Saturday, March 25, 2017

Heavy Snow Appears to Cause Porch Roof Collapse at Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center

A heavy snow load appears to have caused the collapse of the front porch roof on the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center in Grand Teton National Park. The collapsed roof was discovered mid-morning Thursday, March 23, 2017. The seasonally-used building is closed each winter from late September through late May and was unoccupied at the time of the porch roof collapse. The main building structure and its contents appear to be undamaged upon initial evaluation.

The collapsed porch roof was discovered by two park maintenance employees conducting a routine wintertime building check. Maintenance crews have been busy this winter clearing large amounts of snow off park buildings. Area measurements show the current snow water equivalent is around 150 percent of median, and recent rain and warm temperatures may have contributed to the weight of the snow on the roof.

In order to facilitate more thorough assessments of the building’s structural integrity and eventual reconstruction of the porch roof, park road crews are clearing the snow from Moose-Wilson Road between the winter closure at Death Canyon Road junction and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve access road. This section of the Moose-Wilson Road will remain closed to motor vehicles until its normal scheduled opening in mid-May.

Park managers’ priority is to ensure the continued safety of park employees and visitors. The immediate vicinity around the preserve center is closed to the public. Visitors should comply with the posted closure notices and temporary fencing around the affected area. Once the snow melts and the area dries, the porch roof will be safely demolished and a comprehensive building inspection conducted before opening the building for summer visitation.

The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve was donated to the National Park Service in 2007. Laurance S. Rockefeller’s 1,106 acre gift to the American people was a continuation of the Rockefeller family’s tradition of philanthropic conservation in Jackson Hole, which began when John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated 33,000 acres to the park in 1943. The preserve center serves as refuge for physical and spiritual renewal as well as a jumping off point for further hiking and exploration of the preserve.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Thursday, March 23, 2017

McDonald Creek Overlook: Must Stop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Below is a short video highlighting the McDonald Creek Overlook. Anyone who's been here knows this is one of the "must stops" along the Going-to-the-Sun Road:



In addition to cruising the Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the best ways to see Glacier National Park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park. Prospective visitors may also want to note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Glacier to lift restrictions on hand-propelled boats with invasive species inspections this season

Glacier National Park announced yesterday that hand-propelled, non-trailered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards will be permitted in the park with mandatory inspection beginning May 15 for Lake McDonald and the North Fork and June 1, 2017 for all remaining areas of the park. Last November, park waters were closed to all boating as a precaution after invasive species of non-native mussels were detected in two popular Montana reservoirs east of the park.

Hand-powered boat users will be required to have their craft certified mussel-free (“clean, drained, and dry”) by Glacier staff under a new inspection program with stations in four popular locations in the park. (Local users who live in more remote locations will be directed to the nearest ranger station for inspection.) This is a change from last season, when hand-propelled watercraft required visitors to complete an AIS-free self-certification form before launching into Glacier’s lakes.

Privately owned motorized and trailered watercraft brought into the park will not be allowed to operate on Glacier’s waters this summer while a comprehensive assessment of the threat from mussels is underway. Among other measures, this will include comprehensive testing of waters in the park and elsewhere in Montana for the presence of quagga and zebra mussels. These non-native mollusks reproduce quickly and can wreak havoc with lake environments, water quality, native wildlife, lake infrastructure, and cause significant economic harm to infested regions.

“We are continuing to evaluate the emerging threat of aquatic invasive mussels to Glacier’s lakes and streams,” said Jeff Mow, superintendent of the park. “To prepare for lake recreation after the spring thaw, we are implementing a rigorous inspection process for human-powered boats, which have a lower risk of transporting these harmful mussels. This will allow many out of town visitors and local residents to continue enjoying this very popular activity in the park.” Hand-propelled watercraft aren’t typically left on the water for extended periods of time and lack the bilges, complex engines, live wells and other common features of motorized boats that can harbor live invasive species. “

Glacier National Park sits at the headwaters of three continental scale watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean, Hudson’s Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. Contamination of park waters by invasive mussels would mean not only devastating effects on the park’s thriving and diverse aquatic ecosystem, but also detrimental impacts to recreation, waterways and communities downstream.

It is estimated that if the infestation were to spread into the Columbia River Basin, affected states and provinces would be expending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to mitigate the impacts of infestations to infrastructure such as irrigation canals, hydroelectric dams, and utility systems.

