Blue Ridge Parkway sees large decline in visitors, loses spot as most popular unit in the National Park Service

The Blue Ridge Parkway saw a large decline in visitors in 2018, dropping from 16.1 million visitors in 2017 to 14.7 million in 2018, a decrease of 8.8 percent. Until last year, the Blue Ridge Parkway was the most visited unit in the National Park Service. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area now claims that title, with a visitation of 15.2 million people in 2018. Access to the parkway is highly dependent on weather, where rain, snow and ice can close the road for long stretches of time. Last year was the wettest on record in Asheville, NC, which received 79.48 inches of rain. Other parts of Western North Carolina also saw record or near-record rainfall.

Humpback whale washes ashore in Amazon River, stunning scientists

Marine Biologists in Brazil are baffled as to why a young humpback whale washed ashore on a remote island in the Amazon at a time of year when the whale should have migrated thousands of miles south to Antarctica. Members of a conservation group found the whale after following a group of circling vultures. The whale was lodged in thick shrubs and brush and had been dead for several days. Scientists estimate that tens of thousands of humpback whales live in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil, but this time of year they should have migrated to feed near Antarctica. The young whale was about half the size of a full-grown humpback and scientists hypothesize that the whale was separated from its mother before it died. Scientists are trying to determine if a boat hit the whale or if it became entangled in fishing net before it died. A necropsy report is expected this week.