Two North Carolina state parks on the coast have begun renting kayaks and paddleboards through a public-private partnership with a company that will also offer paddling instruction and conduct kayak tours from the parks.
At Carolina Beach, the service is at a soundside beach next to the park’s marina, the May issue of the state parks newsletter, The Steward, says. At Hammocks Beach, it’s located near an established paddling launch.
Paddle NC says it has new single, tandem and specialized fishing kayaks, and standup paddle boards for rent. Paddling instruction is offered though the company's Fluid Motion Paddling School and is taught by American Canoe Association-certified instructors.
Half-day and full-day tours of small groups will be available. "Our guides will show you the hidden coast of Carolina Beach State Park [or] Hammocks Beach State Park, or you can try one of our off-site eco-adventures," the company's website says.
At Carolina Beach, the site lists an eco-tour and a sunset tour for $50 each; tours of Masonboro Inlet, Shark's Tooth and Keg islands, and Zeke's Island for $60 each; and a full-day river tour for $83. Paddleboard tours or instruction cost $50. Tours at Hammocks Beach are similar.
Single kayaks, fishing kayaks and paddleboard rentals are $30 for two hours, $40 for half-day and $55 for full day at both parks. Tandems are $40, $55 and $65. At Hammocks Beach, two-day and three-day rentals of kayaks and canoes are available.
Update: The Forest Service said Friday at mid-day that it had reopened the parking lot at Max Patch though the fire continued to burn at 60 acres. The campground at Harmon Den and the two Forest Service roads (see below) remained closed. The news release did not mention Cold Spring picnic area.
Closed areas may reopen Saturay afternoon, the release says.
A fire in the Harmon Den area of the Pisgah National Forest is causing several areas to be closed, the National Forest Service said today.
The wildfire covers 75 acres and is expected to grow to 100 acres by the end of the day, the Forest Service said in a news release issued at mid-day.
Officials have closed the:
* Harmon Den Horse Camp, which has 10 sites and bridle trails.
* Cold Spring picnic area, which offers fishing and hiking and horseback riding.
* Max Patch parking lot, which provides access to the namesake grassy summit, hiking and horseback trails, and a fishing pond.
Forest Service Road (FSR) 148 (Cold Springs Road) and FSR 148A (Brown's Gap Road) are also closed.
Firefighters are establishing fire lines and conducting back-burning operations to contain the wildfire.
NCDOT message boards will provide information about the fire, which is producing smoke visible along I40 in the Pigeon Gorge, according to the Forest Service.
No structures are threatened, and no injuries are reported. The Forest Service is investigating.
Men's Journal magazine has named Jockeys Ridge State Park among its top 20 beaches in America, though as others have pointed out it's not really a beach.
The magazine piece looks at beaches that are best for sports, and focuses on Jockeys Ridge's sand dunes, which offer "an ideal launch for hang gliders and kite fliers with slopes that beckon sandboarders when the crowds thin."
The backside of the Outer Banks park does sit on the Intracoastal Waterway, but the Atlantic Ocean is across the highway and a couple of blocks away.
Click on the photo below for a closer look at Jockeys Ridge State Park.
The National Forest Service announced fee increases at seven recreation sites among the four national forests in North Carolina. The 2014 season fees will be effective May 7.
According to a news release, the changes are at:
Cedar Point Campground in Croatan National Forest. Nightly campsite fees will rise from $12 to $15 in 2014 and to $20 in 2016. The surcharge for electricity at single sites will increase from $5 to $7 per site this year, but not go up in 2016 (all sites have electricity).
Fees at double campsites will go from $24 to $30 in May and to $40 in 2016. The electrical surcharge will increase from $10 to $14 per site but not increase in '16.
Camping fees at Cedar Point were last increased in 1998, the release says.
Arrowhead Campground and Canebrake Horse Camp in Uwharrie National Forest. Single campsite fees, now $12, will be $15 in May and go to $18 in 2016; double sites go from $24 to $30 in May and to $36 in '16. Electricity, which is available at 33 of the 50 sites at Arrowhead and all 28 sites at Canebrake, costs $3 now, but will be $5 in May and $7 in 2016.
Sliding Rock Recreation Area in Pisgah National Forest. The daily fee increases from $1 to $2 per person. Annual passes remain $25.
The Forest Service says Sliding Rock sees 1,000 or more people a day in season and the higher fees will help to expand lifeguards' hours and maintain the site.
Three shooting ranges in the Nantahala National Forest. Fees will be standardized at $3 per person per day and $25 per person for an annual permit.
At Dirty John Shooting Range, a daily permit was $3 per vehicle and the annual permit was $7 per vehicle. Previously sold 2014 permits for Dirty John will be honored at Dirty John. At Panther Top Shooting Range they were $2 per person a day and already $25 per person for an annual permit.
The new fees are a first for Moss Knob Shooting Range.
The three Nantahala shooting ranges have recently been improved, the Forest Service points out, and the higher fees "will help to maintain these improvements as expected by those who use the sites."
