Tag Archives: boating

New River Gorge National River

Overview

Ironically, the New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world at 65-million years.  In the 50 miles from Bluestone Dam to Gauley Bridge it falls 750 feet in elevation, meaning it is full of Class I to V rapids that attract whitewater rafters from around the world.

New

Highlights

Bridge, scenic views, hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, free campgrounds

Must-Do Activity

Canyon Rim Visitor Center offers information and great views of the New River Gorge Bridge.  From there you can drive down the twisty road to the river.  Most visitors come here for whitewater rafting, so you should consider hiring a guide to take you out.

Best Trail

The Endless Wall Trail makes a 3-mile loop trail that provides great views of the New River Gorge and the bridge, as well as access to some of the park’s 1,600 rock climbing routes.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Completed in 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge is the second longest single-steel span in the world.  Highway 82 passes underneath where it rises 876 feet above the river.

IMGP5990.JPG

Peak Season

Summer (fall for whitewater rafting)

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, and even many of the NPS campgrounds are free.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads we drove were steep and windy but passable by passenger vehicles, probably not by RVs.

Camping

Gravel roads access 5 free primitive campgrounds and historic ruins like Thurmond Historic District.

Group shot!
Overlook on the Endless Wall Trail.

Scott (in red) along the Endless Wall trail

IMGP6012
Ladders provide a “less peligro” way for non-rock climbers to ascend the Endless Wall.
IMGP6030
Rhododendron bloom
IMGP5971
Some whitewater on the New River.

Morning fog along the New River gorge

Tiff swimming in the New River
There are lots of rapids, except here at Stone Cliff primitive campground.

Explore More – Annually, what day is the bridge closed to allow BASE jumpers and rappelers to play on it?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

Overview

Lake Chelan is fifty-five miles long and 1,486 feet in depth, the third deepest lake in the U.S.  At the north end of the lake (inaccessible by road), Stehekin, Washington has only about 100 year-round residents.  Daily ferries service the community, which is the jumping off point for the mountain trails of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and North Cascades National Park.

July Oregon 411.JPG

Highlights

Ferry, Stehekin, Rainbow Falls, backpacking trails

Must-Do Activity

Stehekin is too fun for a brief day trip, so we recommend you book a room or pick up overnight backpacking permits at the Golden West Visitor Center in town.  Then hop on the red jammer-style bus that provides transportation to the trailheads, including the short hike to Rainbow Falls.  Nearby, the old one-room schoolhouse is open to visitors since it was replaced by a more modern building.  Don’t miss the chance to sample the delicious variety of baked goods at Stehekin Pastry Company.  After backpacking the many steep switchbacks, you will need the extra calories.

Best Trail

There are several great loop options, but we enjoyed hooking into the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail then back south over McAlester Pass to Rainbow Creek Trail on a two night backpacking trip.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The beautiful Lake Chelan is known for its clarity and its fjord-like proportions, which you can best enjoy on the ferry ride to Stehekin.

July Oregon 297.JPG

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/stehekin.htm

Fees

No entrance fee, but there are charges for the ferry, bus, and backcountry campsites.

Road Conditions

No roads, so you will be walking or paying to take the red jammer-style bus out of Stehekin.

Camping

Purple Point and Harlequin Campgrounds are off the main road north of Stehekin, but since you have to pack in all of your gear on the ferry you may as well camp at one of the backcountry sites (permit required) along the many trails in the area.

July Oregon 515

July Oregon 309

July Oregon 316

July Oregon 466

July Oregon 507
In good snowmelt years, expect to get sprayed when visiting Rainbow Falls.
July Oregon 493
From 1921-1988, all grade levels were taught in this tiny schoolhouse in Stehekin.

July Oregon 511

Explore More – How far below sea level is the bottom of Lake Chelan?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

Big Bend National Park

Overview

The park is named for a curve in the Rio Grande which forms the international border with Mexico.  This corner of Texas is not easy to get to, so when you do decide to visit plan on staying for at least a few days.  The weather can be very pleasant in the winter months.

Bend

Highlights

Chisos Basin, Hot Springs, Balanced Rock, Santa Elena Canyon Overlook

Must-Do Activity

Located down a short dirt road from Rio Grande Village Campground, a quick walk takes you to a riverside hot springs, a great spot to relax after a day of hiking in the dry Texas desert.  While soaking there, you are literally a stone’s throw from another country.

