USDA Forest Service

Caring for the Land and Serving People


Special Places

A Travel and Tourism Planner’s Guide to Your National Forests

October 2002

Volume 2, Issue 1


Message from the Chief

Sustainable Tourism – The Tread Lightly! Partnership


America’s national forests and grasslands are the “golden crown” of outdoor settings where national and international visitors can enjoy premier adventure travel and ecotourism recreation. The national forests and grasslands offer everything from a dinosaur tracksite in southeastern Colorado and a living history farm in Tennessee, to North America’s largest coastal sand dunes in Oregon and a voyageur canoe on Lake Superior.

I invite you to enjoy the many Special Places on our national forests and grasslands. However, I know that—by inviting you—we must also ensure that the price of popularity does not impact the very values that make these places special in the first place. That is why I am proud the USDA Forest Service is a partner with the Tread Lightly! organization.

Tread Lightly! was launched in 1985 by the Forest Service and has since become a not-for-profit organization. The Tread Lightly! program is about leaving a good impression—both on the land where we recreate and with the nearby communities. Its sole purpose is to educate users and tourism providers on how to minimize the impact our recreational activities have, while still enjoying the great outdoors. The educational materials are geared to different uses, such as four wheeling, mountain biking, snowmobiling, and boating.


Travel and tourism industries perform an important public service by delivering the right information to visitors at the right time for proper trip planning. By encouraging responsible tourism, our Special Places will be available to outdoor enthusiasts for years to come.


Accessing Our Special Places

By inviting you to our Special Places, I must also ensure that our services and facilities are accessible to people of all abilities. Accessibility is an issue that does—or will—affect each of us, either directly or through family or friends.  Since the early 1990s, the Forest Service has worked to integrate accessibility into our services and facilities. Today, we are rededicating ourselves to this effort.


Come on out and enjoy the great outdoors. These are your Special Places!


Dale N. Bosworth


The Tread Lightly! message is simple:


T - Travel and recreate with minimum impact

R - Respect the environment and rights of others         

E - Educate yourself. Plan and prepare before you go

A - Allow for future use of the outdoors. “Leave it better than you found it”

D - Discover the rewards of responsible recreation


For more information and to ask for the Tread Lightly packet for tourism providers, contact the Tread Lightly! office in Ogden, UT, at 1-800-966-9900, or visit their Web site:


A Note About Recreation Fees


You will notice that many of the Special Places in this publication charge fees. Most of these sites are under the Recreation Fee Demonstration program, authorized by Congress in 1996. Under this program, fees collected at a particular site are reinvested at that site to improve facilities, services, and resources. Since 1996, more than $123 million has been collected and reinvested in campgrounds, trails, public safety, parking areas, and restrooms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has found that, in general, the public accepts and even supports recreation fees when they see direct benefits to the site where they’ve paid the fees. By maintaining our recreation attractions we are also helping gateway communities sustain and improve their tourism industries.


Outdoor Recreation Links to the World Wide Web (recreation information on all national forests and grasslands) (interagency recreation activities information for Federal land) (National Recreation Reservation Service) (information on Scenic Byways throughout the Nation)


The Way the West Was


A drive along the 44-mile Pioneer Mountains National Forest Scenic Byway in southwest Montana is like looking through a window into the past, the way the west was.  Follow the Pioneer Mountains Byway to ghost towns, silver mills, historic railroads, and ranches.

For the first European settlers of this area, survival meant battling drought, floods, insects, and blizzards. It meant riding horseback 60 miles to summon the doctor, returning home only to find loved ones already dead. Thanks to their perseverance, early homesteaders left a legacy of courage, adaptability, and faith, and paved the way for those to come.

At Mono Campground, turn off onto a side road to the Coolidge Ghost Town, and Elkhorn Mine and Mill.  There, you’ll be standing on the bed of the old Montana Southern Railway, built to transport silver ore.  Believed to be the last narrow-gauge railroad constructed in the lower 48, the railroad operated for only 8 short years before the Pettengill Dam ruptured, washing out major sections of the railroad.  

 A stop at Crystal Park will yield one of the most unique experiences in the National Forest System. Here you can dig for lovely quartz and amethyst crystals, most of them around 2 inches long.  The area is open during daylight hours from about May 15 to October 15 (depending on the snow), and all facilities are accessible. Bring your shovel and a sense of discovery.

After spending a morning digging for crystals, you may need a soak at the Elk Horn Hot Springs Resort, about 6 miles down the road.  You’ll find a small pool, lodging in rustic cabins, and a café.


