With the warm summer months upon us, National Wildlife Federation is celebrating our annual camping event, the Great American Campout, to connect people to the great outdoors and wildlife. It is the perfect opportunity to gather your family or friends, gear and trail shoes and find a great camping spot. For those of us (like myself) in the Southeast, if the summer elements prove too much, now is a great time to begin planning your fall getaways.
The Southeastern U.S. is full of spectacular places to camp; if you are curious about where to go camping, consider pitching your tent in the richest forest that the United States has to offer—the Longleaf Pine. These forests are home to an abundance of plants and many species of wildlife such as the endangered gopher tortoise, Bachmans sparrow, fox squirrels, and many more.Due to development and conversion to dense trees plantations, only approximately 5% of longleaf forests remain. We have compiled a list of public lands where you can find longleaf pine in its historic and natural range—from the eastern plains of Texas to Florida and all the way up to the Carolinas.
“When you look at the forests explorers like de Soto and Lewis and Clark described, they talk about very open areas that were easy to walk through. What they saw were longleaf pines and blue stemmed grass that was very open and very beautiful. And that’s what foresters have recreated in Kisatchie.” -Jim Caldwell, Kisatchie National Forest Public Affairs Officer
Black Creek, Mississippi’s only National Scenic River, runs through the De Soto and is the perfect location to canoe or kayak down the river bordered by the pines. Beneath the pines and plentiful hardwoods lies the perfect habitat for deer, turkey and quail, among others. Campgrounds that are sure to be scattered with the fallen needles from longleaf include Big Biloxi and the Long Leaf Horse Trail (daily rates required).
Big Thicket is a place of discovery, a place to wander and explore, a place to marvel at the richness of nature. Popular preserve activities include hiking, bird watching, canoeing and hunting. While camping is allowed in Big Thicket, there are no designated campsites, so be prepared for the true primitive experience of making your own!
Visitors can enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, mountain biking and OHV trials in Ocala National Forest. If you visit in the early morning, as mists rise off the ponds and lakes, you can hear a symphony of birds stirring to sunrise. Even sitting silently in your car along a back road, you may watch a mama bear and her cubs lumber across the sand. The Ocala is a landscape of living wonders.
Ocala hosts multitudes of camping options including camp and primitive camping, rental cabins for large families and small groups, and RV camping.
A multitude of recreational opportunities exist in this natural area, including: hiking, biking, canoe trails, boat launches, and even a rifle range for the avid sportsman. This national forest is a convenient destination stop as it is situated between two popular cities, Myrtle Beach and historic Charleston. Camping is allowed in developed campgrounds and in designated primitive sites.
The park offers fantastic camping opportunities in both the front country and backcountry. While camping is available year-round, individuals visiting during the wet season (June through November) should be aware of potentially strenuous and uncomfortable conditions, while the dry season (November to March) is the “busy season” due to the warm winters.
The forest has several designated recreation areas that offer any number of activities, from fishing to target shooting to camping. The newly renovated Open Pond Recreation Area is the largest recreation area in the Conecuh. Be sure to stop for a picnic overlooking the scenic Cypress ponds while you are here!
Pledge to camp this summer! For each camper who pledges, $1 will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000. You’ll also be entered to win the Ultimate Campout Prize Pack.
I personally enjoy pledging to camp each year and finding new areas to explore. If you find yourself under the stars and starburst of pine needles of the longleaf pine, be sure to take a photo and share on social media with the hashtag #campie or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. NWF would love to see and hear about your stories and experiences!
Consider campsite/visitation fees, reservations and seasonal restrictions vary from site to site–check for detailed information on each particular location before visiting.
Happy planning and camping!
Your own backyard can be home to an pretty amazing diversity of wildlife, especially if you create a wildlife-friendly landscape with our Garden for Wildlife program. When you camp in your yard, you might glimpse the neighborhood fox, hear the trilling of noctural treefrogs, spot a giant silk moth, hear the hoot of an owl, or just have fun catching fireflies.