The range and berms have been reconstructed and leveled, a news release says. Work continues on a parking lot and new access road approaching from behind the shooting line and safety berm.
Work was announced last summer but delayed until November. In November, the Forest Service said it would reopen in the spring.
Moss Knob, which is in the Highlands / Franklin area, has four firing lanes or stations on a 150-yard range with frame targets set at 25 and 50 yards.
The National Forest Service says Moss Knob sees "moderate" use. The Dirty John Shooting Range, west of Franklin, gets "light" use. (The Panther Top Shooting Range near Murphy is also a National Forest site, but the NFS does not have a web page for it.)
The closure of the left loop was announced January 2.
The 42-mile, four-loop trail network is open to hikers and horseback riders, but is best known as a challenging mountain bike course.
Vehicles may be brought to South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks beginning on March 16, the National Park Service says.
There are no roads on the national seashore; all driving is on loose sand. Four-wheel drive is highly recommended.
A permit is required to leave a vehicle unattended for more than 24 hours. Permits will allow owners to park vehicles in storage lots in the Long Point, Great Island, and Lighthouse areas or at one of the seashore's rental cabins.
Permits are available now at the Harkers Island Visitor Center and will be available beginning March 16 at the Great Island and Long Point park offices.
To obtain a permit, visitors must bring the vehicle's registration, insurance certificate and their driver’s licenses, or include a copy of these documents if mailing the permit application found online.
The cost is $15 per week "or portion thereof."
Correction: Within minutes of us posting this, @NCparks tweeted: "Correction: Chimney Rock State Park will not reopen March 1 as work held up on main entrance road. Hoping to reopen next week."
Access to the main area of Chimney Rock State Park is to be restored this weekend after a month of road construction work.
N.C. State Parks says via its Facebook page that one lane of the damaged entrance road will open Saturday.
A 75-foot section in one lane of the road collapsed during heavy rainfall last May. Contractors have been working this month to replace the retaining wall that supports the section of roadway near the park entrance, a news release says.
The closure has affected access to the Chimney Rock spire and the elevator to it, the Outcroppings Trail and all other visitor facilities in the park's central tourism area.
The park’s Rumbling Bald Climbing Access has remained open, though parking there is limited. The park warns that it is crowded this time of the year.
One lane of the main access road to Chimney Rock State Park is to open March 1 as repairs to a section washed out by rain continue. (N.C. State Parks photo)
Ferry services set to run to Cape Lookout National Seashore from downtown Beaufort and the National Park's visitor center at Harkers Island began today.
The National Park Service awarded the ferry service concession to a private company last October.
The Cape Lookout seashore encompasses three islands, including two only reachable by boat: South Core Banks, which is home to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and historic Portsmouth Village; and Shackleford Banks, which is known for its wild horses.
Ferry routes from Beaufort go to the west end of Shackleford Banks or the lighthouse area, and from Harkers Island to the eastern tip of Shackleford Banks or to the lighthouse.
Previously, about 10 private ferry services took visitors to the park.
The National Park Service says "the purpose of managing ferry service through a contract is to ensure long-term continuity of the ferry service, a consistently high level of services that are specified and reviewed by the NPS, and to help visitors understand the significances of the park."
Island Express says it is running four 49-passenger Catamarans and two 20-passenger and two 15-passenger Carolina Skiffs. A larger ship available for school groups can carry 149 passengers.
The ferry service also offers a mule train tour between the lighthouse and Cape Point.
Fees for regular ferry routes are $15 for adults or campers with a backpack and one carry-on, $8 for ages 11 and younger, and $5 for pets and each additional carry-on.
Ferry service will run to Cape Lookout from Harkers Island, below, and Beaufort Town Hall in downtown Beaufort. (National Park Service photo)
North Carolina state parks reported the third straight year of record-level attendance yesterday, with 14.2 million people visiting one of the 40 state parks and state recreation areas in 2013.
State parks also reported 14.2 million visits in 2012, 2011 and 2009.
Nineteen parks reported year-to-year increases in attendance in 2013.
Fort Macon State Park near Atlantic Beach had the highest attendance at 1.19 million visits, followed closely by Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks with 1.18 million visits, a North Carolina State Parks blog post says.
Fort Macon, named for its historic stone fort (below), also has a wide beach open for fishing in one area and swimming in another. Jockey's Ridge, named for the tallest sand dune on the East Coast, covers 420 acres open to hiking, hang gliding and other activities amid one of the state's most popular tourism areas.
The report, which provides attendance figures for each park, says state parks contribute more than $400 million to the state's economy over the course of a year. Visitors spend an average of $23.56 a day on a state park visit; most state parks charge no admission fee.
The 2013 report also shows strong attendance at Carvers Creek State Park in Cumberland County, which opened in September and saw 38,740 visitors over less than four months; Mayo River State Park in Rockingham County, with a 69 percent jump in visitation; and Dismal Swamp State Park in Camden County, with visitation up 40 percent.
Fort Macon, below, is the centerpiece attraction at Fort Macon State Park, the most-visited park in the North Carolina State Parks system in 2013. Click on the photo for more information about Fort Macon.