At Grasshopper Overlook, you can gaze over country that has been traversed by Indians, picked over by gold prospectors, tamed by generations of ranchers, and cherished by modern recreationists.  Montana’s first great gold rush in 1862 near Bannack brought over 5,000 people to this valley in less than a year. Those who stayed after the rush found cattle ranching a more secure venture than gold mining. Today, ranching remains much the same in Grasshopper Valley as it was more than 100 years ago.

For more information, contact:

Wise River Ranger District

 P.O. Box 100

Wise River, MT 59762

(406) 832-3178

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

420 Barrett St.

Dillon, MT 59725-3572

(406) 683-3900 or

(406) 683-3913 (recorded

information line)

     Or take a virtual tour of the byway by visiting:


Earthquake Lake Visitor Center


On August 17, 1959, the earth moved and a mountain fell in southwestern Montana. The Hebgen Lake Earthquake triggered a massive landslide that roared down the mountain at 100 mph. In less than 1 minute, over 80 million tons of rock crashed into the narrow canyon, blocking the Madison River and forming Earthquake Lake. Twenty-eight people lost their lives.

Today, the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center provides a panoramic view of the mountain and lake that formed from the slide. The center features exhibits on seismographs, earthquakes, the phenomenon of Earthquake Lake, a video, and interpretive talks. Outside, numerous interpretive displays line an accessible walkway. Honoring those who died in the earthquake, a short, but steep, trail leads to Memorial Boulder above the center. An auto tour in the area expands the experience even more.

The majority of the center is accessible and open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Memorial Day to mid-September. Visitors are charged $3 per car, $15 per tour bus, or $1 per hiker or biker.


For more information, contact:

Gallatin National Forest

Hebgen Lake Ranger District

P.O. Box 520, Highway 191

West Yellowstone, MT 59758

Ranger District: (406) 823-6961 (Voice/TTY)

Visitor Center: (406) 682-7620 (Memorial Day to mid-September)



Footprints in the Sands of Time


In the Purgatoire River valley in southeastern Colorado lies an area that is uniquely rich—in dinosaur tracks. Over 1,300 footprints from as many as 100 different animals have been discovered along a 1/2-mile stretch of river, making it the largest tracksite in North America.

During the Jurassic period, 150 million years ago, this part of Colorado had a tropical climate, sprouting forests of tree ferns, gingkos, and sequoia trees. An enormous shallow lake with a muddy shoreline provided the perfect place for dinosaurs, such as apatosaurs and allosaurs, to leave testimony of their existence. One can easily see the tracks of brontosaurs walking side by side along the ancient lakeshore, making this one of the few places in the world where evidence of herding behavior in dinosaurs is preserved. Little did these creatures know the sensation their muddy footprints would create 150 million years later!


The tracksite lies within the floodplain of a wide canyon, with stunning scenery all around. According to legend, a group of Spanish soldiers died in the Purgatoire River valley while looking for lost treasures in the 17th century. Without the benefits of clergy to perform their last rites, these men became lost souls, banished to Purgatory. By the 18th century, French hunters and trappers began settling the area, and the French pronunciation was corrupted into Picketwire.


The Picketwire Canyonlands are also rich in historic resources. Native Americans thrived here for thousands of years, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of petroglyphs (rock art). Hundreds of years later, ranching flourished in the open range of the canyonlands. The Rourke Ranch, one of the most successful in the southwest, still remains. The high-quality workmanship and architecture of the buildings (mostly adobe and jacal style) earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The remains of the Dolores Mission and Cemetery may also be viewed, giving visitors a sense of the rough, but peaceful life in the canyonlands.

In order to provide access into this rugged country, the Comanche National Grassland offers guided auto tours for up to 25 people at a time into Picketwire Canyonlands. Visitors must provide their own four-wheel-drive, high-clearance vehicle. Tours may be taken on Saturdays in May, June, September, and October for $15 per adult. In addition to sharing the phenomenon of the dinosaur legacy, tour guides help visitors understand how to Tread Lightly! in this special area. For the hardy, hiking trails offer foot access as well.


For more information about the area or specific accessibility needs, call: Comanche National Grassland

1420 E. 3rd Street

La Junta, CO 81050

(719) 384-2181


Shell Falls Interpretive Site


Shell Falls is the thundering heartbeat of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. The dynamic force of water against rock has resulted in a roaring waterfall that gushes over some of the oldest rocks on Earth. Over a billion years of geologic history are exposed at Shell Falls, where water has incised a deep chasm in the land. The thudding sensation of falling water can be felt through the soles of your feet, but the water’s voice has a way of soothing the traveler.