Pledge to camp with as part of the Great American Campout and then read on to find out how you can make your yard more inviting to local wildlife so they will “camp” in your yard with you this summer:
Along with setting up shelter or “tents” for wildlife in your yard, provide wildlife with food and water sources plus places to raise young to make your yard a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Once you have all the necessary requirements, certify your wildlife habitat!]]>
After reading Rona’s blog – “Where is everyone” I set out to prove her wrong by asking friends and colleagues on social media to post images of happy kids outside with the hashtag #proveronawrong. The case has never been stronger: we need to get our families outside.
Nature is good for us. It helps with physical and mental well-being, is an important context for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and is really fun! Through experiences with the great outdoors we are creating the next generation of stewards – yes, our kids are next to address the impacts of climate change and continue the fight for clean and abundant water.
Scott Sampson, who in our house is the famous Dr. Scott from the TV show Dinosaur Train, writes in his new book Wild Child that we can and must respond to these problems and restore an emotional connection to the outdoors. One of the recommended ways to do this is by camping. By participating in National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Campout, you and your kids can get outdoors and connect with nature. Here are some family fun tips for the Great American Campout.Along with these trips, nature experiences can happen locally too. In the Mid-Atlantic, for example, we have loads of resources including, Chesapeake Family’s 100 days of summer which includes some cool outdoor experiences, and nearby in Delaware Beach Chair Scientist regularly has ideas about outdoor fun. National Park Service’s new Chesapeake Explorer App allows you to search for local hikes and proves there is a nexus between screen time and green time. We just got back from camping where we took some campies at Cunningham Falls, part of the Maryland state park system which extends from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.
But getting kids outside can be as simple as heading out back with plastic binoculars or a bug net. My son enjoys watching wildlife –bugs, butterflies, birds – a few feet from our house.
Recently, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources revealed to me that Maryland parks reached capacity 84 times in 2014 – there were too many people using them! And so far, NWF’s Great American Campout has 50,000 “pledges to camp”, including over 5,000 in Maryland.
Pledge to camp this summer! For each camper who pledges, $1 will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000.
Thanks to everyone who answered my call on social media to #proveronawrong, the results are particularly satisfying with so many smiling kids enjoying the outdoors. This summer, help me prove Rona wrong, get kids outside and grow the next generation.
.@HilaryHF Enjoying Lake Accotink (@fairfaxparks) @AccotinkCreek1 #enviroed #proveronawrong pic.twitter.com/Hh9t1MFQEk
— BeachChairScientist (@bcsanswers) July 8, 2015
Help us #proveronawrong with your stories of getting outside! Use @ChesBayJournal (My daughter's first dip this wkd) pic.twitter.com/oYrF6lc1wK
— Whitney Pipkin (@WhitneyPipkin) June 23, 2015
These 5 additions to my backpack add less than 5 pounds, but endless possibilities for camping fun:
Weight: less than 1 oz each
Why: The great outdoors are filled with so many sights, sounds and species that it isn’t always easy to see everything around you. Fundanas, which are games and activities printed on cotton cloth, help turn natural exploration into a game and teach you something along the way. Plus they’re washable and you can always repurpose a bandana for headwear or a towel in a pinch!
Where Can You Find It: ShopNWF.org has two sets available for nature adventures: “Wild Bird and Bug Bingo” and “Track Quest and Nature Quest”
Weight: paperback: approximately 15 oz; hardback: 1-2 lbs
Why: Since hopefully you’re leaving your technology behind, you can replace your screen with a good ol’ fashioned book. Our friends at Scholastic have a Summer Reading Challenge booklist that are great summer reading companions, or you could even take the chance to get ahead on school reading projects without stress.
Where You Can Find It: Your local bookstore, library, or online shop of choice
Weight: 3.3 oz
Why: The possibilities are endless with a deck of cards. You can use them to play traditional games, make up your own, try out card tricks, or even use them to delegate chores at the campsite or hiking trail.
Where You Can Find It: Grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations (or maybe even your junk drawer)
Weight: Varies. A heavy-duty flashlight with those large batteries can weight upwards of 2.5 lb, but there are many options that are less than 1 lb (and some are even solar powered)
Why: In addition to being a handy safety tool to have when the sun goes down, who doesn’t love a good game of flashlight tag, or spooky stories? You can also spot wildlife on the move or track the constellations under the night sky.