The park is coordinating its response to the discovery of invasive mussels in the state with Montana’s Mussel Response team, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, Waterton Lakes National Park, the Flathead Basin Commission, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe, the province of Alberta, the City of Whitefish, and all the states downstream on the Columbia River.

Inspection stations for hand-propelled watercraft will be located on the west side of the park in Apgar Village (for Lake McDonald and North Fork area lakes), and the east side of the park at Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier Ranger Stations. With additional funding in 2017 through the Glacier National Park Conservancy and a match from the NPS Centennial program, the goal is to provide additional capacity for inspections in more remote locations.

The only recreational motorized watercraft allowed in the park this year will be the concession tourboats and the concession motorboat rentals. These are boats that remain in the park year-round and have not been and will not be launched on bodies of water elsewhere.

For more information about boating procedures, location of inspection stations in the park, and hours of operation, please see: www.nps.gov/glac. For information about the statewide response see: http://musselresponse.mt.gov/.

Glacier first closed park waters to all boating in November after state inspectors found invasive mussel larvae in water samples from Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs, about 100 miles east of the park. Such closure is specified as the first in a series of actions in the park’s Aquatic Invasive Species Response Plan. Glacier adopted this plan in 2014 to protect the park’s natural resources and public enjoyment of its lakes if invasive mussels were ever detected within the state.

The park’s threat assessment activities will continue throughout the spring and summer, including testing of samples taken in Glacier’s lakes and lakes and reservoirs across Montana this summer as waters warm. Glacier will update the public with any findings and conclusions available when testing results are available later next fall.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Teton Park Road Winter Use Season to End

On Monday, March 20, 2017 Grand Teton National Park road crews will begin the annual spring plowing of the Teton Park Road between Taggart Lake Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge. The plowing operations mark the end of over-snow access on the 14 mile stretch of road for the season. Visitors may continue to use other areas of the park for winter recreation such as cross-country skiing, skate skiing, and snowshoeing until snow conditions are no longer favorable.

For safety reasons, visitors may not access the Teton Park Road while plowing operations are underway. Rotary snow removal equipment and plows may be working at any time, and the roadway is therefor closed to all users at all times until further notice. Park rangers will enforce the temporary closure to ensure safe conditions for plow operators and visitors. Skiers and snowshoers using areas adjacent to the roadway are cautioned to avoid the arc of snow blown from the rotary equipment because pieces of ice and gravel can be thrown great distances.

Depending on weather, snow conditions, and plowing progress, the roadway will become accessible to activities such as cycling, roller skating, skateboarding, roller skiing, walking, jogging, and leashed pet-walking within the next few weeks. This change in road status will be announced publicly and signs posted at the road gates will be updated as appropriate. The road will open to vehicle traffic on Monday, May 1, 2017.

Other park roads such as Moose-Wilson Road, Signal Mountain Summit Road, Antelope Flats Road, River Road, East Boundary Road, Mormon Row Road, Two Ocean Road, and Grassy Lake Road remain closed to vehicle traffic when posted or gated in the spring. The opening dates of these roads vary from year to year and are dependent on weather, snow conditions, plowing progress, wildlife activity, and road conditions.

The paved multi-use pathways in the park are open whenever they are predominately free of snow and ice. For the most up to date information on park roads, visit https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/roads.htm.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Record Visitation to America’s National Parks in 2016

The U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently hailed 331 million recreation visits to America’s national parks in 2016 – a third consecutive all-time attendance record for the National Park Service. Zinke made the announcement during a stop at Glacier National Park where he met with Park Superintendent Jeff Mow to discuss the park’s maintenance backlog and received a traditional spiritual blessing from members of the Blackfeet Nation. In 2016, Glacier broke attendance records attracting nearly three million visitors.

“Our National Parks are our national treasures, and it’s important to recognize that they are more than just beautiful landscapes,” said Zinke. “Growing up near Glacier National Park, I understand the value these places bring to local economies and in preserving our heritage. As we enter into a second century of service and visitation numbers continue to increase, we will focus on maintenance backlogs and ensuring these special places are preserved for future generations.”

Half of all national park visitation was recorded in 26 parks, but visitation grew more than 10 percent in parks that see more modest annual visitation. Mike Reynolds, Acting Director of the National Park Service pointed out, “That shows the breadth of support for parks and, I think, that the Find Your Park campaign launched with the National Park Foundation reached new audiences.” The National Park Services’ centennial and Find Your Park initiative combined with other popular events, such as the Centennial BioBlitz and other national park anniversaries, good travel weather and programs such as “Every Kid in a Park” helped drive record visitation.