The Shell Falls Interpretive Site is on the Big Horn Scenic Byway, one of three scenic byways in the Bighorn National Forest. The site includes a cliff-side waterfall viewing bridge, an outdoor interpretive plaza, restrooms, a bookstore, and a 1/8-mile self-guided trail to the falls—all fully accessible. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the site is staffed daily, and numerous interpretive programs are offered. (The staff even provides a unique singing entertainment that has become a highlight for many tour bus companies!) For the remainder of the year, visitors may walk to the falls and enjoy the outdoor exhibits, but the other facilities are closed.

For more information, contact the Bighorn National Forest at:

Medicine Wheel/Paintrock        Ranger District

604 East Main Street

Lovell, WY 82431

(307) 548-6541 (for general forest information)


Santa Catalina MountainsAn Island in the Sky


Southeastern Arizona is a land of striking contrasts and stunning scenery. Massive, pine-clad mountains rise abruptly from an ocean of desert, creating an “Island in the Sky”—the Santa Catalina Mountains. Temperatures here are often 30 degrees cooler than the deserts below. And, there is more natural diversity in these mountains than in any area of comparable size in the continental United States. Over 600 animal species make their home here, from black bears and gila monsters to peregrine falcons and ringtail cats.

Just north of Tucson, the Santa Catalina Mountains rise from the Sonoran Desert to an elevation of 9,157 feet, offering a wide variety of year-round recreation opportunities. The two most popular areas are Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon. Both of these special places offer many recreational opportunities, for people of all abilities.

In Sabino Canyon, visitors will find beautiful views of the mountains, towering rocky cliffs, and lush ribbons of green along the creek. Sabino Canyon is closed to private vehicles, so visitors park at the visitor center and walk, or ride an accessible shuttle, 3.7 miles into the canyon. 

The Sky Island Scenic Byway, one of the most scenic highways in the Southwest, accesses Mt. Lemmon. The byway winds through a land of breathtaking vistas, outlandish rockscapes, cool mountain forests, and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts. Driving the byway is the biological equivalent of a trip from Mexico to Canada in a mere 25 miles. Every turn reveals something new. At the top,  visitors can enjoy Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, where you can ski in the winter and take a skyride the remainder of the year. The village of Summerhaven also rests at the summit.


Accessible facilities on Mt. Lemmon include Palisades Visitor Center, Rose Canyon Lake, most vista points, many restrooms and picnic areas, and the General Hitchcock Campground. Descriptive audiocassettes of the byway are available at the Tucson-Pima libraries.

Parking fees for Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon are $5 per day or $10 per week per vehicle. An annual pass valid at both sites is $20. There is an additional fee to ride the Sabino Canyon shuttle ($6 per adult and $2.50 per child), and reservations are recommended for groups and people with disabilities.

For additional information, contact:

Coronado National Forest

Santa Catalina Ranger District

5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road

Tucson, AZ 85750

(520) 749-8700 (voice and TTY)

(520) 749-2327 (reservations for groups, or people with disabilities)


Sabino Canyon Visitor Center


Start your visit to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area with a stop at the fully accessible Sabino Canyon Visitor Center. Although open year round, visitors are encouraged to plan their trip in the summer months, when the area is less crowded and the canyon provides a cool respite from the desert floor.


The center houses new exhibits, including a floor model of Sabino Creek. Hands-on exhibits give visitors the chance to closely examine a saguaro boot, a cactus wren nest, sand rubies, and more. Visitors can learn about the six seasons of Sabino Canyon, as well as “alien invaders.” One of the more fascinating exhibits is a tree slice from a Douglas fir that was 300 years old when it died.


 Outside the center, you can take a stroll along the accessible 1/2-mile Bajada Loop Trail. From the trail you can view magnificent mountains and unique desert plants. A self-guiding trail brochure is available at the visitor center.


The Sabino Canyon shuttle starts from the visitor center and runs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, contact the Coronado National Forest at the address shown in the accompanying article. Or visit its Web site at:


A Land Above the Ordinary


It’s hard not to speak in superlatives when referring to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (NRA)—located in the heart of Idaho. At 750,000 acres, the Sawtooth NRA is the largest national recreation area in the National Forest System. Four mountain ranges offer scenic vistas every way you look. The Ice Age architecture of stiletto peaks, steep-walled cirques, and tree-carpeted moraines delight both the photographer and the geologist. 


Although it is a recreation area by name, it offers much more than just a place to play. The Sawtooth NRA was established to assure the preservation and protection of the natural, scenic, historic, pastoral, fish and wildlife    values, as well as to provide for the enhancement of the recreation values associated therewith.


