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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • State parks, sites offer First Day hikes

  • Bison, nature's ice sculptures, maybe an eagle or two — visitors to Missouri State Parks can expect to see these and more when taking part in the 40 First Day hikes programs scheduled at parks throughout the state on Jan. 1.
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  • Bison, nature's ice sculptures, maybe an eagle or two — visitors to Missouri State Parks can expect to see these and more when taking part in the 40 First Day hikes programs scheduled at parks throughout the state on Jan. 1.
    At Prairie State Park on the western border, visitors will have the opportunity to view some of more than 100 bison that call the park home.
    "Until the morning of the hike, we won't know exactly where the bison are," said Dana Hoisington, park naturalist. "We'll go out and hope to get close enough to get a good look."
    The herd can make for a dramatic sight, especially when a fresh snow mounds up on their shaggy backs. The recommended distance for safely viewing a bison is about the length of a football field.
    All 50 states are taking part in the New Year's Day activity, which is sponsored by America's State Parks, a national organization that celebrates state park systems developed in the United States.
    Missouri State Parks, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, is accommodating for the hiking event because it has more than 230 trails in 58 parks and historic sites. The wealth of trails helped Missouri earn the title of "best trails state" awarded by America's Trails, a national, non-profit group.
    Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, said participating in a First Day hike helps get the new year off on the right foot — on one of the state's award-winning trails.
    "Winter is a great time for hiking and First Day hikes help families become more comfortable with the idea of getting outdoors in Missouri state parks during cooler weather," Bryan said. "For many, it's a way to experience nature and can lead to a new, unique family tradition."
    Visit mostateparks.com and contact a park near you to find out if it has a hike on Jan. 1. Starting times vary; some parks have scheduled more than one hike.
    Most of the hikes will be short and of moderate difficulty, and require proper footwear and winter clothing. They will be held in case of light snow and in cold temperatures, unless ice or other inclement weather makes roads and trails hazardous.
    Bison are the stars of the show at Prairie State Park, but there are other interesting creatures that visit the park in winter.
    "Northern harriers are here now," Hoisington said. "And we definitely should have short-eared owls. They're most active at dawn and dusk, but we could kick one up out of the grass and see it fly across the prairie. We've done that before."
    Rock Bridge Memorial State Park near Columbia got a jump on winter hiking; the park staff and friends group has been offering New Year's Day hikes for more than a decade and now has merged into the national program. Last year, 91 people showed up for the hikes, which toured some of the springs at Rock Bridge.
    Page 2 of 2 - There are more than 40 hikes planned throughout the state. A complete list can be found here: http://mostateparks.com/page/59235/first-day-hikes

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