National Park System 2016 visitation highlights include:

• 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016 – up 7.7 percent or 23.7 million visits over 2015.
• 1.4 billion hours spent by visitors in parks – up 7 percent or 93 million hours over 2015.
• 15,430,454Overnight stays in parks – up 2.5% over 2015.
• 2,543,221 National Park campground RV overnights – up 12.5 percent over 2015.
• 2,154,698 Backcountry overnights – up 6.7 percent over 2015.
• 3,858,162 National park campground tent overnights – up 4.8 percent over 2015.
• 10 million recreation visits at four parks – Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
• More than 5 million recreation visits at 12 parks (3% of reporting parks)
• 80 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits (21% of reporting parks)
• 382 of the 417 parks in the National Park system count visitors and 77 of those parks set a new record for annual recreation visits. This is about 20% of reporting parks.
• 4 parks were added to the statistics system and reported visitation for the first time. They added about 300,000 visits to the total: Belmont Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, D.C., Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet Township, Mich., Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in Paterson, N.J.

While at Glacier, Zinke was joined by members of the Blackfeet Nation including Chairman Harry Barnes, Secretary Tyson Running Wolf, Timothy Davis, Carl Kipp, Nelse St. Goddard, and Robert DesRosier, who performed a traditional spiritual blessing.

“I’ve had the honor of working with the Blackfeet Nation for a number of years as a State Senator, Congressman, and now as Secretary of the Interior,” said Zinke. “The ceremony was very moving. I appreciate the blessing and know it will provide me with guidance and strength as I face the challenges ahead.”

Here are some additional highlights:


The Top 10 Visitation in National Parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 11,312,786
Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. – 5,969,811
Yosemite National Park, Calif. – 5,028,868
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo. – 4,517,585
Zion National Park, Utah – 4,295,127
Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. – 4,257,177
Olympic National Park, , Wash. – 3,390,221
Acadia National Park, Maine – 3,303,393
Grand Teton National Park, Wyo. – 3,270,076
Glacier National Park, Mont. – 2,946,681


Top 10 Visitation - All Units in the National Park System:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, Calif. – 15,638,777
Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, N.C. – 15,175,578
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tenn. – 11,312,786
George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean, Va. – 10,323,339
Gateway National Recreation Area, Staten Island, N.Y. – 8,651,770
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. – 7,915,934
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Boulder City, Nev. – 7,175,891
Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. – 5,969,811
Natchez Trace Parkway, Tupelo, Miss. – 5,891,315
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. – 5,299,713

For an in depth look at 2016 visitation figures please visit the NPS Social Science website.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Public Meeting

The public is invited to the annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC) Public Meeting on Saturday, March 18 starting at 10 AM at the Seeley Lake Community Hall in Seeley Lake, Montana.

“This is a great annual opportunity to meet with the National Forest Wilderness Managers and Montana Fish and Wildlife staff”, says Deb Mucklow, Spotted Bear District Ranger. “This is an annual meeting to talk about managing wilderness. All of the participants will be encouraged to interact with the managers present and have time for one on one questions. In addition, updates will be provided on specific activities and projects, and ongoing monitoring across the BMWC. The wilderness managers will be sharing the updates on the specific monitoring and actions that are a piece of the Limits of Acceptable change for the BMWC and now being utilized with the Wilderness Stewardship Performance Standards.”

The BMWC plan was developed by interested individuals, partners and agency representatives. The BMWC is comprised of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Great Bear Wilderness, and Scapegoat Wilderness and jointly they are an area of more than 1.5 million acres. This is the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states. The complex is managed by three national forests (Flathead, Lolo, and Helena / Lewis & Clark) and five ranger districts (Spotted Bear, Hungry Horse, Seeley Lake, Lincoln, and Rocky Mountain).

Recently the Forest managers and Fish and Wildlife staff prepared the annual BMWC newsletter which is available on the Flathead National Forest Web page under Special Places (http://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/flathead/specialplaces). This newsletter gives background and highlights of information that may be shared at the public meeting.

For additional information, please contact the Spotted Bear Ranger District at (406) 387-3800.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Top 6 Reasons to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited park in the country. More than 10 million people visit the park each year to take-in the spectacular scenery. Although it may seem crowded during certain seasons, it’s very easy to escape the crowds by heading off on one of the more than 800 miles of trails. Here’s a quick rundown on why the Smokies are a hiker’s paradise.