The fish and wildlife values are indeed rich. Over 1,000 miles of streams and more than 1,100 lakes provide habitat for native fish populations, some of which have migrated more than 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean to spawn here. The area’s forests, valleys, and alpine ridges are also home to 300 species of wildlife, such as mountain goats, elk, moose, wolves, bears, and sandhill cranes. The presence of eight threatened or endangered species attests to the important role the area plays in conservation efforts. 


Humans have a long history in the Sawtooth area. Native American hunters visited the Redfish Lake area 9,500 years ago, using the Redfish Rock Shelter as cover while they searched for elk, deer, antelope, and salmon. As European settlers entered the area, they built mines, homesteads, and cabins for ranching operations. Several of these structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Access to this extraordinary area is by way of three scenic byways (Sawtooth, Ponderosa Pine, and Salmon River). A series of auto tape tours has been developed for all three of the byways. Along these roads, there are numerous scenic overlooks that can accommodate large RVs and buses.


Two national recreation trails offer short, self-guided interpretive experiences for users of all abilities: the Fishhook Creek Boardwalk at Redfish Lake and the Wood River Nature Trail located in Wood River Campground.


Because of the Sawtooth NRA’s popularity, visitors are encouraged to Tread Lightly! in this special area.  When you visit the Sawtooth, remember to “leave it better than you found it.”

The best place to start your visit is at one of the USDA Forest Service visitor centers (see accompanying article).  You may also contact the Sawtooth NRA at:

HC 64, Box 8291

Ketchum, ID 83340

(208) 727-5000 or 1-800-260-5970



Sawtooth NRA North Fork

Visitor Center


Individuals and groups will find the North Fork Visitor Center to be a good starting point to plan their exploration of the Sawtooth NRA. Located 8 miles north of Ketchum, the visitor center houses interpretive exhibits and offers trip planning assistance. There is also a small theater where visitors can select from a wide variety of videos about the natural and cultural history of the area.  The North Fork Visitor Center is open year round, with daily activities and evening campfire programs offered throughout the year.


For more information, or to arrange a presentation for your group, contact the visitor center at the address or phone number located at the bottom of the accompanying article.

 In addition to the North Fork Visitor Center, the Redfish Lake Visitor Center is open during the summer months.


The Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway—On the Edge


When you visit the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway, you will find yourself “on the edge” in more ways than one! The sheer rise of the Sierra Nevada creates a sharp edge thousands of feet above the basins below. This crest catches moisture-laden clouds from the Pacific Ocean, casting a rain shadow on the land to the east, creating dramatic contrasts. As you travel the byway, you’ll be on the geological edge of the eastern sierra escarpment, the ecological edge of the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada, and the cultural edge of survival of both historic and contemporary cultures and communities.


This region is home to both the lowest and highest points in the conterminous United States. Only 80 miles separate the lowest point in Death Valley National Park from the highest, Mt. Whitney.


The 250-mile-long byway provides access to nine different visitor centers and museums, and numerous special areas. Highlights include:

The majestic Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area—with unearthly limestone tufa spires—and thousands of migratory birds.

Devil’s Postpile National Monument—with volcanic “postpiles” of columnar basalt and Rainbow Falls on the beautiful San Joaquin River.

The Ancient Bristlecone Scenic Byway and Schulman Grove Visitor Center that showcase the phenomenon of the world’s oldest living trees, 4,000- to 5,000-year-old Great Basin Bristlecone Pines.

Access to Tioga Pass Scenic Byway, which leads up a spectacular canyon to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada in Yosemite National Park.


Many of the facilities along the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway are accessible. A visit to will give you site-by-site information on accessible features.


An excellent time to visit the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway is in the fall when canyons and mountainsides explode in shades of orange, yellow, and crimson, and the summer traffic has subsided.


For more information, contact:

Interagency Visitor Center – Lone Pine (open all year)

Intersection of Highway 395 and 136

P.O. Box R

Lone Pine, CA 93545-2017

(760) 876-6222

(760) 876-6223 (TTY)

For maps and books about the area, go to

Or visit the Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway Web site at:


Big Bear Discovery Center


Located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake in southern California, the Big Bear Discovery Center is your starting point for information and adventures on the San Bernardino National Forest. Guests may visit the accessible discovery center for interpretive programs, evening nature lectures, or just to linger over the constantly changing exhibits.

The more adventurous can join a discovery tour on foot, in a van, or by canoe. Regularly scheduled tours include the “Mountain Mining Tour,” where visitors tour a historical gold mine site and a modern limestone mine. Or join in the “Flowers and Flames Tour” in the ashen remains of the 1999 Willow Fire to see a remarkable display of regeneration. With some special programs, you can even pan for gold! If you explore by canoe, you’ll get the chance to discover waterfowl, beavers, and other aquatic life.

