Spring time is upon us, and every April the National Park Service kicks off the start of the visitor season with a series of events. National Park Week, April 16-24, is America’s largest celebration of national heritage. It’s about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations, and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks! It’s all happening in your national parks. All national park units around the country are planning special ranger-led program during this week.

Here in Southeast Texas, at Big Thicket National Preserve we want to invite you to take advantage of a number of special events in the park.

Saturday, April 16: National Junior Ranger Day – 10 am-3 pm

Location: Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center, Kountze

Calling all kids and those young at heart! Join us at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 2 pm, during National Junior Ranger Day for hands-on activities for children. A special junior ranger activities book, commemorative badge and other fun things will be available.

Explore Your Thicket – Canyonland Hike – 9 am thru 3 pm

Location: Tyler County, Canyonland Unit of the preserve

Explore Your Thicket and earn mileage towards your Centennial Club award on this exploration of the rugged Canyonlands Unit. The 3-mile round-trip hike to the Neches River follows old logging roads and cross-country routes. There may also be an optional longer hike to Crescent Lake. Bring plenty of water and lunch. Call the preserve visitor center to pre-register.

Sunday, April 17: Ranger-led Paddling Trip – 10 am thru 3 pm

Location: Village Creek

Join park rangers for a guided canoe trip on the waters of the preserve. This program targets the casual and novice paddler. Canoes, PFDs and paddles will be provided. Trip locations vary and space is limited. Call the preserve visitor center to pre-register.

Thursday, April 21: Black Bears in the Big Thicket – 6:30 pm

Location: Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center, Kountze

Learn about the history and ecology of black bears in southeast Texas at this evening program.

Friday, April 22: Earth Day, Full Moon Night Hike – 8 pm

Location: Sundew Trailhead, Tyler County

Celebrate Earth Day with a full moon night hike on the Sundew Trail. Bring water, good walking shoes, and a flashlight or headlamp with a red lens for this 1-mile walk. No light-up shoes or pets, please.

Additional ranger-led program are available throughout the spring and summer months. For more information about upcoming programs at Big Thicket National Preserve, visit www.nps.gov/bith or call the preserve visitor center at 409-951-6700. Visit us on Facebook www.facebook.com/BigThicketNPS, Twitter www.twitter.com/BigThicketNPS, and Instagram www.instagram.com/BigThicketNPS.

The National Park Service turns 100 years old in 2016 and we want everyone to join the party! During National Park Week, National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone.

Fee-free days make parks accessible to more people. However, national parks are always economical, with entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. In addition, any fourth grade student can get a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program, and active duty military and citizens with a permanent disability can also get free passes. For more information about the variety of discounted passes available, please visit the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass page.