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Weldon Springs Activities  

101 THINGS TO DO AT WELDON SPRINGS

SPORTS

1. Walk for exercise - The park road circles the lake, providing a smooth surface for walking. Each lap is two miles. To increase the distance to three miles, wind through the Campground, circle the Meadowview parking lots, and loop the Sledding Hill access road. To bypass the "Big Hill" below the dam, walk across the dam. Please walk on the left shoulder of the road, facing on-coming traffic.

2. Rent a Rowboat - Work your upper body, enjoy a romantic picnic on the lake, or make a few casts for a largemouth bass.

3. Pitch Horseshoes - Blue clay, tournament-quality horseshoe pits are located in the White Oaks Picnic Area.

4. Sand Volleyball courts are located at White Oaks Picnic Area, Lookout Point, and Meadowview.

5. Cross Country Ski trails are maintained along Salt Creek below Lookout Point.

6. Playground Equipment - Chautauqua Picnic Area, Meadowview, Lookout Point, and the Campground offer play areas for children.

7. Rent a Paddle Boat - Give your legs a work-out and enjoy the lake from a different perspective. Paddle boats for two are rented by the hour or by the half-hour at the Concession.

8. Backpack Camping - Get away from it all by backpacking to the primitive campsites along Salt Creek. Start your hike at Lookout Point, but remember to register at the Campground.

9. Custom-designed Hike - Have a particular special interest? Owls, photography, smooth terrain, solitude? Stop by Union School Interpretive Center and we'll help you choose the route that's best for you.

10. Go Sledding - Our Sledding Hill promises an exhilarating ride for all ages - children and adults. Lights allow night-time sledding too. Light a fire in the firering or bring a thermos of hot chocolate (peppermint sticks make great stirs) and join the fun.

11. Ice Fishing - Don't let winter keep your fishing line dry. You can still catch "the big one". Any local sports vendor can supply the equipment you need. Remember: Open water may exist around the tower at the dam and in the Harbor due to springs - use caution. Wet clothes don't keep you warm. Wait for four to six inches of good dark ice and never go out on the ice alone.

12. Visit Veterans Point - This memorial is dedicated to the memory and honor of all veterans who have served, are serving, and will serve this great country for the cause of freedom.

13. Organize a Softball Game - Chautauqua Picnic Area is a favorite site for recreational play.

14. Basketball - Play "one on one" on the new basketball court at Meadowview Picnic Area.


15. Paddle Your Canoe - Riding high in the water, a canoe offers good maneuverability and permits access to shallow areas that are otherwise inaccessible.

HOBBIES

16. Photography - Wildflowers, wildlife and seasonal landscapes offer unlimited photo opportunities.

17. Invite Wildlife to Your Backyard - Build a house for birds or bats or butterflies, plant a butterfly garden or hummingbird garden. Stop by the Union School Interpretive Center for details.

18. Throw a Boomerang - Meadowview offers an open expanse to teach your boomerang to come back.

19. Reawaken the Artist in You - Whether you choose a still life, wildlife, landscape, or portrait, Weldon Springs offers an infinite variety of subjects and colors to sketch or paint.

People

20. Weiner Roast - Roast hot dogs over a crackling campfire. Downed wood may be collected in the park, or buy a bundle at the Concession. Finish your meal with Carol's Gourmet S'more. Try cinnamon graham crackers and Mr. Goodbars with your marshmallows.

21. Picnic - Enjoy a family picnic at your favorite spot in the park or bring a group and use a shelter. Please register groups of 25 or more. Six picnic shelters may be reserved in advance for a $25 fee.

22. Give Something Back - Volunteer for a moment or an hour to pick up carelessly discarded litter (some people will never learn). A styrofoam container will never biodegrade, pop cans last for 50 years, and wads of fishing line kill or maim waterfowl and other wildlife. We truly appreciate your help.

23. Tell Ghost Stories - Tell ghost stories around a campfire, share one of your most embarrassing camping stories, or sing old favorite campfire songs. Continue a family tradition of camping, or start one.

24. Get Married - Let a chorus of songbirds toast your special day. The Lone Oak and Red Pine Amphitheaters can be reserved for your wedding guests. Stop in the Park Office for details.

