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State parks offer alternatives to hibernating at home

Although you might not be able to ski and toboggan in Kentucky, you can enjoy the winter weather in many other ways at Kentucky State Parks.

Some of the most popular excursions, including eagle-watch tours, have been around for decades, said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Parks. Elk-watch tours began about 10 years ago. Others, like the chance to watch sandhill cranes, are new this year.

Lawson said the goal is all the same — helping people to enjoy the state's natural beauty throughout the year.

Here is a collection of some of the most unusual offerings. Packages vary from park to park and, Lawson said, it's always best to register as early as possible.

Sandhill cranes

The event includes a Friday evening educational session and a sunrise or sunset trip led by a wildlife biologist to view and learn about the thousands of sandhill cranes that make Barren River Lake a stop on their cross-country journey.

When: Jan. 29-30 and Feb. 19-20.

Where: Barren River Lake State Resort Park, Glasgow.

Registration: $20, $10 for ages 12 and younger. Register with Parks Program Services supervisor Lisa Deavers at 1-800-325-0057 or lisa.deavers@ky.gov

Eagle watching

American bald eagles gather around the major lakes of Western Kentucky and southcentral Kentucky as they look for food during the winter. Kentucky State Parks provides a way to observe and learn about these regal birds of prey. The tours take place at four parks on an excursion yacht, barges or pontoon boats, or in a van. They are led by state park naturalists and Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

When: Jan. 22-23 and Feb. 5-6 at Dale Hollow State Resort Park, Burkesville. 1-800-325-2282.

■ Jan. 15-17, Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, Gilbertsville. 1-800-325-0146.

■ Jan. 29-31, Lake Barkley State Resort Park, Cadiz. 1-800-325-1708.

■ Feb. 5-7, Kenlake State Resort Park, Hardin. 1-800-325-0143.

Registration: Fees range from $20 to $55 and don't include lodging. Call for registration, details and fee information, or go to www.parks.ky.gov.

Winter Adventure Weekend

A weekend of hiking, canoeing, cave tours and learning about winter survival.

When: Jan. 29-31.

Where: Carter Caves State Resort Park, Olive Hill.

Registration: Register at www.winteradventureweekend.com. Cost: $25 for ages 13 and older, $20 ages 6 to 12. Children younger than 6 may not participate. Lodging available but not included in the registration. 1-800-325-0059.

Scrapbooking

Designed for experienced and novice scrapbookers. Participants should bring their book and materials. Some materials will be for sale. Registration and classes begin at 6 p.m. Friday and continue all day Saturday. There will be additional scrapbooking on Sunday.

When: Jan. 15-16.

Where: Greenbo Lake State Park, Greenup.

Registration: $45. An overnight package that includes two nights' lodging for two and continental breakfast is $105, plus the registration fee. 1-800-325-0083.

■ Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park, Dawson Springs, also has a scrapbooking weekend scheduled for March 5-7. Registration is $35. Call 1-800-325-1711.

Caching for Kisses

A Valentine's Day geocaching event features a chocolate kiss in every cache. Finish up around the fire ring with s'mores and hot cocoa. Free child care available if you register by Feb. 12.

When: 2-5 p.m. Feb. 14.

Where: E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, Louisville.

Registration: $12. (502) 426-8950.

Artist retreats

Monthly artist retreats at the Audubon Museum. Artists may bring their work and materials. Occasional speakers, networking with other artists, critiques and hands-on techniques might be included.

When: Jan. 15, Feb. 12, March 12.

Where: John James Audubon State Park, Henderson.

Registration: $15. (270) 827-1893 or kim.mcgrew@ky.gov.

Dulcibrrr 2010

A celebration of dulcimer music with workshops, jam sessions and concerts.

When: Feb. 5-7.

Where: Rough River Dam State Resort Park, Falls of Rough.

Registration: $6 for each event; $225 package includes two nights' lodging, food for two, workshops and concerts. Contact Sheila Jones at (270) 257-2311 or 1-800-325-1713.

Elk tours

Since elk returned to Kentucky in 1997, their numbers have grown to 11,000. Elk-viewing tours at three Eastern Kentucky resort parks this winter offer a chance to see and photograph the animals.

When: Jan. 16, 23, 24, 30; Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27; March 6, 13 at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Prestonsburg. 1-800-325-0142.

■ Jan. 16, 17, 18, 30, 31; Feb. 20, 21, 27, 28; March 13, 14, 20, 21 at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, Perry County. 1-800-325-0058.

■ Jan. 16, 23; Feb. 6, 20, 27 at Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Pineville. 1-800-325-1712.

Registration: The basic tour at Jenny Wiley is $20, $10 for children. Buckhorn Lake offers packages, including food and lodging, starting at $150. Pine Mountain offers three options ranging from a $20 tour to a two-person package with food and lodging for $158. Call resorts for specifics and availability, or go to www.parks.ky.gov.

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