For the first time in its history, the Bodie Island Lighthouse opened to the public on Friday, allowing visitors to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to climb the 170-foot tower. The public debut follows renovation work that began in 2009.
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, also opened for the 2013 season Friday. It has opened for climbing each year since 1993, according to a National Park Service news release.
The Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouses will remain open through Columbus Day, Monday, October 14.
Renovations at the Bodie Island site began in the summer of 2009 and were halted early in 2011 when more extensive damage than expected was discovered and then money ran out. A $1.89 million contract secured in January 2012 allowed the project to continue.
Work included renovations to the lighthouse's first-order Fresnel lens and to the structure and supports of the tower, stairs and the lantern level.
Earlier work at the site on N.C. 12 included moving the Bodie Island Lifesaving Station, its boathouse and the former Bodie Island Coast Guard Station away from shoreline erosion, and building a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk leading from the parking lot to an elevated viewing platform.
Forty-five-minute guided tours of the Bodie Island Lighthouse will run from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and start every 35 minutes. Tickets are $8 or $4 for adults 62 or older, children younger than 12, and for those holding National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Passes.
Reservations for a tour can only be made between one to seven days in advance of the tour date by calling (252) 475-9417, but half of each day's tickets will be sold onsite.
Climbing hours for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will be 90 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and extend to 5:30 p.m. from May 24 to September 2. Tickets are $7 or $3.50 for adults 62 or older, children younger than 12, and those holding National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Access Passes.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse tickets are sold on a first come/first served basis only at the site the day of the climb.
Children must be at least 42 inches tall to climb either lighthouse.
You can save the $4 ticket price at Wright Brothers National Memorial if you visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday while the National Park Service celebrates Wilbur Wright's 146th birthday, the NPS says.
The celebrations will include activities just about every hour, including Junior Ranger activities, kite building and flying demonstrations, and a "Flight Room Talk" about how the Wright brothers solved the problems of human flight, which will be presented three times.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks has replicas of the Wrights' gliders and other exhibits about manned flight through the space age in two buildings, a film, the 60-foot-tall granite Wright Memorial atop Kill Devil Hill, the 90-foot dune where the initial flights were launched (above), and more.
Normally admission costs $4 for anyone 16 years old or older, and is good for seven days.
Several National Forest campgrounds and day-use sites in the North Carolina mountains opened for the season on April 1, the National Forest Service reminds us in a news release.
Nantahala National Forest campgrounds opening this week include:
* Appletree Group Camp
* Cable Cove
* Horse Cove
* Van Hook Glade.
The Cheoah Point and Standing Indian campgrounds in the Nantahala opened March 29.
There are about 16 designated campgrounds in the Nantahala National Forest.
In addition, Balsam Lake Lodge in the Nantahala just recently opened after repairs to the dam and lake. Groups of up to 20 people can rent the fully equipped Balsam Lake Lodge for $170 to $200 a night.
Pisgah National Forest campgrounds that opened Monday are:
* Curtis Creek
* Lake Powhatan
Davidson River and North Mills River campgrounds are open year-round, as are the Pisgah’s three group camps.
There are about 20 designated campgrounds in the Pisgah.
Day-use areas in the Nantahala that opened Monday include:
* Cliffside Lake
* Cherokee Lake
* Wayehutta ATV System.
Pisgah day-use areas that opened Monday include:
* Brown Mountain OHV Area
* Murray Branch
* Poplar Boat Launch
* Stackhouse Boat Launch.
The restroom facilities at Sycamore Flats and Coon Tree picnic areas opened for the season on Monday, too. Flush-toilet restrooms in the moluntains are closed during the winter to prevent damage from frozen water in pipes.
There are also eight campgrounds in the Croatan National Forest near the coast, all but one of which are open year-round, and 10 Uwharrie National Forest campgrounds in the central part of the state, most of which are open year-round.
Two new bike riding trails will be available this spring at state parks in Raleigh and Gatesville.
Merchants Millpond State Park said Tuesday it has opened a five-mile bike trail loop that follows old logging roads in the park to the millpond. At the millpond end of the trail, the park has provided some picnic tables that overlook the pond, according to the park's Facebook page.
Merchants Millpond, right, is known as a prime spot in the northeastern corner of the state for kayaking or canoeing among giant, Spanish moss-draped cypress trees.