25. Hold a Reunion - Reunite with family, friends, or classmates for a picnic or barbeque. Some shelters can be reserved in advance to assure a good site.

26. Bring a School Class - Weldon Springs is a living laboratory for studying the natural sciences. We will design programs or guided walks to complement your curriculum.

27. Bring a Housebound Friend - for a scenic drive, include a picnic or a little fishing. Lakeview and the east end of the Dam, the Concession and Harbor Area, Union School and the Town Hall are all handicap-accessible.

28. Bring a Youth Group - Your Scout group, church group, or other youth group is invited to camp in our Youth Camp. We'll be happy to help you arrange programs, hikes, or other activities.

29. Take a Kid Fishing - Create some unforgettable memories with a special child. Bluegill and sunfish are a great beginning. Try the North Shore of the Harbor.

HISTORY

30. Ring the Bell - Kids love to test their strength on the Schoolhouse Lawn by pulling on the big bell rope. (Push-release, push-release on the rim of the bell works for younger children.) Feel the sound by touching the vibrating bell. One warning: It's loud. Tardy children sure couldn't tell their teacher "I didn't hear the bell!"

31. Go to School - Sit at the school marm's desk, ring the class to order, send Dad to the "dunce chair" or solve your math problems on the blackboard at Union School Interpretive Center - a restored one-room school with a hands-on philosophy. Admission is free.

32. Relive the Good Ol' Days - Enjoy pictorial histories of Union School and Weldon Springs, look for your old school on the map, count 48 stars on a flag, look for the lunch buckets, and learn about flour sack dresses in the history room at Union School Interpretive Center. Admission is free.

33. Walk Back in Time - Take a walk through a stand of 8-foot prairie grass to walk back in time. Crossing mile after mile of a "sea of grass" was an arduous journey for our pioneer families. Restored native prairie plots can be found around the Schoolhouse and below the Sledding Hill.

34. Discover our Heritage - From the Ice Age to the Computer Age, follow the history of Weldon Springs along the Heritage Trail - a walking or walk and drive trail. Learn the geology of our natural springs, the lifespan of the White Oaks, and revisit the sites of the annual Chautauqua meetings. Brochures are available at the Park Office or the Schoolhouse.

35. Share Some Family History - Tell a child or a grandchild one of your favorite childhood memories. Where did you go to school? How much was a loaf of bread? How did your family celebrate holidays? Give the gift of yourself.

RELAXING

36. Kite - Fly a kite at Meadowview.

37. Dine "Al Fresco" - Been a long day? Dine "al fresco" - no dishes! - at the park Concession.

38. Build a Snowman (Snowperson?) - Build a traditional snowman or maybe a snow dragon or even a snow dinosaur. Our open meadows will provide all the snow you need to create your masterpieces.

39. Make a Whistle from an Acorn Cap - Grasp an acorn cap (inside toward you) between both thumbs and folded index fingers. Form a "V" with your thumbs and blow into the cap. Adjust the exact positioning until you hear the whistle.

40. Skip a few Stones - Are you a "skipper" or a "plopper"? Gravel bars along Salt Creek offer an endless supply of stones for those who want to toss a few.

41. Visit the Farm - Old Farm Trail traverses 40 acres of the origianl Weldon Farm - No Name cemetary, dating back to the mid-1800's, lies on a ridge amidst a hickory grove.

42. Take a Nap - Spread a blanket on the ground - in sun or in shade - leave your worries behind and enjoy the peaceful solitude for an afternoon nap.

43. Find Faces in the Clouds - Spread a blanket under an azure sky and watch for animals and faces in the puffy clouds as they drift lazily toward the horizon. Watch for turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks soaring among the clouds.

44. Lakeview Dining - Enjoy lunch at the concession with a great view of the lake.

45. Watch the Moonrise - The Sledding Hill overlooks the luminous path of a full moon as it rises above Salt Creek. Watch it change from fiery gold at the horizon to pale silver as it begins its nightly journey across the sky.

46. Escape - Stop a few moments to enjoy the quiet and you'll discover that the park is filled with wild music. Park benches, picnic tables, bridges, and fishing docks are scattered throughout the park.

47. Blow Bubbles - Set a hundred bubbles free on the breeze. Experiment with different-sized wands. Look at the rainbow of color reflected on the surface of each bubble.

