Learn joys of camping during Great American Campout

The National Wildlife Federation is sponsoring the Great American Campout, with events scheduled for state parks across Virginia, including at Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville and Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane.

The events, designed to encourage use of outdoor spaces like state parks, will be held June 25 with most statewide events holding overnight activities and events on June 26 as well.

Amelia Todaro, kids and nature program coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, explained her organization’s goals with the Great American Campout.

“We want people to get out to their local parks; camp in their backyard,” she said. “We’re also looking for what we call our public campouts, which are events that local state parks, churches and communities will host to get people to enjoy camping, learn about camping skills, connect with wildlife and enjoy that experience so that they will want to get outdoors and camp over and over again.”

Shenandoah River State Park will hold a campfire night in addition to other activities throughout the day on June 25, said Jennifer Saik, educational specialist at the park.

“We’re going to make some campfire treats. We’re doing a little hike down the cottonwood boardwalk, we’re going to take our owl caller and kind of do a little night hike with nocturnal animals.”

The park will also be offering free fishing tutelage at 4:30 p.m., complete with gear for park visitors to use free of charge. The gear will be donated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Guests will receive a complimentary wagon ride to the fishing spot and a ranger will be there to instruct novice fishermen.

Guests on June 25 can also pay $5 to take a float trip down the river. The other events are free of charge.

“It’s to encourage people to get  into camping who’ve never done it before and be able to do it in a place where they feel safe,” Saik said. “We don’t offer the overnight camp – we don’t have the amount of sites needed to do that, so we’re just doing the campfire program here.”

Sky Meadows State Park has myriad activities on its schedule, said Anna Malcom, the park’s events coordinator.

“We have a lot of fun activities on Saturday,” Malcom said. “The team is tracking wildlife history. We’ll have some people from the Virginia Master Naturalists to talk about wildlife. Blue Ridge Wildlife Center will be here talking about wildlife. For the history part, we have a historic house here and it’s going to be open for tours and some of our historians will be talking about artifacts. We have someone from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club talking about leave no trace as well.”

Malcom said anybody is welcome to attend and the park’s events are suitable for all ages.

“Anyone can attend,” she said. “We have children and families in mind but anybody is welcome to come… Camping is family friendly and we have food for dinner. Dinner and breakfast are included. It’s right in the back yard of our big historic house — well have s’mores and music from John Kovac from Front Royal.”

Malcom said she enjoys seeing area children taking advantage of what the park has to offer.

“The campout is one of my favorite events of the year because we get kids out camping,  some for the first time, and that is goal to help people get out and enjoy the park,” she stated in an email Tuesday.

Reservations for Sky Meadows State Park can be made online by visiting http://tiny.cc/3oy8by and for Shenandoah River State Park, reservations can be made at http://tiny.cc/bqy8by.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com