Where You Can Find It: Your local hardware store, outdoor equipment store, or drugstore
Weight: 6-10 oz
Why: I like multipurpose items, and you can’t get much more multipurpose than tape. It’s great to have around in case something rips, springs a hole, or needs reinforcement, but it also makes quite the handy surface for a Nature Bracelet craft that can be a memento of your outdoor adventure. You could even wrap the tape around your waist instead of your wrist and create a belt!
Where You Can Find It: Grocery store, drugstore, around the house
Don’t forget to add your imagination; it’s the key ingredient to making memorable outdoors moments no matter where you go. Happy camping!
If you’re getting outdoors this summer, don’t forget to take the pledge to camp! When you do, $1 for each camper will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000.]]>
National parks are great places to visit, and many offer gorgeous locales to participate in the Great American Campout.
Learn more about the following seven parks in the USA Today guide Saluting National Parks. Click here to download a free digital copy, and check out these and other sites across the country that offer great opportunities to camp! Who’s ready for a camping adventure?
Why You Should Camp Here: Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only national park, but one can easily see why the pristine, pure blue lake and stunning cliffs draw so many visitors to its gates. The park is open year-round and visitors can swim in the lake, fish for trout and salmon, hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, and cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter.
Visitor Information: The park is only closed in extremely inclement winter weather. Visitor information: 541-594-2211.
Why You Should Camp Here: Over the river and through the woods to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area we go! The Cumberland River and its tributaries run through the Area, providing 90 miles of waterways in which park goers can go whitewater rafting and canoeing. The park also has places for rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and tent, RV, and lodge camping.
Visitor Information: Big South Fork is open year round, although one of the campgrounds is closed in the winter. For more information, call 423-286-7275.
Why You Should Camp Here: If you are a fan of water sports, this park is for you! Instead of roads, Voyageurs National Park is connected by interconnected waterways. Camp visitors use boats, kayaks, and canoes to travel to campsites. Also the park is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a new, more efficient reservation system for campsites.
Visitor Information: Voyageurs National Park is located at 360 Minnesota Highway 11, international Falls. Visitor Information: 218-286-5258.
Why You Should Camp Here: The Grand Canyon is one of USA Today’s Top 10 National Parks. It offers breathtaking views and a variety of activities from taking free interpretive classes and treks with rangers to camping in lodges or campgrounds. This historic park area is larger than Rhode Island so there’s a lot to explore!
Visitor Information: The park is open year-round, however camping reservations are useful because the park can attract more than 4.5 million visitors each year. Visit nps.gov/grca for more information.
Why You Should Camp Here: To see glaciers, of course! There are over 1,000 glaciers in Glacier Bay Park – as well as ample fishing and birdwatching opportunities. Since Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is located on a bay, visitors can venture onto the water and kayak throughout the bay area during their camping trip.
Visitor Information: The visitor’s center is open from late May to early September. Visitor information: 907-697-2661.
Why You Should Camp Here: Grand Teton National Park offers some of the best mountain views in the nation. There are more than 200 miles of trails and plenty of places to take a dip in the Snake River. One of the most scenic areas is Schwabacher Landing, the highest peak in the park which provides lovely photo opportunities. Visitors can choose to stay in one of the five campgrounds, rustic cabins, dude ranches, and lodges.
Visitor Information: The park is open year around. Visit www.nps.gov/grte for more information.
Why You Should Camp Here: Assateague Island is a great beach camping destination. Visitors can choose to either camp on the bay side or ocean side and have a taste of the Chesapeake or the Atlantic. Assateague is most known for its wild horses and famous Chincoteague Wild Pony Swim and Auction held in July. Horse camping is even available for visitors from April to October.
Visitor Information: Camping reservations are needed from April to October. Click here to find out more camping information.
As you’re planning which national parks to visit this summer, take the pledge to camp! When you do, $1 for each camper will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000.]]>
At the end of his Louisiana adventure, Buchsbaum reflected, “What struck me was how fragile so many of the marshes are now, how much land has been lost, how much more is at risk – and how easy it is to fix this if everybody pulls together.”