48. Play a Lawn Game - No lawn of your own? Use ours for croquet, lawn darts, Frisbees, or a game of catch.

49. Skywatch for Falling Stars - Stretch out on a blanket at Meadowview or the Schoolhouse, away from the lights of town, and watch a spectacular show of up to 50 meteors per hour during the Perseid Meteor Shower each August 11.

50. Watch the Sunset - then watch the wildlife "day shift" retire for the night, while the "night shift" begins its "work day".

NATURE

51. Raccoons - Stake out a trash can just before dark to see the raccoons start their nightly rounds; but remember not to try to feed or handle them. Though they may appear tame, raccoons are wild animals.

52. Leaf Peep - The first frosts seem to set the woods on fire! Bright orange sassafras, lemon yellow elms and tulips, magenta and purple oaks, golden hickories, and blazing maples offer a spectacular show of color in October. A vantage point at the dam doubles the beauty as the autumn panorama is reflected in the lake. One warning note: Poison ivy produces beautiful autumn colors. Look but don't touch. "Leaves of three; leave me be".

53. Deer - Sit quietly at the top of the Sledding Hill just before dark to watch the deer come out of the woods to graze.

54. Turkeys - Wild Tom turkeys gobble in response to crowing pheasants or hooting owls at dawn and dusk during May. Listen from atop the Sledding Hill. Please report sightings of hens with poults or turkey nests to the park interpreter.

55. Touch Touch-me-nots - When the bright orange flowers of jewelweed in the marshy areas around the lake have faded and seed pods have formed (October), touch a tiny bean-shaped pod with your finger and it will explode, casting seeds several feet. Dandelions, cottonwood, maples, and milkweed also employ seed dispersal methods that are fun for children to discover.

56. Owls - During the mid-winter breeding season, owls begin to sound off about 3:00 in the afternoon. "Who, who-who, who, who" belongs to the great horned owl. "Who cooks for you?" questions the barred owl; and a hooted shiver identifies a screech owl.

57. Look for Animal Homes - How many animal homes can you discover? Look for the leafy nest mass of a fox squirrel, the mud-lined cup of a robin, the silken pouch of a Baltimore oriole, the stick-built lodge of the beaver, the tree hollow of a raccoon, or the burrow hole of a chipmunk alongside a fallen log. Don't forget ant hills and spider webs!

58. Frogs - Seven frog species make their homes in the park. Listen to their evening chorus in spring. Discover green frogs in perfect camouflage peeking out of the duckweed from the bridge at the marsh.

59. Pet a Coyote - Pet a coyote, touch a squirrel's tail, examine a beaver's teeth, or get a close look at a mole at Union School Interpretive Center. We're kid-oriented with a "please touch" philosophy. Admission is free. A note of warning: it is dangerous to try to handle live animals in the park.

60. Hummingbirds - Ruby-throated hummingbirds gather in marshy areas when the orange, tubular flower of jewelweed blooms in September. Allow three or four minutes for these aerial acrobats to accept your presence and then listen for humming wings and squeaky chatter.

61. Night Hike - Watch bats from the dam and fireflies at Meadowview; listen to the frog chorus and the owls' serenade, and try out your night vision. You can see in the dark!. Watch bulletin boards for organized hikes or try it on your own.

62. Butterflies - Butterfly populations peak in late summer. Dozens frequent the Butterfly Garden west of the Schoolhouse to feast on the nectar of favorite native prairie flowers. A checklist of species is available at the Park Office or Union School.

63. Turtles - Painted turtles bask on shoreline logs on sunny days. Watch for the gleam of their shells.

64. Read Animal Tracks - A new-fallen snow is a blank page awaiting a story to be written. Read the diary of a fox squirrel at the White Oaks Picnic Area, a beaver or a muskrat on the shoreline, or a deer in a meadow. Practice during warm weather in muddy areas along Salt Creek, the lakeshore, or the wetland behind the Schoolhouse.

65. Fox Squirrels - Fox squirrels are highly visible and always active. Almost year-round mating chases send them leaping from treetop to treetop in a gravity-defying, hold-your-breath game of follow-the-leader. On autumn days, they're busy hiding acorns or hickory nuts for the winter. Feel bits of acorn landing on your head? We think they do it on purpose.

