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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Earth Day and National Park Week in the Smokies

Image: National Park Service

This Saturday, April 22 is Earth day (Earth Day began on April 22, 1970) as well as the beginning of National Park Week. National Park Week (April, 22-30, 2006) is an annual week designated to celebrate national parks. This year's theme is Connecting Our Children to America's National Parks.

At the Great Smoky Mountains National Park they will kick off National Park Week on a positive note with Junior Ranger programs for children, ages 5 to 12 years, and their families.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Reservations are required for the following programs by calling 497-1942.

Walk on the Wild Side - 9-11 a.m. Children will become a nature detective and investigate animal sign, tracks and scat
Explore, Learn, Have Fun: A Family Approach to Hiking in a National Park - 1-3 p.m. Families will learn about wildlife, wildflowers and cultural history.

Appalachian Toys - 2:30-4 p.m. Learn about turn of the 20th century toys and make a "buzz button" to take home.

Sugarlands Visitor Center
Reservations are required for the following programs by calling (865) 436-1292.

Creepy Critters - 9-11 a.m. Use equipment like "sucky-uppy-things," water nets and a video microscope to delve into the dark and mysterious world of salamanders, bugs and macroinvertebrates.

 Nuts for Nature: Nature Adventures for Families - 1-3 p.m. Take an easy, one-mile nature walk geared towards outdoor adventures for families.

Cades Cove Visitor Center
No reservations required. Meet in front of the Cades Cove Mill Area.

Black Bears in the Smokies- 12:30-1 p.m. Learn about the most popular mammal in the Park and how bears survive in the Smokies.

Animal Olympics- 1:30-2 p.m. Discover the fascinating abilities of animals on how they live, eat, and survive in the wild.

Mountain Toys- 2:30-3 p.m. See the creativity and craftsmanship of "old-timey toys" and discover how children of years ago spent time.

The Junior Ranger Program guides children to learn about everything from animal tracks and trees to finding out about the park's history.

As a reward, children who complete the program, which involves completing an activity booklet and participating in a ranger-led program, will earn a Junior Ranger badge.

The National Park Foundation, Unilever Co., the Aloca Foundation, Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Great Smoky Mountains Association recently provided additional funding to assist the park in upgrading and improving the popular Junior Ranger Program, which serves about 4,500 children annually.

Image right: National Park Service

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park you will find ridge upon ridge of endless forest which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park.

Wildflowers are heralding the arrival of spring in the park. Blue phlox, bloodroot, trillium, hepatica, columbine, trout lilies, and many other wildflowers are blooming at low elevation. The most abundant displays of spring wildflowers bloom in mid to late April at low elevation and into May at high elevation.

Spring brings unpredictable weather to the park. Changes occur rapidly — sunny skies can yield to blustery rains in a few hours. At higher elevations spring storms may force the temporary closure of US-441, which travels over the mountains between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC. Click for information about road closures.

Anytime is a wonderful time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and this Saturday, April 22 will be the most perfect of times. If you can make the trip do it…you won’t regret it and the children will have an experience that will stay with them their entire lives!

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