Tweets in the last hour by national parks units that make up the Outer Banks Group - Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial - say they have closed all park operations because of inclement weather related to Hurricane Sandy.
@CapeHatterasNPS: Park facilities will remain closed through Monday due to Hurricane Sandy impacts.
@FortRaleighNPS: Park facilities will remain closed through Monday due to Hurricane Sandy impacts.
@WrightBrosNPS: Park facilities will remain closed through Monday due to Hurricane Sandy impacts.
On Friday, the parks announced that visitor centers at the three parks would close at the end of the day Saturday and that Ocracoke Campground on Hatteras Island would close for the season at noon Saturday.
Three state parks have closed in anticipation of bad weather and other parks east of Interstate 95 are subject to closing on short notice as Hurricane Sandy passes the North Carolina coast.
Additionally, ferry service and camping is suspended at Hammocks Beach State Park, the four-wheel-drive access beach at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area is closed, and all trials at Pettigrew State Park are closed.
Before visiting a state park east of I-95, call the individual park office for conditions or check the state parks' Alerts page.
National and state parks in North Carolina have announced closings and cancellations as the state awaits Hurricane Sandy's trek up the East Coast.
The Cape Lookout advisory says visitors staying in the island rental cabins or on the beaches are advised to leave the islands or to seek areas that are protected from overwash. Vehicle ferries were to stop taking visitors to the islands today and work to remove visitors.
Visitor Centers in the Outer Banks Group, which includes Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial, will remain open until close of business Saturday then remain closed until further notice, a news release for the three parks says.
Ocracoke Campground, the last Cape Hatteras campground open this season, will close at noon on Saturday for the season (the season would have extended through Monday).
Park beaches at Hatteras will close to off-road vehicles by 5 p.m. on Saturday and remain closed until further notice.
The Forest Service plans to keep roads in Croatan National Forest open through the weekend.
North Carolina state parks affected by the storm - Jockey's Ridge, Dismal Swamp, Carolina Beach, Hammocks Beach, Lake Waccamaw, Merchants Millpond, Pettigrew and Goose Creek - will announce plans individually, possibly on short notice.
In addition to those parks, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area has announced that its Fall Festival and Haunted Trail scheduled for Saturday evening have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The Halloween program at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park set for Saturday has been cancelled as well.
Hurricane Sandy is being called a major threat to portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
A series of bear attacks in recent weeks has caused the U.S. Forest Service to halt camping in the Shining Rock Wilderness and Graveyard Fields areas of the Pisgah National Forest, the Forest Service said today.
A bear damaged a tent and food bag in the area Monday night. Two people were in the tent at the time of the encounter, but no one was injured.
The Shining Rock Wilderness is a rugged 18,000-acre area with about 40 miles of trails among steep elevation changes off of U.S. 276 and N.C. 215 southwest of Waynesville. Graveyard Fields is a high valley within the wilderness.
The Forest Service says it will monitor conditions to determine when it is safe to reopen the wilderness area to camping. Contact the Pisgah Ranger District at 828-877-3265 with questions.
Here are some additional Pisgah Forest camping sites.
Campout! Carolina is an annual event that encourages individuals and community groups across the state to show their support for a healthy environment by camping out in their backyard or favorite camping site, the website says. EarthShare North Carolina, a coalition of over 60 non-profit organizations working throughout North Carolina to preserve and protect our environment, is in its sixth year of sponsoring Campout! Carolina.
In addition to enjoying the fun of getting outdoors, if you register your campout you'll be entered into a drawing for a REI Kingdom 6 Tent. Early registrants qualified to win tickets to last weekend's Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance.
After your camping trip, get into the photo contest for a $50 REI gift card.
You can also get your campout plotted on a map of participants, which was showing about 100 campsites across the state as of this writing.
And, if you're looking for a place to camp besides your backyard, Carolina Outdoors Guide, which is proud to be on the Campout! Carolina site, has directories of campgrounds and campsites across the state that range from full-service family camping to primitive hike-in and canoe-in sites at North Carolina's national parks, national forests, state parks and state forests, Department of Defense installations, and Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs. These are all public sites supported by your tax dollars, so they are there for you to use and enjoy.
It's important to know that the 45-site campground near New Bern is listed with Recreation.gov under its local name, Flanners Beach Campground. A search for "Neuse River Campground" returns a long list of sites with "river" in the name, but not what you're looking for.
A news release from the National Forest Service says that "Campers will be unable to reserve sites 1, 10, 11, 15, 19, 29 and 31 at the campground, as the sites will remain first-come, first-serve." However, Recreation.gov says the campground has 41 sites (22 with electricity, 19 without) and lists them all as available for reservation. (The National Forest website for North Carolina says there are 45 campsites at Neuse River Campground.)
Regardless, if any site is vacant when a camper shows up they can have it for three days, the news release says. Reservations should be made three days in advance, and if a reservable site occupied by a walk-in camper for three days has been reserved after the third day, the camper on it will have to move.
Neuse River/Flanners Beach is a full-service family campground (showers, flush toilets, etc., renovated in 2011). It is mainly an RV campground; tents are allowed and would do fine in the sandy soil, but there are no tent pads. It also has hiking and mountain biking trails and allows swimming in the river.