66. Bats - Mosquitoes rising from the lake are irresistible to resident bats - they're Nature's best mosquito control. The dam and the harbor are both excellent vantage points at dusk. (Our bats are much too polite to fly into your hair or suck your blood.)

67. Lake-side Self-guiding Interpretive Trail - Pick up a brochure at the Park Office, the Concession, or the Union School Interpretive Center; set your own pace, and discover the natural world of Weldon Springs.

68. Swallows - Watch three native species of swallows (barn, tree and rough-winged swallows) skim the top of the water to get a drink "on the fly". The point at Lakeview is the "best seat in the house". Stop by the Schoolhouse for help in identification.

69. Warblers - A rainbow of colorful wood warblers migrate through the park in early May. The tent Campground, timber on the southwest side of the Dam, and the hillsides along the Beaver Dam Trail are all excellent sites for a warbler watch.

70. Ask a Question; Get an Answer - What predator enjoys eating skunk? What bird cannot walk a single step? The only silly questions are the ones you don't ask. We'll do our best to help with identifications, interpret animal behavior, or make suggestions. Stop by the Schoolhouse and ask.

71. Keep Track of What You've Seen - Checklists are available at the Park Office and Union School for birds, wildflowers, mammals, butterflies, and reptiles, amphibians, and fish of the park.

72. Bluebirds - Meet the "bluebird of happiness". An 80-box bluebird nestbox trail attracts the eastern bluebird (described by some as a blue robin) from late February to late October. Excellent viewing opportunities include the Schoolhouse Meadow, the Dam, and the Sledding Hill.

73. Use a Cricket Thermometer - You can measure the approximate air temperature by counting the number of chirps a cricket produces in one minute, subtracting forty and dividing the answer by four, then adding fifty.

74. Look into the Marsh - An Observation Deck overlooks a fascinating world that is part land and part lake. Watch a great blue heron fish on his "stilts", a turtle swim along the bank, or a muskrat gnawing on cattails - all right below you.

75. Age a Tree - How old is that tree? Visit the Union School Interpretive Center to learn to age a tree by counting its annual growth rings.

76. Fiddle for Water Striders - Water striders, magical insects that can walk on water, find their prey by reading ripples caused by a hapless insect's struggle to get free of the lake surface. You can fool a water strider into coming toward you by holding one small twig just below the surface of the water and drawing a second twig back and forth over it, like a fiddler draws his bow across the strings of his fiddle.

77. Take a Wildflower Walk - How many different wildflowers can you discover? Be sure to notice that flower species vary according to habitat conditions. Some flowers prefer shady woodlands; others like sunny meadows. Check Union School for a list of flowers currently in bloom. Watch for fungi, too.

78. Mussel Collection - Twenty -two species of mussels ("freshwater clams") have been discovered along Salt Creek within park boundaries. Varying in shape and color, these secretive animals carry fascinating names like "fat mucket", "pink heelsplitter", "wartyback" and "pigtoe". Visit Union School Interpretive Center to learn more.

79. Talk to Fireflies - Only the male firefly can fly. His flashes of light are a courtship message to wingless females who wait in the grass. Males of the species Photinus pyralis emit flashes that are six seconds apart. The female responds about two seconds after the male. When the male sees this, he flies toward the female. You can lure a male P. pyralisby imitating the female's response. Count "one Mississippi, two Mississippi" when you see the male's flash and turn on a flashlight close to the ground for one second, then turn it off. Repeat this message each time the male does (remember to count) and the male will come to you.

80. Take a Child for a Discovery Walk - See the natural world through the eyes of a child. Forget time schedules or distance goals, just follow the route of your child's imagination.

81. Beaver - Watch for signs of beaver activity along the shoreline. Beaver leave a telltale pointed stump when cutting small trees for food and shelter. Many large shoreline trees show patches of stripped bark. Look close and see individual toothmarks. Visit Union School Interpretive Center to see those big orange teeth up close.

82. Star Gaze - Find the Big Dipper? Meet Orion and Cassiopeia. Visit the Union School Interpretive Center and we'll tell you the myths behind the constellations and point you in the right direction.

83. Discovery Boxes - Discover life on a milkweed, the science of feathers, what's inside a gall? Get a hands-on, up-close look at some of Nature's curiosities.

