Public lands are some of the best places to enjoy the dark skies. Atop the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky and Tennessee, Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area offers presentations that guide visitors through the night sky, and telescope viewing of stars, planets, nebulae, galaxies and the International Space Station. It’s an out of this world experience! Photo by Josh Bandy, National Park Service.
If patience was a plant, it would be a Bristlecone pine. Cautiously growing in the harsh terrain of Great Basin National Park in Nevada, these amazing trees can grow to be more than 5,000 years old. Gnarled, twisted and scattered in groves on rocky ground, Bristlecone pines make excellent subjects for photos, especially with a night sky or sunset backdrop. Photo by Thomas Sikora (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Like waves rolling on the ocean, layers of ridgelines at Great Smoky Mountains National Park extend out to a stunning sunrise. On the Tennessee-North Carolina border, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the park and a premier destination for photographers. Inspired by Ansel Adams and a lover of national park, photographer Zack Knudsen captured this amazing moment in the park a few weeks ago. Photo courtesy of Zack Knudsen
The road to Clingmans Dome is open again, offering visitors the chance to enjoy stunning mountain views up to 100 miles. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the tallest mountain in Tennessee. It’s 7 miles to the end of Clingmans Dome Road, and there are scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys along the way. The road ends in a large parking area where a short trail leads to an observation tower on top. Photo by Vivek Sharma (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Did you know that there are five national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island? Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge features rocky shorelines, sandy beaches and a large salt marsh that provide habitat to amazing birds like the piping plover. In the winter, visitors can walk or cross-country ski on the refuge trails and enjoy sunrises and sunsets over the water. Photo by Chris Hunter (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Today marks the 115th anniversary of the creation of the first national wildlife refuge at Pelican Island in Florida and the birth of the national wildlife refuge system. From Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific, over 550 wildlife refuges – many of them close to urban centers – protect an incredible array of wildlife and landscapes. Find a refuge near you. Photo of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia by Heather Bautista (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Within sight of the New York City skyline, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is an 18,000-acre wetland estuary bordered by Brooklyn and Queens. An area almost equal to the size of Manhattan, this stunning getaway consists of numerous islands, a labyrinth of waterways, meadowlands and two freshwater ponds. Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, the refuge provides an accessible and unique environment for both wildlife and urban recreation. Photo by Micael Fano (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Channel Islands National Park in California encompasses five remarkable islands and the surrounding ocean, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources. Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth. Besides being an amazing outdoor classroom, it’s also a great place to watch the sunset. Photo by Angela Scolaro (www.sharetheexperience.org).
A purple and pink winter sunrise paints the sky at Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. It’s a scene Charles M. Russell would have enjoyed. The refuge was named in recognition of this colorful western artist who often portrayed the refuge’s landscape in his paintings. Along with the stunning scenery and amazing wildlife, the refuge boasts a fantastic history that includes mountain men, Native Americans and dinosaurs. Photo by Mary Jo Hill, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
There are skies and then there are Blue Ridge Parkway skies. The southern end of the parkway in North Carolina winds through the highest elevations, offering dramatic mountain top views. When photographer Robert Stephens chanced upon this scene at Bear Trap Gap, he said “It almost felt like an out of body experience. You can’t believe what you’re seeing, but it’s there! I was so in awe of the light filtering over the ridges I had to remember to snap my shutter!” Photo courtesy of Robert Stephens.