Tag Archives: swimming

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.

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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.

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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

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Ladders provide a “less peligro” way for non-rock climbers to ascend the Endless Wall.
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Rhododendron bloom
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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?

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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The acorn caps from bur oak trees are huge.
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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?

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Cape Lookout National Seashore

Overview

There are no roads in North Carolina’s Cape Lookout National Seashore, but vehicles can drive the beach nearly the entire 56-mile length of these Outer Banks barrier islands.  A passenger ferry leaves from Beaufort, North Carolina to access the Shackleford Banks where feral horses reside.  Cape Lookout is on the South Core Banks, a great spot for camping, surf fishing, kite flying, and beachcombing.  This island is accessible aboard a passenger ferry from Harkers Island and a vehicle ferry from Davis.

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Highlights

Historic lighthouse, undeveloped beaches, seashells, beach camping

Must-Do Activity

If you enjoy beach camping, then you must spend at least one night on the islands.  Go beachcombing in the morning after watching the sunrise light up Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Best Trail

There are boardwalks around the ferry landing and lighthouse, otherwise just walk the beaches.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The majestic 163-foot tall Cape Lookout Lighthouse (wearing argyle) is the icon of this national seashore and looks best at sunset and sunrise.

The lighthouse sticking out of the low fog
Find this photo and many others for sale on Imagekind.

Peak Season

Summer (if there is not a hurricane forecast)

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/calo/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

Free to visit and camp, $16 roundtrip per adult for passenger ferry, sometimes a charge to climb to the top of the lighthouse

Road Conditions

Paved to the ferry docks in Beaufort and Harkers Island, sandy on outer islands (4×4 required)

Camping

Camping is free on the beaches, but unless you have your own boat you will need to pay for a ferry ride out there.  The oceanfront section of beach near Cape Lookout Lighthouse is closed to vehicles, making it perfect for backpackers.

Our campsite

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Pelican at sunrise

Tiff with her collection of shells she found
Seashell hunting out here is great; and yes, the National Park Service allows you to take a reasonable amount home.

Short billed dowitchers

Lighthouse reflection

Explore More – When was the Cape Lookout Lighthouse built?

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Overview

The turquoise waters of Lake Superior beneath the sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make it seem warmer than it actually is.  Glaciers carved this shoreline thousands of years ago, but the Ice Age never seems far off in the lake’s cold waters.  Minerals leaching from the stone paint the cliffs in many hues, hence the name Pictured Rocks.

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Highlights

Petit Portal, Miners Castle, Munising Falls, Sable Falls

Must-Do Activity

Kayaking through Petit Portal is an unforgettable experience.  Guides can provide the necessary gear and know-how, as well as commercial boat operators that get close to but do not actually pass through the natural arch.

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Best Trail

Not far from the visitor center is a short trail to Munising Falls, one of several waterfalls in this 42-mile stretch of shoreline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It will be hard to maintain a flat horizon line while bobbing on the waves in your kayak as you pass through Petit Portal, so take plenty of pictures.

Peak Season

Primarily a summer destination, but even then be prepared for sudden storms that can suddenly blow across Lake Superior.

Hours

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

Fees

No entry fee, but there is a charge for backcountry camping permits that are only available online.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved (to our knowledge).

Camping

Three campgrounds, plus 14 backcountry camping areas in the National Lakeshore.  More backcountry campsites can be found offshore in Grand Island National Recreation Area, administered by Hiawatha National Forest, which also offers dispersed camping opportunities.

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Tiff with the Petit Portal

Colors like Yellowstone

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Munising Falls
Munising Falls near the south Visitor Center

Explore More – What valuable mineral stains the sandstone cliffs green and blue?

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Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Overview

A 20th-century battleground east of Chicago between industrialists seeking to build more steel mills and conservationists wanting to preserve natural diversity, in 1966 Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was created as a compromise between the opposing sides.  Its scattered bogs and dunes surround a beachside state park on Lake Michigan that dates back to the 1920s, with an Art Deco bathhouse dating to that era.

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Highlights

West Beach, Mount Baldy, Glenwood Dunes Trail, heron rookery

Must-Do Activity

It is worth the price of admission to access the trail system within Indiana Dunes State Park to complete the 3 Dunes Challenge.  Take your photos back to the joint NPS-State Park visitor center to claim your prizes.

Best Trail

Cowles Bog Trail covers 5 rugged miles and accesses an isolated beach with views of the Chicago skyline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Beach grasses with a backdrop of a steel mill are a surreal mix on the Cowles Bog Trail.

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Peak Season

The park is open year round, with the Lake Michigan beaches attracting crowds in the summer.

Hours

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

Fees

No admission for most of the National Lakeshore, except $6 per vehicle for summer lifeguards at West Beach and $12 per vehicle day use fee year round to enter Indiana Dunes State Park.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved.

Camping

While it is not on the beach, we enjoyed the quiet Dunewood Campground (fee) with its hot showers.

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Historic bathhouse at Indiana Dunes State Park.
Climbing the dunes - there was a hiking challenge, so we had to do it
Tiff hiking up a sand dune.
A view of Chicago from the dunes
The Chicago skyline is visible from the beach.

Baby geese!

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Dunewood Campground

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Explore More – Mount Baldy stands 126 feet tall, but how much shorter is that than Mount Tom in neighboring Indiana Dunes State Park?

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