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National Park Quiz 47: Spring

The trillium grandiflorum is a spring ephemeral. Do you know why spring ephemerals are short-lived in the deciduous forests of the Smokies? Photo by hardyplants via Wikipedia.

1. True or false? Spring is the prime season for whitewater rafting and kayaking at Gauley River National Recreation Area.

2. True or false? About 100 species of birds nest in Big Bend National Park each spring.

3. True or false? The National Park Service has begun a system-wide phase-out of spring prescribed burning because of its severe impacts on ground nesting birds in the forest.

4. True or false? Immediately after spring plowing commences at Yellowstone National Park, bicyclists may use the park roads, but snowmobile use is banned.

5. True or false? Spring is the peak visitation season at Joshua Tree National Park.

6. True or false? On the vernal equinox, which marks the official arrival of spring, Gates of the Arctic National Park has about six more hours of daylight than Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

7. True or false? Most of the land that now comprises Montana’s Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site was once part of the sprawling Spring Hill (Z-Bar) Ranch.

8. Springtime is blossom time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Which of the showy tree species of the Smokies begins blossoming earliest?
a. red maple
b. mountain laurel
c. dogwood
d. sourwood

9. Which National Park System unit preserves Springwood estate?
a. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
b. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
c. John Muir National Historic Site
d. Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

10. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, typically the first outdoor mega-event of the spring in Washington, DC, was first produced in
a. 1912
b. 1935
c. 1947
d. 1957

Extra Credit Question:

11. Why is it that ephemeral spring flowers growing in the deciduous forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are very short-lived?

Super Bonus Question:

12. Spring arrives in March at every National Park System unit except one. Can you name it?


(1) Summersville Dam controls water flow in the Gauley River, so whitewater recreation opportunities are dependent on the dam’s water release schedule, not runoff. While paddling is possible in spring, the rip-roaring whitewater season that the Gauley is famous for is confined to the fall, beginning the first weekend after Labor Day and continuing for six weekends (including five four-day weekends and one two-day weekend).

(2) True. Most of the roughly 400 bird species seen in the park are just passing through, but about 100 species elect to nest in Big Bend each spring.

(3) False. When properly timed, spring prescribed burning can actually improve nesting habitat for ground nesting forest birds without causing an undue amount of direct mortality. Since few ground nests are established in forested areas before vegetation leaf-out, doing prescribed burns before vegetation leaf-out tends to minimize negative avian impacts.

(4) True. Snowmobiling is brought to a halt around mid-March so that spring plowing can commence. There is a “non-motorized season” (or “spring season”) for bicycles, roller skis, etc., on certain park road segments that commences with the onset of spring plowing and ends the third Thursday in April when visitors may begin using motorized vehicles on the roads.)

(5) True. March and April, which feature mild weather, gorgeous blooms, and excellent birding, are almost always the peak visitation months at this desert park. A fall month (November 2007) has snuck into the top two at Joshua Tree only once in the last decade.

(6) False. The vernal equinox occurs on the day when the sun is directly overhead at solar noon on the equator. On that day, nearly every location on earth that's at the same elevation has roughly the same number of daylight hours – about twelve. (The time when sunrise and sunset are closest to 12 hours apart is called the equilux, and it occurs a few days before the equinox.) Incidentally, things do get a bit weird at and close to the two poles on the equinoxes. At these times the sun's rays are tangential to the earth surface -- "on the horizon," that is -- throughout the 24 hour period. This combines with atmospheric refraction to produce 24 hours of daylight at the two poles and in areas within about 100 kilometers of them.

(7) False. The former Spring Hill / Z-Bar Ranch is the core landholding of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills region of Kansas.

(8) a -- Although dogwoods, mountain laurels, and other gorgeous bloomers get all the press, red maples begin splashing brilliant red on the mountainsides of the Smokies as early as February.

(9) d -- Springwood estate in Hyde Park, New York, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birthplace and lifelong home. FDR and his wife Eleanor are both buried in Springwood’s Rose Garden.

(10) b -- America was still in the grip of the Great Depression when the District’s first cherry blossom festival was staged in 1935.

(11) Sunlight and warmth are the key considerations. Ephemeral spring flowers begin growing and blossoming on the forest floor when the warmth of early spring arrives and deciduous trees have not yet leafed-out. The flowers die back (become dormant again) when the trees leaf-out and shade the forest floor.

(12) Situated in the South Pacific about 2,200 miles northeast of New Zealand, National Park of American Samoa is in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are opposite those of the Northern Hemisphere. Spring consequently arrives at the park in September. (To avoid confusion due to hemisphere bias, scientific and technical writers commonly employ the term "March equinox" instead of vernal equinox.)

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Hmmm...I answered just 5 of 10 correctly, but, got #11 correct from having watched a recent Nat. Geog. or NOVA show (couldn't find the title) on forests of the world. Thanks Bob.

Executive Director,
Crater Lake Institute

I didn't see that TV program you referred to, Rob, but now I wish I had.

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