In Raleigh, the Museum Park at the North Carolina Art Museum will dedicate its new Blue Loop, a one-mile walking and cycling nature trail, at 10:30 a.m. April 14.
In addition to the new trail at the Art Museum, food trucks will be on hand from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Big Medicine bluegrass band and the N.C. A&T State University drumline will perform, the Museum says. The event is free.
Museum Park, which features permanent and temporary sculpture amid woods, meadows, creeks and a pond, is not a part of the state parks system, but it is a state-supported institution. Its main trail is a part of the City of Raleigh's Capital Area Greenway Trail System.
Users straying from designated trails in the Uwharrie National Forest have caused the indefinite closing of two trails in the Badin Lake Recreation Area, the U.S. Forest Service said today.
Rocky Mountain Loop Off-Highway Vehicle Trail and Hang Glider Horse Trail have been "closed for further review."
The closings are "because of excessive damage to the natural resources of these areas," a news release says. "The damage is directly related to the recreational uses of OHVs, horses and dispersed camping in these areas."
An emailed version of the release, but not the online version, says: "The damage was caused by some users venturing off designated trails and out into the Forest."
Rocky Mountain Loop is a 2.8-mile moderate trail near parking for the Badin Lake OHV Trail Complex's Art Lilley dispersed camping area. It is blazed with orange diamond trail markers.
The Hang Glider Trail is a 1.4-mile trail rated as difficult that leads to a scenic view of Hang Glider Rock. It is blazed with salmon blazes.
The Forest Service will keep the trails closed until they figure out how to protect the sensitive resources in these areas.
The Badin Lake Recreation Area has 17 miles of OHV trails and about 40 miles of hiking, biking and bridle trails.
Tickets will be issued to anyone found using OHVs, horses or dispersed camping in or along the closed trails, the news release says.
Higher fees are likely at seven National Forest recreation sites in North Carolina, the National Forest Service said in a news release this morning.
The proposed increases are for:
* Cedar Point Campground in the Croatan National Forest. Fees would increase from $12 to $20 per night for single campsites. The electrical surcharge would increase from $5 to $7.
Campsite fees at Cedar Point have not increased in 15 years, while operation and maintenance costs have risen, the Forest Service says.
* Arrowhead Campground in the Uwharrie National Forest. Fees for single campsites would increase from $12 to $18 per night and from $24 to $36 at double sites. The electrical surcharge would increase from $3 to $7 per night.
High visitation has increased maintenance costs, the Forest Service says. Additional revenue will help pay for the costs of campground hosts, as well as maintaining and operating water, sewage and other facilities.
* Canebrake Horse Camp in the Uwharrie. Fees for single and double campsites, which are $12 and $24, respectively, would be $18 and $36, the same as at Arrowhead Campground. All sites have free electrical hookups, but an electrical surcharge of $7 would be instituted.
High visitation has increased maintenance costs. Additional revenue will help pay for the costs of campground hosts, as well as maintaining and operating water, sewage and other facilities.
* Sliding Rock Recreation Area in the Pisgah National Forest. Daily admission would increase from $1 to $2. Annual passes would remain at $25.
"Additional revenue is required to operate this extremely popular site, which often receives 1,000 or more people a day," the Forest Service says. Fees will pay for expanded hours for lifeguards and maintenance of the site.
Shooting ranges in the Nantahala National Forest would see fee increases that would, in part, standardize rates. Also with the new fees, an annual pass would allow shooters to use all three ranges in the Nantahala. The fees are needed to address maintenance needs and other costs associated with increased visitation, the Forest Service says.
* Dirty John Shooting Range daily fees would increase from $3 per vehicle to $3 per person. Annual fees would increase from $7 per vehicle to $25 per person.
* Moss Knob Shooting Range fees would be instituted at $3 per person for daily passes and $25 per person for an annual pass. This is the only new fee across the four national forests, the Forest Service says.
* Panther Top Shooting Range daily fees would increase from $2 to $3 per person. Annual fee would remain $25 per person.
If approved, the increased fees would be implemented over a two-year span.
The Forest Service will accept comments through February, at [email protected].
Campsite fees at Cedar Point Campground in the Croatan National Forest, below, are to increase from $12 to $20 per night for single campsites. Charges for electricity will increase as well, according to the proposal. Click on the photo for more information about Cedar Point.