84. Listen to Coyotes Sing - on crisp autumn nights. Circle down to Black Locust Group Camp and then up the Sledding Hill for the best opportunities.

85. Watch the Seasons Change - Visit a favorite spot every month for a year. Watch a tree bud and leaf, change color and rest; watch a robin build her nest, raise her young, and migrate south. What other changes can you see?

86. Join a Bird Hike - Several organized bird hikes are offered each spring. Come along to view migrating waterfowl in March, early songbirds in April, and warblers in May. Beginners are welcome.

87. Check Park Bulletin Boards -for interesting facts, general information, and upcoming events. We'll tell you what wildflowers are blooming, share wildlife hotspots, and offer "how - tos".

88. Sniff a Sassafras - This fascinating tree is loaded with scent. Leaves smell like Fruit Loops, blue berries and twigs like Lemon Pledge, and roots like root beer. Sassafras leaves take on several shapes - look for a left-handed mitten, a right-handed mitten, a glove, and a smooth single lobe.

89. Visit a Milkweed - Although the common milkweed is poisonous to most animals, a few specialized insects can eat it without ill effect, becoming poisonous themselves. Watch for monarch and harlequin caterpillars, milkweed bugs, and milkweed beetles - all wear red and black warning colors - on milkweeds scattered in park meadows. Milkweed flowers have an inviting scent and rich nectaries, but "capture" their pollinators in a "leg trap". And, of course, everyone enjoys watching their silky seed parachutes float on the breeze.

90. Meet a Tree - Fifty-six species have been identified in the park. How many can you discover? Representatives of each species are marked with blue tags. (A map marking each is available at Union School Interpretive Center.) Try identification using bark alone - sycamore, river birch, black cherry, and shagbark hickory are good for beginners.

91. Discover Spring Babies - Canada geese and wood ducks often raise families on the lake. Watch for downy goslings and ducklings along shorelines.

92. Dragonflies - Known as "mosquito hawks", dragonflies patrol just above the water's surface capturing rising mosquitoes. 10,000 eyes provide almost 360* vision.

93. Look for Owl Pellets - Owls swallow their prey whole. Indigestible bones and fur or feathers are compacted into a pellet and regurgitated. Inside this clean, dry pellet is a fascinating record of the owl's diet. Look for owl pellets in wooded areas.

94. Examine Crystal Webs - A morning fog crystallizes spider webs with water droplets. A surprising variety of patterns is visible in meadows until the sun burns away the fog.

95. See Spring - A pale pink carpet of spring beauties blankets the ground beneath the White Oaks each April in a spectacular declaration of spring.

96. Make a Bark Rubbing - Peel the paper covering off a dark-colored crayon, place a sheet of paper against the trunk of the tree and rub the crayon horizontally in one-directional strokes across the paper.

97. Catch a Snowflake - Permanent impressions of snowflakes can be made by catching falling snow on a chilled pane of glass which has been sprayed with hair spray. Keeping the prepared glass as cold as possible, take it outdoors and allow some flakes to settle on it. When you have collected enough, take the glass indoors and let it dry at room temperature for about 15 minutes. You'll have a permanent record of some of Nature's most amazing designs.

98. Learn Some Bird Calls - Try to identify some common birds by their song. Some calls sound like words and phrases: the northern cardinal seems to say "Purty, purty, purty, what cheer, cheer, cheer", the whip-poor-will, the bobwhite, the chickadee, and the jay say their names; the rufous-sided towhee sings "Drink your tea!", the white-throated sparrow whistles "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody" and the barred owl asks "Who cooks for you all?"

99. Try an Underwater Viewer - Make an underwater viewer from a milk carton, some Saran Wrap, and a rubber band. Cut both the bottom and the top out of the milk carton, cover one end with the Saran Wrap and hold it in place with the rubber band. Lower the viewer into the water and place your face in the open end of the milk carton to see the strange world of underwater animals.

100. Make a Donation - to Weldon Springs Foundation, Inc. The Foundation supports park projects and programs with gifts of time, talent, and funding. Annual projects include: eastern bluebird nestbox trail, butterfly garden, environmental education, Union School Interpretive Center, benches and firerings, and much more.

101. Bring a Friend - Come back soon and share the fun!

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