysical studies.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Yellowstone Seeks Comments on Shoshone Lake Trail Project

Yellowstone National Park is seeking comments for a proposed project to do standard trail realignment on the Shoshone Lake Trail in the southwest portion of the park. The work will occur on a portion of the trail near the south shore of Shoshone Lake.

The main intent of the project is to relocate a section of the trail that is too steep for comfortable travel and cyclic maintenance. Additional work will involve standard erosion control and tread delineation. The proposed project will be directed by the National Park Service in partnership with the Montana Conservation Corps.

Written comments may be emailed to e-mail us or mailed to: Bill Hopkins, Backcountry Trails Office, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190. All comments must be received no later than November 30, 2016.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Two Defendants from the "High on Life Group" Plead Guilty

Five defendants from the Canadian group High On Life appeared Tuesday, November 1, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY. Hamish Cross and Parker Heuser pleaded guilty to violations in Yellowstone National Park and Death Valley National Park. The remaining three defendants from High on Life pleaded not guilty and will be appointed court attorneys.

The group, consisting of Charles Ryker Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh, Justis Cooper Price Brown, Parker Heuser, and Hamish McNab Campbell Cross, were the subject of multiple investigations by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

H. Cross pleaded guilty to charges in Yellowstone National Park that included disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area. He agreed to pay over $8,000.00 in fines, restitution, community service payments paid to Yellowstone Forever, and fees. P. Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley National Park that included riding a bike in wilderness and commercial photographs without a permit. He will also pay for collateral fines that stemmed from violations at the Bonneville Salt Flats (BLM). He agreed to pay more than $1,000.00 in fines and fees. P. Heuser was not charged any violations in Yellowstone National Park. Both individuals will be on probation for five years which includes being banned from public lands managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On May 16, 2016, a concerned citizen contacted park rangers in Yellowstone National Park, after seeing four individuals walking on Grand Prismatic Spring. During the course of the investigation, park rangers identified the four individuals involved in the violations in Yellowstone National Park and arrest warrants were issued. Through the use of social media and tips from the public, additional investigations were conducted about the group’s activities on other federal lands.

The High on Life group was issued violation notices from:

• Zion National Park
• Death Valley National Park
• Yellowstone National Park
• Mesa Verde National Park
• Corona Arch (BLM)
• Bonneville Salt Flats (BLM)

“The judge’s decision today sends a very clear message about thermal feature protection and safety,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. “Hamish Cross’s egregious actions damaged a world-class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers. We look forward to the outcome of the case regarding the three remaining defendants.”

Harm can be done by walking on bacterial mats that surround thermal features like Grand Prismatic Spring. The colorful mats contain communities of thermophiles, or heat-loving organisms. Walking on the mats damages the microscopic communities and the footprints left behind impact the visual landscape people expect in Yellowstone.

Scalding water also underlies much of the thin, breakable crust around hot springs like Grand Prismatic Spring. Many hot springs are near or above the boiling point and can cause severe or fatal burns. More people have been injured or killed in hot springs than any other natural feature in Yellowstone. For example, a fatality occurred in June, 2016, at the Norris Geyser Basin when a man walked off the designated boardwalk, slipped, and fell into a hot spring.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Grizzly Bear Death Due To Vehicle Collision

Grand Teton National Park rangers investigated a wildlife-vehicle collision in the park that resulted in the death of a male grizzly bear early Sunday morning, October 30.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call Sunday at approximately 9:30 a.m. from a passing motorist that a bear carcass was located along US Highway 89/26/191, and that a damaged vehicle was parked along the highway in the same vicinity.

Rangers responded to the scene, south of Cunningham Cabin, to find the carcass of a 260-pound male grizzly bear believed to be about 2-4 years of age. Approximately a mile north of the carcass was an unattended damaged vehicle. Evidence on the vehicle and at the scene tied the vehicle to the accident.

When later contacted, the driver of the damaged vehicle indicated that the collision happened at approximately 5:30 a.m. Sunday. No citations were issued.

Rangers remind drivers to be alert when driving through the park as animals are migrating this time of year. Please watch for wildlife and observe the posted speed limits, including a 45 mile-per-hour night time speed limit on US Highway 89/26/191.