Fun Travels Across the United States
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George S. Mickelson Trail
Hiking and biking in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a joy, particularly since 109-miles are available which enables enthusiasts to see the Hills from a different perspective. Try the George S. Mickelson Trail in the heart of the Black Hills, for here one can experience landscapes and wildlife that can’t be seen from the highway. The trail’s gentle slopes and easy access allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the beauty, and the trail is a Rails-to-Trails project that follows the historic Deadwood to Edgemont Burlington Northern rail line. There are more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four hard rock tunnels along the trail which was originally named the Black Hills Burlington Northern Heritage Trail and supported in its infancy by the then South Dakota Gov. George S. Mickelson. Mickelson played an integral role in the trail’s early success, and he dedicated the first six miles of the trail in 1991. Following his untimely death in 1993, the trail was renamed in his honor.
The trail is rider- and user-friendly, and according to Jessica Andrews, Information Specialist with the South Dakota Division of Parks and Recreation, recent improvements include potable water sites, interpretive panels, and 13 new shelters. The panels focus on the history of the rails-to-trails trail project, including information on plants, wildlife and the history of Black Hills mining, logging, and the Burlington-Northern Railroad. An annual Mickelson Trail Trek is held each September when riders can receive information.
Write to 11361 Nevada Gulch Road, Lead, SD 57754 or go online at www.mickelsontrail.com for information on the Trek, and for more details on bicycling and hiking in South Dakota, contact South Dakota Adventures, 711 E. Wells Avenue, Pierre, SD 57501; 1-800-S-DAKOTA.
Black Hills Underground Wilderness
Deep in a limestone labyrinth below the Black Hills of South Dakota lays a vast underground wilderness where no man has yet walked. Even as explorers map new passageways through these caves, the National Park Service offers family adventures that provide a glimpse into these unique and fascinating attractions.
Wind Cave National Park --
the first cave ever protected by the federal government, now ranks as the fourth-longest cave in the world and includes the world’s best example of a rare calcite formation called boxwork. Boxwork, a honeycomb formation that hangs from the walls and ceilings, is composed of thin calcite fins. Nearby Jewel Cave National Monument ranks as the second-longest cave in the world with an underground maze of "jewel-like" Dogtooth and Nailhead Spar crystals.
"Air volume studies reveal that the known portion of the passageway in Wind Cave may constitute less than five percent of what is actually there," said Tom Farrell, chief of interpretation for Wind Cave National Park. "Two of the largest caves in the world are located here in the Black Hills, making this a great place to experience some spectacular caves."
Visitors of all experience levels can enjoy adventures ranging from tours to caving expeditions that last several hours. Wind Cave National Park is situated on 28,295 acres of rolling grasslands, home to native wildlife such as bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, and prairie dogs, and is located 65 miles southwest of Rapid City on Highways 385 and 87. Jewel Cave National Monument is located 53 miles southwest of Rapid City on Highway 16.
For more information, check web site www.nps.gov/wica or contact the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau at 605-718-8489. For details about the surrounding areas and other vacation opportunities, check the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at www.visitrapidcity.com or email Media@RapidCityCVB.com.
Taking Turkey and Geese in South Dakota
When spring comes around, think goose and turkey because hunters are anticipating another bountiful season. 2010 should provide fun-filled, action-packed hunts because this previous season was so excellent. Tony Leif, game harvest surveys coordinator for Game, Fish and Parks, feels that "An increase in statewide turkey numbers will make it easier on hunters this spring. More turkeys are being released in the eastern part of the state, and the Black Hills always presents opportunities for hunters looking to bag a turkey." He also feels that the spring season is "very weather dependent, but with the mild weather experienced so far, he's anticipating another outstanding spring for geese. Hunting dates for these two seasons should be similar to those of recent years, with turkey season beginning in April and ending in late May, and light goose season beginning in February and running until early May. Specific dates will be announced this November.
For more information, check web sites www.TravelSD.com or www.HuntinSD.com.
Free Bird Spotting Brochures Available for South Dakota
Birdwatching is a continuously growing pastime in South Dakota each year. Each of the state's 54 state parks and recreation areas offer bird-watching opportunities, but several parks consistently produce those rare sightings sought by the avid birder. Birdwatching changes with the seasons. Enthusiasts can spot the greatest diversity of species in state parks and recreation areas during the spring and fall migrations. Spring migration, however, is a time when the male b irds can be spotted displaying their colorful breeding plumage. Union Grove State Park, northeast of Vermillion, is known as one of the best areas to observe the spring migration of wood warblers and other Neotropical migrants. Male birds will be actively singing during the summer breeding season running late May through early July.
The time of day is also important. The peak period of activity for most species is from one hour before to two hours after sunrise, although some species are most active just before sunset. The South Dakota office of Tourism and the Department of Game, Fish and Parks, have developed several helpful books and brochures to aid birders throughout the state. The "Bird Watching Guide for South akota State Parks" is a useful tool for beginning birders, highlighting birdwatching basics and the best locations to spot rare species. The Glacial Lakes and Prairies, and Southeast South Dakota Birding Trail Guides provide visitors with maps, hot-spots, and tips on how to have an excellent birding experience in the state.
A wide variety of programs are also open to birding enthusiasts, and normally host about 30 to 40 people and each highlights a different interesting aspect of birdwatching.
For more information, check web site www.TravelSD.com, or to request these and other free publications.
© 2010-2019 Arline Zatz
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