A full menu of special events includes everything from western music festivals to historical tours of the Big Bear Valley. Staff is available to tour with large groups that provide their own bus. Smaller groups (less than 15) can board the discovery center van for a personalized tour.

The Big Bear Discovery Center is open daily (hours are extended from mid-May to September 30).


 For more information, contact the center at:

P.O. Box 66

Fawnksin, CA 92333

(909) 866-3437


North America’s Largest Coastal Sand Dunes


Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (NRA) invites you to explore the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Wind-sculpted dunes tower almost 500 feet above sea level and blend with lakes, forests, and the ocean to create a remarkably diverse ecosystem. The dunes extend for 40 miles along the Oregon coast from Florence to Coos Bay. Formed by the ancient forces of wind, water, and time, these dunes are like no others in the world. Day to day and season to season, this ecosystem can change dramatically. Spend some time in the dunes and you are sure to see geology in action!


Picture yourself hiking through forests and dunes, riding an off-highway vehicle through a landscape of sand, or watching a sunset from a scenic beach?  How about camping in a cozy campground, boating or fishing in one of the 30 lakes and streams? Or maybe you’re an avid birder, beachcomber, or berry picker? It’s easy to leave an impact on the dunes, so you’ll want to plan your trip to Tread Lightly! in this environment.


You won’t want to miss the view from the Oregon Dunes Overlook. This site has three accessible viewing platforms that gaze out over the dunes and the Pacific Ocean. Easy, self-guided loop hikes will give you a taste of this remarkable landscape.


Some of the best times to visit the dunes are in the spring or fall (April/May and September/October). The weather is outstanding, and you’ll find plenty of space in which to lose yourself.


There is a $5 per vehicle day-use fee at the Oregon Dunes NRA, but a visit to the visitor center is free. The visitor center is open daily from mid-May to mid-September, and 6 days a week the rest of the year. For more information, call the visitor center at:

855 Highway 101

Reedsport, Oregon 97467

(541) 271-3611

(541) 271-6014 (TTY)


For information on guided tours and locations to rent dune buggies and ATVs, contact the Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce at, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at, or the Florence Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-524-4864.


Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (NRA) invites you to explore the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Wind-sculpted dunes tower almost 500 feet above sea level and blend with lakes, forests, and the ocean to create a remarkably diverse ecosystem. The dunes extend for 40 miles along the Oregon coast from Florence to Coos Bay. Formed by the ancient forces of wind, water, and time, these dunes are like no others in the world. Day to day and season to season, this ecosystem can change dramatically. Spend some time in the dunes and you are sure to see geology in action!

Picture yourself hiking through forests and dunes, riding an off-highway vehicle through a landscape of sand, or watching a sunset from a scenic beach?  How about camping in a cozy campground, boating or fishing in one of the 30 lakes and streams? Or maybe you’re an avid birder, beachcomber, or berry picker? It’s easy to leave an impact on the dunes, so you’ll want to plan your trip to Tread Lightly! in this environment.


You won’t want to miss the view from the Oregon Dunes Overlook. This site has three accessible viewing platforms that gaze out over the dunes and the Pacific Ocean. Easy, self-guided loop hikes will give you a taste of this remarkable landscape.


Some of the best times to visit the dunes are in the spring or fall (April/May and September/October). The weather is outstanding, and you’ll find plenty of space in which to lose yourself.


There is a $5 per vehicle day-use fee at the Oregon Dunes NRA, but a visit to the visitor center is free. The visitor center is open daily from mid-May to mid-September, and 6 days a week the rest of the year. For more information, call the visitor center at:

855 Highway 101

Reedsport, Oregon 97467

(541) 271-3611

(541) 271-6014 (TTY)

For information on guided tours and locations to rent dune buggies and ATVs, contact the Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce at, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at, or the Florence Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-524-4864.


Cape Perpetua Visitor Center


The stunning panoramic view is one of the finest attractions at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center. At the center, learn about the cultural and natural history of the central Oregon coast. Interactive exhibits share information about coastal Indians, tide pools, and coastal rain forests. Special events are also a part of the center’s interpretive venue.


The visitor center is the jumping-off point for the 2,700-acre Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. Join one of the guided tide pool or forest interpretive walks or explore any of the numerous hiking trails on your own. During the winter and spring, migrating gray whales can be spotted from the center as they make their annual 10,000-mile roundtrip.


The accessible visitor center is open daily from mid-May through Labor Day. Limited hours are available during the fall, winter, and spring months (call ahead for specifics). There is a $5 per vehicle fee for the scenic area, but a visit to the visitor center is free. 

