Hunting for bargains in the great outdoors

When planning outings or vacations in America’s wonderful outdoor spaces, keep in mind ways to save a few dollars with recreational bargains and even take advantage of some freebies.

Money-saving opportunities include special days during the year when state and national parks and recreation areas offer fee-free entrance or fee-free fishing.

Also consider the advantages of obtaining state or federal recreational passes, which can be particularly beneficial to frequent park users. These passes waive or reduce park entrance fees and may reduce camping fees.

For $80 annually, America the Beautiful passes allow entry to 2,000 sites nationwide. Passes are free for active military members. Lifetime passes are $10 for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Passes are also available to volunteers working for federal recreation agencies.

One of the newest passes is available free to fourth-graders as part of the national Every Kid in a Park program. It is good for one year from September through August.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which protects more than 400 remarkable areas across the country. The centennial celebration includes 16 admission-free days this year in the 133 national parks that charge admission. The remaining days are on the agency’s birthday weekend (Aug. 25-28), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24) and Veterans Day weekend (Nov. 11-13).

Other federal agencies that administer public lands with recreational access, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also offer several admission-free days annually. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers a fee-free day Oct. 9, the first Sunday of National Wildlife Refuge Week, and the U.S. Forest Service goes fee-free June 11, National Get Outdoors Day.

In Nevada, observance of National Get Outdoors Day includes a fee-free fishing day statewide. Nevada’s rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and urban ponds normally require a Nevada fishing license. Free-fishing days in neighboring states may also figure in your vacation planning. Utah and Arizona plan free fishing June 4 in observance of National Fishing and Boating Week, June 4 to 12. California schedules free-fishing days this year on July 12 and Sept. 3. Only the fee to fish is excused on those days. All regulations, bag and size limits, gear restrictions, hours and stream restrictions for each state are still in effect.

Additionally, all of Nevada’s state parks that feature fishing will charge no entrance fee to visitors who show up with a fishing pole on June 11. Nevada’s 23 state parks, historical sites and recreation areas vary widely, but fishing is a popular activity in 16 of them. Of the 12 state parks closest to Las Vegas in Clark, Lincoln and White Pine counties, six include fishing among their attractions. Big Bend of the Colorado near Laughlin is the closest. Beaver Dam, Echo Canyon and Spring Valley state parks cluster near Caliente and Pioche within a few hours’ drive of Las Vegas. Cave Lake State Park near Ely has a lively stream and a reservoir, and nearby Ward Charcoal Ovens has a winsome little creek.

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s column appears on Sundays.

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