Congratulations Louisville! You’ve been a very good metro area this year, so you’re getting a great holiday gift in 2016 – a fully completed 3,000+ acre, 19-mile long public park system.
Now, turning this massive park into your own playground offers you the chance to add some gear to your collection, and what better time to add to the gear filling up your garage than the holidays, right? Below is a quick list of “hot” holiday gift ideas that will help you and your friends and family get outside and experience Louisville’s outdoors in 2016. Remember, if you live in Denver, Christmas for many means new ski gear. Well, you live in Louisville – your choices on how to experience our great outdoors are limited only by your imagination and gear!
Become a Naturalist
Biodiversity is phenomenal in The Parklands and Louisville. The Parklands is home to over 150 species of birds, 44+ species of fish, 20+ species of mussels, and countless trees, shrubs, and spring wildflowers. Taking your knowledge up a level is remarkably easy with a couple of small purchases. Below are some basic tools and guidebooks that will make your family as adept at identifying critters in the park as they are identifying members of the Kardashian family.
Binoculars – Good binoculars make birding and wildlife viewing a blast – poor binoculars make it miserable and frustrating. So, this is a place to splurge a bit. 8×30 magnification is a great place to start. The first key is a wide-angle view that lets in enough light to make a difference. For more info, check out this helpful link from Audubon. Quest and Cabela’s have a great selection of binoculars. If you prefer to do your shopping online, use our Amazon Smile link, and a portion of your purchase will be donated to The Parklands to support our annual operations.
Bird ID App – Next is a handy tool to help you ID birds in the field. There are a great number of apps out there, but the one I love using is Cornell’s Merlin Bird ID – available in both the App Store and Google Play. These intuitive guides help identify 95% of the birds you will run into in the park.
Plant ID Books – Plant and tree ID can be tough. I heartily recommend two guides written by local authors. The first is Tavia Cathcart’s “Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians”. This is a “must-have” for me in the field. The second is a recent book by Pat Haragan – “The Olmsted Parks of Louisville – A Botanical Field Guide”. Another neat guidebook that will help you ID plants frequently encountered in The Parklands – particularly our spring wildflowers.
And for the story of our landscape, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the beautiful coffee table book “A Landscape and Its Legacy: The Parklands of Floyds Fork“, written by our team of professional writers, including Bob Hill and Michael Gaige, and featuring the work of our photographers Ted Wathen, Bob Hower, and John Nation.
In 2016, you’ll have seven access points providing paddling exploration across 23 miles of Floyds Fork within The Parklands. Floyds Fork is perfect for recreational kayaks. We recommend sit-in kayaks as they stay drier and allow you to paddle longer throughout the season. Additionally, we prefer boats that are light and maneuverable given the various twists and turns on the Fork. A couple of boats stand out amongst this very popular category of kayaks:
And when you get the boat, don’t forget to get your paddle and a PFD (personal flotation device). You might also want to consider a splash jacket and skirt to keep you dry on the water if you are paddling in slightly damp, chilly, or rainy days. Local outfitters such as Quest and Canoe Kentucky have knowledgeable staff on hand to help you make the best choice in boats and gear.
If buying a boat isn’t something you’re sure about yet, how about getting a reservation and gift certificate from Blue Moon Canoe Kentucky? This great partner will be providing canoe, kayak, and stand-up-paddle board rentals in The Parklands in 2016.
Turkey Run Park’s Boulder Pond brings the number of stocked fishing ponds in The Parklands up to four. In addition, over 8 miles of streamside access along Floyds Fork will be ready for you to explore. Fly-fishing is a great way to make the most out of these new fisheries. Yes, you can convert from being a bait angler – it’s ok, we won’t tell anyone.
First key – get a fishing license. These licenses support the fine folks at Kentucky Fish & Wildlife that make fishing so much fun throughout the Commonwealth. Then, it’s time to gear up your fly-fishing package. This doesn’t have to set you back a ton of cash – although it is easy to end up at that point quickly.
We recommend beginners start with a medium action fly rod (usually 4-5 weight works best and anywhere from 7-8 ft in length), reel, line, tippet, and basic flies. Local retailers at Orvis (The Paddock Shops), Cabela’s, and Bass Pro all have stocked fly fishing sections to steer you in the right direction. Then check out our local fly fishing club, Derby City Fly Fishers, and try your hand at a sport destined to calm and elevate your nerves simultaneously. See if you can achieve the Floyds Fork grand slam in 2016 – a smallmouth bass, trout, and carp.
Getting out on the new trails this winter and spring will be a great chance to learn more about The Parklands. All you need is a good pair of boots (with water resistance for those winter/spring season journeys), high quality socks, a walking stick, and perhaps a local trail guide. Quest can set you up with all of the above at a very reasonable cost. PS – Don’t forget good socks!
Miles and miles and miles of trails of all types and difficulty mean that you have no reason to not become an avid biker in The Parklands in 2016. In fact, when the park is fully open, you’ll find that biking becomes the best way to experience the entire park given its length of over 20 miles! Whether you want to stay on the paved Loop and hard surface trails, or push yourself to some of the soft-surface mountain bike trails (and soon to be constructed mountain bike ride center), getting the right bike will be the key.
Scheller’s, On Your Left, Parkside, and Bicycle Sport all have been out to the park lately and are set up to help you have a great 2016 biking season. When you go into these stores, get a good person to help you out, and be clear about what you want to do in the park. They will help you find the right bike at the right price. And we all know, no matter your age, there is nothing more exciting than a Christmas morning with a shiny new bicycle under the tree.