North Carolina will ring in the New Year with guided hikes at "every" state park and state recreation area on January 1.
It's the second year North Carolina’s state parks system will partner with America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors to promote First Day Hikes, a news release says.
There will be at least 40 guided hikes in North Carolina's state parks system and more than 600 throughout the 50 states as part of the event.
At Eno River State Park in Durham, New Year's Day hikes are a decades-old tradition. The Eno River Association will offer a 5- to 6-mile hike as well as a shorter, approximately 3-mile route in the Fews Ford Area (at right; click on the photo for more information) starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Hot chocolate, marshmallows and popcorn will be served around the fire at the end of the hike.
At Falls Lake State Recreation Area in Raleigh, a scavenger hunt designed for ages 6-12 but open to all will be part of a kid-friendly hike for up to 25 kids in the Shinleaf area starting at 10 a.m. Reservations are required (919-676-1027), and an adult needs to accompany anyone younger than 18.
The program at Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head will be a 45-minute leisurely walk along the Soundside Nature Trail for a discussion of the interesting habitats of barrier islands. The group meets at 9 a.m.
Check to see what other N.C. state parks and recreation areas are doing on New Year's Day by clicking through at their names to the state site, then on "Events/Free Programs." Enter a search for January 2013.
As of this writing, Mount Mitchell State Park in Burnsville is closed because of freezing weather and has no activity listed for January 1, so be sure to check the site of the park you plan to visit before going.
"We look forward to the stocking of fish in the spring, so visitors can again enjoy this majestic water," Mike Wilkins, a ranger in the Nantahala District of the Nantahala National Forest, said in a news release.
The recreation area's season runs from April 1 to October 31.
Balsam Lake, right, is normally stocked with rainbow trout twice during the spring/summer season, and a creek supplies native mountain trout.
The lake has several accessible fishing piers and allows bank and small boat fishing. The recreation area also has a picnic shelter and toilets, and short easy trails.
Groups of up to 20 people can rent the fully equipped Balsam Lake Lodge, seen from across the lake below, for $170 to $200 a night.
Splash boards on the eight-acre lake's dam allowed too much water to pass around them, so a slight adjustment was made to help maintain proper lake levels, the news release says.
The highlight of the day's events should come about 10:35 a.m. when flyers from US Marine Corps (USMC) Air Station Cherry Point stage a flyover to mark the 100th anniversary of Marine Corps aviation. They will be followed by U.S. Coast Guard and civilian aircraft.
Monday's events begin at 8:45 a.m. with a patriotic musical prelude by the Northeastern High School Band from Elizabeth City, which is followed by a ceremony that includes remarks by Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator & Major General USMC (Ret); and Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of the Division of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution.
There will also be a wreath-laying ceremony at 11 a.m. on the exact spot where the first flight occurred.
The park's usual $4 entrance fee will be waived during the anniversary event.
The park's visitor center and pavilion will open at 9 a.m., and the grounds will be open as well, including the 60-foot-tall granite memorial atop Kill Devil Hill and the Stephen H. Smith sculpture depicting the first flight, below.
Fans of "The Hunger Games" have turned out to help create a banner attendance year at DuPont State Recreational Forest, where much of the hit movie was filmed, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Forest Supervisor David Brown told the newspaper that visitation through the end of October had hit 327,000, topping last year's full count of 250,000 for an all-time high.
Brown said increased interest in the forest can also be attributed to it being named one of the top five state forest/parks in the nation by Outside Magazine, an 18-page photo essay on the forest in Our State Magazine last March (when "The Hunger Games" was released), and a Bike Magazine feature about the forest as a mountain biking destination.
Tammy Hopkins, co-owner of the Hunger Games Fan Tours in Brevard, said her firm has escorted 700 fans from 41 states through the forest.
Scenes at DuPont were shot at Triple Falls, below, and Bridal Veil Falls in the forest's High Falls Access area, and elsewhere among DuPont's more than 10,000 acres.
Brown also told the newspaper that an ongoing survey of people as they leave DuPont has found that 40 percent of visitors came to the forest to hike; 25 percent came to see the waterfalls; 19 percent to mountain bike; and 7 percent to swim (during the summer). Most visitors (81 percent) rated their trail experience as excellent, with 15 percent rating it as very good.
Dealing with the increased attendance and popularity of the forest has been a challenge as the state has cut funds and staff, Brown said.