For more information, contact them at:

Cape Perpetua Visitor Center

P.O. Box 274

2400 Highway 101

Yachats, OR  97498

(541) 547-3289

(541) 547-3251 (TTY)


Memories Are Made at Land Between The Lakes


Nestled in western Kentucky and Tennessee, Land Between The Lakes is the largest human-created inland peninsula in the United States. The region is rich with a vibrant history, native wildlife, and natural beauty.  And, with more than 170,000 acres and 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline, you’ll discover a wide range of opportunities at Land Between The Lakes for solitude and exploration.


Attractions include The Homeplace living history farm, Woodlands Nature Station environmental education center, the Elk and Bison Prairie habitat restoration, and the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory. These four facilities join Land Between The Lakes’ other fascinating attractions—including the ruins of the Great Western Iron Furnace and the Golden Pond Visitor Center—to make it a place well worth visiting.


The Woodlands Nature Station serves as a starting point for guided hikes along trails, streams, and lakes, as well as canoe trips that explore Land Between The Lakes’ wildlife. In addition to the regular calendar of programs, the nature station offers special events throughout the year. Among the most popular events are guided bald eagle excursions that take visitors to see the migratory eagles wintering in Land Between The Lakes each year.


The Elk and Bison Prairie is a restoration of the native prairie habitat that thrived in western Kentucky and upper Tennessee over 200 years ago. Native wildlife such as elk and bison thrive on the 700-acre prairie. Visitors can take a self-guided driving tour along a 3.5-mile road that features three interpretive stops.


The Golden Pond Planetarium is located inside the Golden Pond Visitor Center.

The planetarium houses an 81-seat theater and offers planetarium shows several times daily during the operating season.


The Homeplace and Woodlands Nature Station are open March 1 to November 30. The Elk and Bison Prairie is open year round, dawn to dusk. The planetarium is open March 1 to December 21, including a special holiday show in December. Prescheduled organized groups of 10 or more receive a $2 discount admission price per person and motor coach drivers are admitted free. All sites listed are accessible.


For more information, contact Land Between The Lakes at:

100 Van Morgan Drive

Golden Pond, KY 42211

(270) 924-2000 or 1-800-LBL-7077

For reservations, or for special programs and inquiries about group opportunities, call (270) 924-2020.


The Homeplace

Living History Farm


The Homeplace Living History Farm allows visitors to experience life much as it was in mid-19th century rural America. The farm consists of 16 original and restored log structures, with interpreters in period dress leading demonstrations. At Land Between The Lakes they say, “The homeplace doesn't just bring history to life, it brings it into the here and now.”


In addition to re-creating such daily activities as cultivating and harvesting tobacco, working farm animals, and performing household chores, the Homeplace also spotlights social events of the period. Special events include a traditional music Pickin’ Party, a traditional July Fourth celebration, an 1850s Wedding, and the Fall Harvest Celebration.


The Homeplace is accessible and open daily from April to October. It is also open for limited hours throughout the winter. Fees are $3.50 per adult and $2 per child. For more information, contact the Homeplace at (931) 232-6457. Or, visit the Land Between The Lakes’ Web site at


Tune Up Your Wheels for an Ozark Adventure


More than 100 miles of mountain bike, all-terrain vehicle (ATV), and motorcycle trails wind in and out of deep, forested hollows and down long ridge tops in the rough Ozark country southwest of Chadwick, MO. This is the Chadwick Motorcycle and ATV Area! 

Chadwick is cloaked in oak, hickory, and pine, with rock ledges and steep ridges that open into small forest glades. Most trails stay on ridge tops or hollow bottoms, with connecting trails crossing side slopes. Some trail sections offer greater challenges than others and are indicated by a black diamond marker where the trail begins. Off-trail travel is allowed at two locations—the 2-acre family play area and the 5-acre trail bike area.


The Tread Lightly! message resonates loud and clear at Chadwick. Here, users have the perfect opportunity to practice their minimum-impact riding techniques, ensuring that future use of this special area continues.


Camping and riding occurs year-round, with the majority of use occurring on spring and fall weekends. There are both single and double camp units at the newly renovated Cobb Ridge Campground. Many of the units are pull-through for easier handling of trailers, and half offer electrical hook-ups. Water and accessible vault toilets are provided; some of the campsites are accessible as well. 


Fees are required to use the Chadwick area and go toward improvements in trails, campground facilities, and visitor information. Fees are:

ATVs and motorcycles—$35 per year or $5 per day

Mountain bikes—$20 per year or $3 per day. 