Learn more about NWF’s work to restore the Mississippi River Delta and how you can help.]]>
When people think of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, they are more familiar with the concrete-lined, nearly waterless ditches featured in famous movies like Transformers, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Grease. Yet Los Angeles has a river large enough to kayak through, and along this river’s 51 mile course, nature still abounds.
To highlight that the natural world is very much present on the LA River–indeed in all of Los Angeles–and to promote this weekend’s Urban Nature Fest at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, we took two of the city’s wildlife celebrities, P22 and Ranger Rick, out for a kayak.Since mountain lions can’t paddle very well, Ranger Rick did most of the navigating, along with the help of our excellent guides from the Mountains and Conservation and Recreation Authority (MRCA), which manages recreational activities on the river. Lila Higgins, Manager of Citizen Science at the Museum, joined our crew, along with Kat Superfisky, a landscape designer and urban ecologist for Mia Lehrer + Associates, who originally conceived of the idea to get Ranger Rick out on the river paddling in a kayak.
“Reading Ranger Rick magazine as a child was what helped me develop into the environmentalist and advocate I am today, said Superfisky. “Sharing the amazing story that nature can and does exist in our cities is essential, and what better place to tell the story of urban nature than on the LA River!”Reporter Rob Hayes from ABC7 kayaked alongside Ranger Rick and P22 and you can watch his news segment below:
As for the celebrity wildlife on the trip, both enjoyed their excursion. Although Ranger Rick did have to take a break from paddling around a 130 pound cat. P22 told reporters he conquered his fear of water in hopes of raising awareness for the #SaveLACougars campaign, which aims to build the largest wildlife crossing in the world on the 101 Freeway outside of LA to help save a population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Said P22, “I think it shows how desperate I’ve become to allow a giant raccoon to paddle me up a river on a kayak so I can try to find a safe passage out of Griffith Park. I am not attempting those freeways again.”
Show your support for urban wildlife, and come meet Ranger Rick and “P22″ at this weekend’s LA Urban Nature Fest at the The Natural History Museum of LA County!
Lila Higgins, Manager of Citizen Science at the Museum, is excited about this new event. “Over the course of this upcoming weekend, Angelenos will be able to come down to the museum and be steeped in the nature that lives with us in the city—from meeting the scientists who discovered 30 new species of flies in LA to checking out the new LA River Rover and making art about urban nature.”
Our friends at Scholastic’s Parent & Child magazine have compiled some tips for first-time camping trips with young children that help you plan your trip, but once you’ve gotten to your site, make sure you’ve got plenty of things to do to make the most out of your time outdoors.
Here are a few tips for a family-friendly camping adventure:
The buzzing and chirping of the natural world can be drowned out by those coming from our smartphones and tablets. Set the electronics to silent and focus on all of the great things around you. But don’t worry about bringing your phone or camera out to snap a picture of some local wildlife to enter into the National Wildlife® Photo Contest or your own #campie (camping + selfie = campie) and share it with NWF on social media.
Open your eyes and ears to the sights around you. There are signs of the season popping up everywhere, and Ranger Rick’s Nature Notebook provides great tips to help train your senses to discover the world around you. The full moon frolic could be particularly fun with the area near your campsite.
Sharing stories in front of a campfire is a cornerstone of camping for a good reason. Inspiration from the outdoors can put your creativity on high gear and open your imagination to new and wonderful possibilities. Encourage your children to tell their own stories, and give them a little help with a story starter, like this one from the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.
Getting away from the normal ins and outs of our routine gives us a chance to take a moment and catch up with family and friends. One of my family’s favorite traditions when we’re all together is to let our competitive sides loose with endless hands of card games or checkers. We even have a giant roll-up checkers game that comes along for picnics and other trips, which you can also find on ShopNWF.org.
Whatever the way you do it, take your time outdoors to enjoy the people you’re spending it with.
When you pledge to camp this summer, $1 for each camper will be donated to protect the great outdoors for all Americans, up to $100,000.]]>
It can be difficult to capture the awe of the night sky with photos, but a few tips will hopefully make it easier.
Dawn and dusk are some of the most active times of day for wildlife, a treat if you can take a photo! Review a few expert tips for photographing sunrises and sunsets before heading out on your next adventure.
Be sure to enter your nature and wildlife images to the National Wildlife Photo Contest by July 1st!]]>