A Walk in the Park:
How State Parks Keep Campers Active and Entertained
For those who enjoy the outdoors and long for a fantastic camping adventure, State Parks are often the destination of choice. With the wide variety of available activities, such as hiking, fishing and nature programs, these scenic parks attract both families and individuals who wish to take in the spectacular views and relax amidst nature.
Cape Henlopen State Park, in Lewes, Del., attracts thousands of visitors year-round. “Our guests enjoy hiking, biking, swimming and surfing, as well as participating in our cultural historical programs and nature center programs, such as history lectures and birdwatching,” said Park Manager Mary Wagner. With activities for both adults and children, Cape Henlopen State Park’s nature and history programs are a big draw, featuring guided tours, hikes, and fun options for children, like treasure hunts, crafts and stories.
“The most popular activity here at Cape Henlopen State Park, by far, is ‘Seining the Bay,’ ” said Wagner. “During this activity, a 30-foot seine net is dropped into the surf area of the bay and participants have the opportunity to observe and identify the organisms that are caught in the net. It is great fun and is a good educational tool, as well. Everyone loves this program,” Wagner stated.
Aroostook State Park, in Presque Isle, Maine, became Maine’s first state park in 1939. Since that time, it has grown from just 100 acres to over 600 acres. The Park keeps its many visitors busy by offering nature hikes, potluck meals at the kitchen shelter area and educational programs, such as the identification of trees, plants and birds.
“Our activities are all family oriented,” said Park Manager Scott Thompson. One of the most popular programs offered at Aroostook State Park is the Winter Family Fun Day, where families come to partake in ice skating, sliding and cross-country skiing.
“We also started our Birding Festival four years ago,” said Thompson. “With this program, individuals can learn to identify birds by sight and song. It is a fun activity for families.” The Haunted Woods Walk in October and the fall foliage extravaganza are also popular with the community.
Charlene Sunshine Hood, park manager II at Warren Island State Park in Lincolnville, Maine, said that crabbing is a big draw for the park. “Both children and adults come here and just spend hours upon hours going crabbing. It is great fun for everyone. Our guests collect the crabs and then they can either cook them up or have a big crab race on the boat,” said Hood. “It is a wonderful time and creates a perfect photo opportunity.”
Warren Island is also paradise for those who love to bird watch. The island features ospreys, great horned owls, seagulls, blue herons, ducks, loons, sandpipers, cormorants, woodpeckers and many more. Visitors to Warren Island also enjoy the opportunity for swimming and boating.
“Scavenger hunts are our most popular activity,” said Hood. “Both kids and adults can participate. When guests come in, they can go to our information desk where there is a kiosk to get them started on the hunt. It is an exciting activity here at the island and gets everyone exploring and combing the beaches.”
The Boston Harbor Islands park system features 34 islands and peninsulas spanning 50 square miles of rivers, bays and harbors in the Boston Harbor basin. There are a number of free programs available to visitors of the area, making it an ideal location for those looking for an outdoor adventure.
“We offer historical and nature ranger-led tours and night sky programs that are complete with telescopes,” described Park Superintendent Bruce Jacobson. Many programs are available that adults can enjoy on their own, or together with their children.
“We do focus on children with our programming. For instance, we have Toddler Tuesdays on Bumpkin Island, during which our guests can participate in special programs just for small children. There is our sensory tour, for example, which is a walk that encourages everyone to experience nature through all their senses,” Jacobson stated. Visitors to the islands can also partake in ranger walks, where they can tour an island with a resident park ranger and learn the particulars of each area.
In Goshen, Mass., sits the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) State Forest, which encompasses nearly 1,800 acres of land. To keep campers active and interested, DAR State Forest offers many warm weather activities; such as swimming, hiking, boating, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding, to name a few. Winter months keep guests just as busy, with cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skating and ice fishing.
“In the warm months, we have outdoor programming five days a week, most of which are geared towards our younger visitors,” said Park Supervisor Bob Kabat. “Guests can enjoy our Smoky Bear pancake breakfast, listen to musical entertainment or partake in star-gazing with a professional,” described Kabat. “Additionally, our large lake is great for day visitors looking to do some motorized boating or swimming,” said Assistant Supervisor Janice Martin.
With breathtaking views of Mount Blue and other nearby mountains, Mount Blue State Park, in Weld, Maine, offers year-round programs to entertain park visitors. “In the summer months, guests can enjoy our beach area and spend an entire afternoon going swimming. We also offer kayaking, canoeing and paddle boats,” said Park Manager Bruce Farnham. “Then there are our interpretive nature programs, which consist of canoe trips, nature walks and junior ranger programs.”
Children love to visit the park’s Nature Center, which offers a variety of hands-on activities and various displays to keep kids occupied. Parents appreciate this option, especially on those rainy days. Evening activities are another reason to head on out to Mount Blue. Movie nights are generally held on Friday nights, and Saturday nights often feature guest speakers and various other forms of entertainment.
“Hiking and swimming are the most popular activities here at Mount Blue State Park,” said Farnham. “The other activities are great and only help to enhance the experience for our guests.” -