For further information, contact:

Mark Twain National Forest

Ava-Cassville-Willow Springs Ranger District

P.O. Box 188

1103 S. Jefferson

Ava, MO  65608

(417) 683-4428

(417) 683-4464 (TTY)


A Superior Experience


A “Superior” experience awaits you at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland, WI. The 37,000-square-foot accessible visitor center is located on the Bayfield Peninsula and features a 5-story observation tower overlooking Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands. It is a four-season facility, capturing the unique qualities of this multi-state region.


Everyone likes a good story and the center’s interactive exhibits make the stories of the region come alive. Spend an hour or a day in the main exhibit hall discovering the cultural and natural forces that helped shape the region’s lighthouses, commercial fishing, shipping, Native American culture, fur trade, Lake Superior, mining, glaciers, forests, and farming.


Take a few moments to peek inside an 18th century fur trade post. Wander into the head frame of a deep-shaft, iron mine; push down on the dynamite plunger, and feel the rumbling explosion. Step back in time and listen to voyageurs singing as they paddle their fur-laden, 35-foot birch bark canoe across Lake Superior.


While at the center, don’t miss the 11-minute multimedia show, “Northern Voices.” Special lighting, music, sound effects, and unique objects are woven into an engaging story about the regional immigrants, Native Americans, and the land of the Northern Great Lakes region.

Then, grab a trail guide and take a stroll through a cedar and black ash wetland on the accessible Wetlands Boardwalk. A unique design allows the 3/4-mile boardwalk to “float” over the swamp. Exhibits describe the sedge meadow, tamarack, and other wetland habitats that you pass along the way. Guided hikes are offered in the summer, and special events are hosted throughout the year.


The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is open daily, year round. For more information, contact them at:

29270 County Highway G

Ashland, WI 54806

(715) 685-9983


Portage Valley—Sculpted by Ice


Portage Valley has glaciers. There are glaciers advancing and retreating,    glaciers calving into a lake or perched high on a mountain, and glaciers gleaming blue in the distance or icy cold at your fingertips.


A drive through Portage Valley gives visitors the chance to explore how glaciers sculpted the landscape. Interpretive trails, scenic overlooks, picnic areas, and campgrounds invite you to spend some time soaking in the surrounding mountains, spotting a mountain goat or moose, or listening to the music of the summer songbirds.


Walk the Moraine Trail to learn more about what glaciers leave behind. Stroll along the Moose Flats boardwalk for a chance to see waterfowl and other wetland wildlife. Or fish the streams of Portage Valley for five different species of Pacific salmon. A good place to view red and chum salmon during the spawning season is the viewing platform at the Williwaw Salmon Viewing Site. There are also several ponds with fishing platforms in the valley.


Camping is available at Williwaw and Black Bear Campgrounds. And should you get chilled from your adventures, you can warm up with a hot meal at the Portage Glacier Lodge, near the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center.


Moose Flats, Alder Pond, Williwaw Salmon Viewing Site and Williwaw Campground are all accessible.


Located on the Chugach National Forest, Portage Valley is only an hour’s drive from Anchorage. For more information, contact:

Chugach National Forest

Girdwood Ranger District

P.O. Box 129

Girdwood, AK  99587

(907) 783-3242


Begich, Boggs Visitor Center


One of the most popular attractions in all of Alaska is the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, located 55 miles south of Anchorage. It sits at the head of the Portage Valley and on the edge of Portage Lake, where you can come face to face with a living glacier that continues to carve the landscape on the Chugach National Forest.


The visitor center is dedicated to the memory of Congressmen Nick Begich of Alaska and Hale Boggs of Louisiana. The men, Congressional Aide Russell Brown, and their pilot, Don Jonz, disappeared while flying across Portage Pass in 1972.


The Begich, Boggs Visitor Center recently underwent a massive renovation, using a state-of-the-art approach to exhibits and audio productions.  Everything is designed to be touched, and many exhibits are interactive. There are Nature Pianos that allow the visitor to listen to everything from sandhill cranes to ice bergs calving.  Step into the Alaskan’s and Their Stories room, where you can listen to stories of adventurers in the area. The Wild Side includes a life-sized cow moose and calf, and an ice worm couch! Scheduled interpretive walks and presentations abound, including the famed Ice Worm Safari. (Yes, ice worms really do exist!)

The award-winning film “Voices From the Ice” is shown hourly (for a $1 per person fee) and provides a spectacular view of glaciers on the move.