Since April, work at the site has "stabilized the trail, reconstructed and replaced the entire walking path, and removed tripping hazards," a news release says.
Dry Falls consists of a 1/2-mile trail that allows visitors to walk behind the 80-foot waterfall, an overlook, restrooms, picnic tables and paved parking. It is alongside U.S. 64/N.C. 28 in the Cullasaja Gorge.
"The improvements cost $466,000 and "enhance the visual appeal of the trail and make it easier to maintain," the news release says.
Money for the project came from a Federal Highways Grant of $208,000 and matching agency funds of $258,000, according to a previous news release.
Other recent notices from the National Forest Service:
* Duke Energy will increase water flows on the Upper Nantahala River from Nantahala Lake to the power house on September 29 and 30 to provide kayakers and other boaters with enhanced whitewater recreational experiences in the Nantahala River Gorge.
This will result in Class IV water conditions in the Cascades Section and less-than optimal flows downstream to the power plant on the 29th, and Class IV+ water conditions on the Cascades Section and Class III-IV downstream on the 30th. The main Nantahala River will also see higher than normal flows.
"Only skilled boaters should attempt to paddle on the Nantahala River on September 29 to 30," the news release says. "Fishermen are advised to avoid this region of the Nantahala River until water levels decline."
* The Appalachian Trail's Cold Springs Shelter, located 1.3 miles north of Burningtown Gap, is closed for repairs through December 15. Hikers can still use the shelter’s toilet and drinkable water while the work is conducted.
A postcard in the mail this morning tells us that the Friends of South Mountains State Park will hold its annual meeting at 9:30 a.m. September 29 at the park's classroom.
Afterward, the park's annual Nature Day presents a variety of programs, exhibits, guided hikes, music and food and drinks for sale from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
We made a donation and signed up with the Friends of South Mountains State Park our visit to South Mountains State Park last year, which just happened to be on the day of the annual meeting and Nature Day.
South Mountains State Park, one of the state's most rugged parks, is in Burke County, about 18 miles south of Morganton. It offers backpacking; trout fishing; family and back-country camping; horseback riding and equestrian camping; and mountain biking, among other activities.
A one-mile hike from the parking lot where Nature Day activities are centered leads to the 80-foot High Shoals Falls (below).
If you're interested in the Friends group, they still don't have a website but two reps gave us 828-433-4772 as a contact number last year, and they'll likely be present during Nature Day.
High Shoals Falls is a one-mile hike away from the site of South Mountain State Park's Nature Day activities September 29. Click on the photo for more information about South Mounains State Park and Nature Day.
Kate Dixon, executive director of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, says the MST was originally to parallel the Blue Ridge Parkway after leaving the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the parkway owns almost no land where it crosses the Cherokee Reservation. Because a route couldn't be worked out, hikers using the Blue Ridge Parkway to get from one existing trail section to another are forced to hike through five tunnels.
There are two proposals so far:
* An 80-mile route through the Great Smokies park on existing trail. This route has extreme elevation gain and no locations where hikers can easily obtain new supplies.
* Leaving the park at the Deep Creek Campground and roughly following the Tuckaseegee River past Bryson City, Sylva and Cullowhee before heading up through the Nanatahala National Forest to rejoin the existing trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway. But, it will probably be many years before this route is entirely off-road.
The routes are depicted on a map at the first link above. Other ideas are welcome, Dixon says.
The workshop is Thursday, September 13, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Jackson County Library, 310 Keener Street in Sylva.
The ongoing Mountains-to-Sea Trail project is to eventually extend across the state for approximately 1,000 miles from Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks.
The workshop is the first one planned as part of an effort to begin developing a regional trail plan for Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in the state's far west.
The Southwestern Commission is developing the plan with a grant provided by the State Trails Program of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The primary product of the plan will be a comprehensive regionwide trail map. The Commission will also use public input to recommend where new trails, greenways or routes should be located to connect to other trails and to connect towns/communities to one another, Dixon says in a memo.
Work begins in the Croatan National Forest this week to repair road surfaces, drainage structures and ditches that have been damaged by severe weather over the last couple of years, the U.S. Forest Service said last week.
Some roads will close as soon as this Wednesday, September 5, and may remained closed into December.
Pettiford Creek Road (National Forest Service Road 206) will remain closed for about a year for work that includes replacement of a major drainage structure.
Affected roads include:
* Millis Road (NFSR 128), closed from September 5 to October 3.
* Morton Field Road (NFSR 129), Belangia Road (NFSR 163) and Haywood Landing Road (NFSR 146), closed temporarily between September and December.
* Riceground Branch Road (NFSR 3014), closed from mid-late October through November.
These roads will be closed "periodically":
* Great Lake Road (NFSR 126)
* Hunters Creek Road (NFSR 144)
* Neds Creek Road (NFSR 616)
* Farrior Farm Road (NFSR 121-A)
* Middle Little Road (NFSR 121-2)
* Brown Road (NFSR 121-D)
* Pine Grove Road (NFSR 156)
The repairs will cost an estimated $823,000, the Forest Service says in its news release. The money comes from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads program.