Best Trail

From Chisos Basin it is a short two mile canyon hike to The Window for a gunsight view to the west.  This trail is especially popular at sunset.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The most popular back road is Grapevine Hills Road which accesses the short Balanced Rock Trail and passes a couple of the most accessible of the 70 primitive backcountry car campsites (which require a permit from a visitor center).

Z March Texas 188

Peak Season

Spring and fall, but we have had good weather during visits in December and early March.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$30 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

We found that many of the dirt roads are passable with a mini-van, but some are four-wheel-drive only, so check with a ranger first.

Camping

There are many choices of campgrounds and backcountry campsites (permit required) throughout the park, but we recommend the Chisos Basin for its roadrunners and nightly ranger programs.

Z March Texas 218
The trail to Balanced Rock is also beautiful, especially in the golden hours.

Z Christmas 2011 329

Z 148-0BIBE
Hot springs on the Rio Grande (with Mexico in the background)
Z 151-Christmas 2011 373 - Copy
View looking west through The Window.

Z 155-0BIBE3

Z March Texas 096
The ruins of Mariscal Mine make for a neat place to explore.
LR BIBE
This design we created to celebrate Big Bend National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – What rare migrant bird do birders annually “flock” to see in this park?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE …TWICE

Congaree National Park

Overview

The last uncut bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast was originally preserved as Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976 then became a National Park in 2003.  These forests once covered 52-million acres of the southeastern United States and today this park contains some of the tallest examples of its native tree species in the world.

Congaree.JPG

Highlights

Baldcypress trees with knees, hiking, birding, paddling

Must-Do Activity

Hop in a canoe or kayak to explore remote sections of this primeval forest.  As you might imagine, all of this standing water is a great breeding ground for mosquitoes; just another reason to come in the winter.  At the visitor center, a handy rating system helps prepare you for the onslaught or the “All clear.”

Best Trail

Even if the ground is flooded, stick to the wheelchair accessible boardwalk and you can still hike through the forest for 2.4 miles without getting your feet wet.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Our favorite tree here is the baldcypress, one of the few deciduous conifer trees (meaning it loses all its needles every autumn).  Baldcypress trees are famous for their “knees” which rise from their roots up to seven feet in the air, helping the roots breathe when underwater.

37-[000308].jpg

Peak Season

We prefer the winter when mosquitoes are absent, but anytime is good at this park that only saw 159,595 visitors in 2017.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cong/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, except right at the Cedar Creek Landing boat launch.

Camping

Longleaf Campground has 8 sites and Bluff Campsite has three about a mile from the visitor center.  Backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit.

30 IMGP0923
Paddle a kayak or canoe for a special look into these primeval floodplain forests.

30 IMGP0943

31-[003593]
Winter is a good time to visit if you want to avoid the “ruthless” mosquitoes.
33-[000274]
The boardwalk keeps your feet dry even if the forest is flooded.
35-[000477]

36-[003650]

30 IMGP0944

LR CONG.jpg
This design we created to celebrate Congaree National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How tall are the record-holding water tupelo, cherrybark oak, and swamp hickory trees in the park?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Overview

In 1976, Platt National Park was combined with the nearby reservoir at Arbuckle National Recreation Area to form Chickasaw National Recreation Area, named for the neighboring Chickasaw Nation of central Oklahoma.  The trails and infrastructure in the park were predominantly built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Chickasaw.JPG

Highlights

Natural springs, bison herd, Lincoln Bridge, reservoir

Must-Do Activity

Visitors should start at the Travertine Nature Center, then visit the bison pasture and “take the waters” at Vendome Well.  Other diverse recreational opportunities include camping and water sports on the Lake of the Arbuckles.

Best Trail

Take the trail from the Travertine Nature Center to Antelope Springs and photogenic Buffalo Springs.  There is also loop trail around the bison pasture.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The U.S. Mint quarter (see photo below) for Oklahoma depicts the Lincoln Bridge built by the CCC, but it can be difficult to photograph through the trees.

IMGP1910

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/chic/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, except in Bluestem Prairie.

Camping

Multiple campgrounds, including several on the shores of the Lake of the Arbuckles.

IMGP1892
The adventurous road to Travertine Nature Center.
IMGP1896
There is a lot to learn inside the Travertine Nature Center.

IMGP1894

IMGP1907

IMGP1899

IMGP1898
The acorn caps from bur oak trees are huge.
IMGP1912
You have to try the sulphurous water fountain at Vendome Well.

Explore More – What was the original name for this federally protected area in 1902?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.