During the last 80 years, Portage Glacier calved large icebergs into Portage Lake as it retreated. Today, it forms a magnificent vertical face on the edge of the lake, and is still calving.  Although the glacier is no longer visible from the visitor center, visitors can still experience the glacier up close from the deck of the MV Ptarmigan tour boat (accessible). USDA Forest Service interpreters are on board to help visitors better understand these rivers of ice. Hour-long tours run daily from Memorial Day to mid-September and cost $25 per adult and $12.50 per child.

The Begich, Boggs Visitor Center is free, fully accessible, and open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and on weekends from Labor Day to Memorial Day (with an additional week open over Christmas).


For more information, contact the Girdwood Ranger District at the address shown in the accompanying article. Or go to the visitor center Web page at: pages/bbvc.html


Fire Lookouts—Sentries of the Forest


“We live in the sky. It forms three-fourths of what we can see. A lookout lives with weather, not land, not fire. The sky moves and changes; the land doesn't unless there’s something like shadows of clouds passing over.” (Donna Ashworth, Woody Mountain Lookout, Coconino National Forest)


Fire lookout towers have had a proud and prominent history in forestry, often perceived as a symbol of forest conservation. Although their role in fire detection has changed, lookouts—even abandoned ones—remain popular with visitors.


Over 400 lookouts have been listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. Seven of those are on the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California, and each one has its own unique qualities. They operate from approximately Memorial Day through late fall, depending on weather. Volunteers staff the lookouts, and enthusiastically share their knowledge of fire suppression tools and techniques, prescribed fire programs, and the cultural history of fire lookouts.


Most lookouts are accessible by vehicle, and can accommodate about five people at a time in the tower itself. If you are not able or inclined to climb the stairs, hosts will also meet you at the base of the tower to provide their interpretive programs.


Starting the summer of 2002, the Morton Peak Tower will be available for overnight rental.

For more information, contact:

San Bernardino National Forest

Mountaintop Ranger District

P.O. Box 350

Sky Forest, CA  92835

(909) 337-2444


For more information on fire lookouts from the Forest Fire Lookout Association, visit their Web site at:


Fore more information on the USDA Forest Service lookout and cabin rental program, go to: rentals


Northern California Guide

to Backcountry Roads


The Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association recently completed an award winning 44-page travel guide about some of the most spectacular backcountry roads in the northern California Shasta Cascade region. The guide was developed for sport-utility vehicle owners who are yearning for a family adventure off the beaten path. 


The guide includes location maps, route descriptions, time and distances, and visitor information services. In 2002, the Backcountry Roads Guide received a California Tourism Marketing Excellence Award. Free copies are available from:

Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association

Karen Whitaker, Tourism Development Manager

1699 Hwy. 273

Anderson, CA  96007

(530) 365-7500





The magnificent views of sculpted peaks, active glaciers, flowering meadows, and sub-alpine forests of Heather Meadows makes it one of the most spectacular attractions in western Washington.


In the summer, the USDA Forest Service operates the Heather Meadows Visitor Center in a renovated building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The visitor center and several self-guided interpretive trails are all accessible.


Heather Meadows Visitor Center is located along the upper reaches of the Mt. Baker Scenic Byway, a 24-mile scenic trip from Glacier, WA. The road is typically snow-free between mid-July and late September, during which time the visitor center is open daily.

Another highlight of the Heather Meadows area is Artist Point. You’re well above timberline here, with several trails to choose from.


Use of this area requires a Northwest Forest Pass ($5 per day per vehicle or $30 per year per vehicle).

For more information, contact:

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Mt. Baker Ranger District

810 State Route 20

Sedro Woolley, WA 98284

(360) 856-5700


Florida National Scenic Trail


Meandering through one of the largest subtropical regions in the United States, the Florida National Scenic Trail is one of the Nation’s premier long-distance hiking trails. Over 1,300 miles long, it passes through all three national forests in Florida, and features many of Florida’s outstanding scenic areas.

From this trail, imagine visiting the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle. Located on the Osceola National Forest, an accessible 1-mile loop trail has been recently added to the Florida National Scenic Trail, passing through the pine flatwoods that harbor echoes of the Battle of Olustee. The events of this battle are reenacted every year during President’s Day weekend.

Adjacent to the Battlefield and trailhead is the Olustee Depot, which now serves as the visitor information center for the Osceola National Forest.  Interpretive displays explore the important roles that the railroad and timber industry played in the development of north Florida. The visitor center is open daily, except for Tuesdays.

For further information, contact:

Osceola National Forest

P.O. Box 70

Olustee, FL 32072

(386) 752-2577


You may also want to visit the Florida National Scenic Trail Association at   (1-877-HIKE-FLA), or the Olustee Battlefield Historic Site at   olustee/ (386-758-0400).