We wrote last month about Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge birding tours and open house this weekend, and Tuesday the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge announced one of its "Open Roads Days" this weekend.
The irregular open roads events allow the public to drive roads normally closed to vehicular traffic around impoundments at the end of Mackay Island Road. This month, particularly, the open roads will allow visitors to observe and photograph the abundant waterfowl, including tundra swans, ducks and large concentrations of snow geese, that frequent the refuge this time of year.
Mackay Island is in the extreme northeast corner of the state. The open roads areas are located 1 and 6.2 miles south of the North Carolina state line on N.C. 615 in Knotts Island. They are marked by large brown signs.
The additional touring areas will be open from sunrise to sunset Saturday and Sunday.
The Refuge visitor center will be open 10 a.m. to sunset Saturday.
Mackay Island also offers a Charles Kuralt Trail observation site, an elevated platform with spotting scopes for views of the Great Marsh, and seven miles of dikes suitable for walking or cycling.
The state Division of Parks and Recreation said Saturday the summit overlook and picnic area, the road to the summit area and the campground are open, as are the Jomeokee, Sassafras and Grassy Ridge trails. (Camping closes for the season Friday.)
The park’s Yadkin River section and Corridor Trail were not closed because of the fire and remain open.
The park’s climbing area, the principal overlook at Little Pinnacle, and the Grindstone, Ledge Springs and Mountain trails remain closed as workers continue "mopping up" after the fire, which began near the summit November 8. Firefighters did not fully contain the fire until November 14, according to WXII in Winston-Salem.
The fire began as a prescribed burn but grew out of control when embers blew from a dead tree into steep terrain, a parks news release says. Damaged trees near the mountain’s summit are being removed as park staff and state Forest Service personnel monitor the burned area for flare-ups.
Meanwhile, Winston-Salem Journal columnist Scott Sexton suggests that the routes cut by bulldozers to battle the blaze could eventually be strung together to create a biking trail to add to about 40 miles of hiking and bridle trails at the park now.
"(T)here were lines cleared out for dozers to fight the fire. It’s not a neat little circle, but it could be pieced together," state parks spokesman Charlie Peek told Sexton. "Any way to make use of them.”
If you want to keep up as plans are made for managing the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests over the next 15 years, now is the time to let the Forest Service know.
The Forest Service will revise the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan over the next three to four years, according to a news release.
The Nantahala and Pisgah encompass more than 1 million acres in western North Carolina. They provide a variety of public recreation sites, including dozens of day use areas, campgrounds and hiking opportunities (scroll down at each link for Pisgah sites). Together, they are among the most visited national forests in the nation, the Forest Service says.
The management plan revision process begins with the Assessment Phase, about a year's worth of collecting and compiling data about the two forests. Next comes the two-to-three-year Planning Phase, which is followed by the Monitoring Phase, which lasts until the next plan revision.
Rules for developing these management plans were revised this year to strengthen the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process, the news release says. An explanation of the process online says the Assessment Phase is to include "numerous public meetings ... to receive input from stakeholders" beginning in February.
The Forest Service is to provide details about public meetings and "other information to foster public participation" over the next few months. To receive email updates, visit www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc and click on "To receive News and Alerts by Email," then select Nantahala or Pisgah National Forest.
The Forest Service published the original management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah forests in 1987. A significant amendment to the plan was published in 1994, and smaller amendments occurred in subsequent years.
Each national forest and grassland is governed by a management plan in accordance with the National Forest Management Act. These plans set management, protection and use goals and guidelines.
The 2012 Planning Rule revision guides the planning process. It includes stronger protections for forests, water and wildlife "while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities," according to the news release. It also requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.
A Forest Service map shows the 18 counties of western North Carolina affected by plans for management of the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests.
The Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge will show off its new visitors center and the incredible birding opportunities around the 40,000-acre Lake Mattamuskeet on December 8 with an open house and guided tours.
Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, including a wide variety of ducks, geese and swans (including Tundra swan, below), stop at Lake Mattamuskeet and surrounding areas on their winter migration every year.
Refuge staff have offered one-hour open-air tram rides to view waterfowl on the east side of the refuge since 1984. We went on one last year.
A news release from the refuge says new natural resource exhibits and dioramas at the visitors center explain the history of Lake Mattamuskeet and showcase many of the plants and animals that live on the refuge. They include a "virtual airboat tour" of the lake, and "interactive learning displays for kids of all ages."
The tram tours will run at 7:30, 9 and 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. on the 8th, a Saturday. The tours are free but, since space is limited, registration is required. Non-registered visitors may be turned away if space is not available.
Reservations will be available by calling the refuge office at 252-926-4021 beginning Tuesday, November 20. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
"To give everyone a fair chance to reserve a space on the tram, we will not accommodate large groups or organizations during this event," the news release says. "Because there are a limited number of seats available on the tram, it is important to call early."
As the release advises, and we will attest to, it will be cold during the tour. Dress appropriately if you go.
If you're not interested in the tour, there is also an interpretive bird walk on the trails and boardwalks near the visitors center where you can view waterfowl and migratory song birds along the edge of the lake. There are also several other viewing platforms around the lake.
Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is in Hyde County about 70 miles east of Washington (in Beaufort County) along U.S. 264. It's about a three-hour drive from Raleigh.
The open-air tram below was used for tours of the eastern edge of Lake Mattamuskeet last December. The tours will be offered again December 8. Click on the photo for more information and several more photos from the tour and Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge.
Runners participating in the Raven Rock Rumble this Saturday morning may crowd the trails and parking lots at Raven Rock State Park for a couple of hours.
"Campers and hikers, please use caution when approaching park gate and watch for participants during the event times," the state parks' alerts page says.
The Raven Rock Rumble is a 5- and 10-mile trail run. The 5-mile run will encompass the park's Campbell Creek Loop. The 10-mile course covers the Raven Rock Loop, Little Creek Loop and an out-and-back on the Northington Ferry Trail, and then finishes with the Campbell Creek Loop.
The race is limited to 300 participants; 79 are listed in the race's 2011 results.
The race starts at 9 a.m. and the event concludes with awards at 11 a.m. Registration and packet pickup begin at 7 a.m.
Runners are to use the overflow parking lot off of Moccasin Branch Road.
If you're interested in running, there's a $30 fee for the 5-mile run and $40 for the 10-mile. Online registration closes Thursday.
Raven Rock State Park is nine miles west of Lillington in Harnett County.
A controlled burn at Pilot Mountain State Park that grew out of control and covered more than 600 acres was mostly under control Monday evening, reports from the area say.
The park remains closed as officials finish extinguishing the fire and surveying its damage.
The Mount Airy News said 675 acres had been burned along with some fencing at overlooks in the park. The fire was 80 percent under control as of Monday afternoon.
The Mount Airy News report also refers to "some benches in a visitors center being burned" but no other report makes reference to fire damage at the park's visitors center.
The park has been closed since the fire jumped the initial fire line last Thursday, and park officials say it will remain closed through November 15, WFMY said. The Yadkin River section of the park and the corridor trail will stay open.
The Stokes News said the fire began as a controlled burn of three acres on the slopes of Pilot Mountain and grew to about 800 acres by Sunday afternoon. At one point the fire jumped the park boundaries onto adjacent private land along Pinnacle Hotel Road.
Eight local volunteer fire departments helped state parks and state Forest Service personnel fight the fire.
"A total of 70 personnel, and equipment including three bulldozers, utility vehicles, a helicopter and a scout plane, have been used so far to fight the fire," the Mount Airy News said.
A photo that WCNC in Charlotte credits to "Torry Nergart Via Twitter" shows fire on the mountain at Pilot Mountain State Park.
The Stokes News photo below shows smoke from a fire at Pilot Mountain State Park.
We got word over the weekend about a new web page for people interested in forestry, the Top 100 Forestry Resources, which we have added to the links pages at Carolina Outdoors Guide.
The new page is part of ForestryDegree.net, an informational site for forestry students, and was compiled by Amy Eckhart, the site's primary content specialist.
Eckhart says she did extensive research on everything from conservation, wildlife, environment and overall forestry sites "that promote the health of Mother Nature and our society" to compile the list.
"My primary goal on a personal level is to help share my resource for all those who are interested in conserving our land and wildlife in the world and, on a professional level, telling people about forestry and getting involved on an educational level," she said in an email to Carolina Outdoors Guide.
Wesites linked from the page are about conservation, silviculture (the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health and quality of forests), forestry in national and state parks, the business of forestry and general forestry topics.
The links pages at Carolina Outdoors Guide have more than 50 sources for information about outdoor recreation from federal, state and local governments, nonprofit advocacy and support groups, and individuals' and businesses' websites.
Among national parks in North Carolina, only the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk charges an entrance fee. But, if you visit on November 11 you'll save $4 for every member of your party who is 16 years old or older.
There are similarly small fees at several day use areas in the three national forests in North Carolina. For instance, if you are in the Highlands/Cashiers area this Sunday you can save $2 each on visits to Whitewater Falls and Whiteside Mountain.
We noted work to rehab the Appalachian Trail's Cold Springs Shelter in a roundup of National Forest Service announcements in September, which said the work would go through mid-December. But the Forest Service said last week the shelter has reopened.
The Nantahala Hiking Club repaired the bottom seal and footers to add stability to the shelter, the Forest Service says.
Cold Springs Shelter is one of about 250 shelters along the 2,181-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail available for hikers.
The shelter is in the Nantahala National Forest 1.3 miles north of Burningtown Gap, a trailhead accessed from State Road 1310 (Wayah Road), between U.S. 64 west of Franklin and U.S. 19 at the Nantahala River rafting put-in location, according to the Nantahala Hiking Club.
The project includes construction of a new one-mile Blue Loop, which will "open a large new section of Museum Park to the public," according to a news release announcing the project last summer. The Blue Loop will be open to walking and cycling and will circle a forest and meadow. It will be part of Raleigh's Capital Area Greenway Trail System.
Existing trails at Museum Park, the longest of which is flanked by artwork, will remain open during the project.
A $550,000 gift from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to the art museum is paying for the new trail and other work at Museum Park.