Fall Colors
The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the best places in the country to see fall colors. From late September through early November autumn slowly creeps down from the highest elevations to the lowest valleys in the park. As a result of its rich diversity of trees – roughly 100 species of native trees live in the Smokies - park visitors will enjoy a myriad of colors, from spectacular reds and oranges, to brilliant golds and yellows. Although driving along the park roads is a popular way of seeing fall colors, hiking amongst the trees is by far the best way to enjoy them. At any point during the autumn cycle almost every trail will offer great viewing opportunities. We’ve published a guide that highlights some of the best trails as the season progresses.


Grassy Balds
One of the great mysteries of the Southern Appalachians, which includes the Great Smoky Mountains, is whether or not the treeless mountain tops and ridges, known as “balds,” are natural or if they were manmade. No one knows for certain how they came into existence. Even their age is unknown. The general consensus, however, seems to be that the early settlers in the region cleared many of these areas for grazing purposes so that the lower elevations could be used for growing crops during the summer months. Some of the best examples of grassy balds in the Smokies include Gregory Bald, Spence Field, Russell Field, Silers Bald, Andrews Bald, Parsons Bald and Hemphill Bald. However, Andrews Bald and Gregory Bald are the only two balds that are maintained by the park. The others have been left to eventually be reclaimed by forest.

One of the great annual events in the Southern Appalachians is the spectacular flame azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron blooms of late spring. Some of the best examples of these beautiful displays from Mother Nature occur atop these balds. In particular, Gregory Bald, Andrews Bald, Spence Field and Rocky Top offer some of the best displays of these flowers. Moreover, these are among the best hikes in the park, all of which offer sweeping panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains.


The Mt. LeConte Lodge
Although there are a handful of other national parks that offer hike-in lodging, one of the great traditions in the Great Smoky Mountains is an overnight excursion at the Mt. LeConte Lodge. Sitting near the top of 6593-foot Mount LeConte, the lodge offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy a backcountry experience in relative luxury (compared to roughing it!) for those that don’t like to backpack. The only way to reach the lodge is by taking one of 6 trails that meander up the third highest mountain in the park. The most popular route is the Alum Cave Trail. If you take the Trillium Gap Trail don't be surprised to see a pack-train of llamas. The lodge is resupplied by llamas with fresh linens and food three times a week.


Early Settler History
The Great Smoky Mountains has done an excellent job of preserving its rich history of settlement prior to becoming a national park. All across the valleys, from Cades Cove, Elkmont, Big Creek, Smokemont, Deep Creek and everywhere in between, you can find the homes, farms and churches of the early settlers, as well as the remnants and relics leftover from the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s, and the logging boom of the early 1900s. There are many outstanding hikes that visit these historical sites, including the Rich Mountain Loop, which visits the home of John Oliver, a veteran of the War of 1812. He and his young family were among the first white settlers to settle in the Cades Cove area. His cabin dates from the 1820s and is one of the oldest structures in the Great Smoky Mountains. You could also take the Little Brier Gap Trail to visit the Walker Sisters Place, the home of the five Walker sisters. The last surviving sister was one of the last remaining homesteaders to live within the park boundaries.


Waterfalls
On average the lower elevations of the Smokies receive roughly 55 inches of rainfall each year, while the highest peaks receive more than 85 inches, which is more than anywhere else in the country except the Pacific Northwest. With all that rain the park is naturally blessed with an abundance of streams. Using modern mapping technology scientists have recently determined that the park contains roughly 2900 miles of streams. With elevations ranging between 6643 feet 840 feet, there are several waterfalls located throughout the park. Grotto Falls has the distinction of being the only waterfall that you can walk behind. Although Abrams Falls is arguably the most scenic and impressive waterfall in the Smokies, I personally like the hike along the Middle Prong Trail to Indian Flats Falls.


Wildflowers
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to more than 1600 species of flowering plants. During each month of the year some forb, tree or vine is blooming in the park. During the spring wildflowers explode during the brief window just prior to trees leafing out and shading the forest floor (from about mid-April thru mid-May). Although there are many parks that are larger, the Great Smoky Mountains has the greatest diversity of plants anywhere in North America. In fact, north of the tropics, only China has a greater diversity of plant life than the Southern Appalachians. Wet and humid climates, as well as a broad range in elevation, are two of the most important reasons for the park's renowned diversity. Hikers can enjoy wildflowers on almost any trail in the park. We’ve published a guide that highlights some of the best wildflower hikes during the spring season.


With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the hikes listed above, the park offers a variety of other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com