Fun For All
Edited from The Panama Canal Review
January 5, 1962

Arrival of the Isthmian dry season, which coincides with the tourist season of January through March, is the signal for a resumption of many activities which are curtailed or, at least, dampened during the 8 or 9 months of rainy weather.

While snow blankets the northern region, forcing most athletic types to move inside for such spectator sports as basketball, Isthmians are preparing to move outside for the start of the professional baseball season - and dozens of other outdoor pursuits from planting dry season farm crops to family picnics.

And as many Stateside fishermen huddle beside a small hole cut through the inches-thick ice of a lake, their fishing gear to match wits with the finned ones under the searing rays of a tropical sun.

Isthmian youngsters look forward to the sunny, rainless days which normally start in December and run through April so they can indulge in the worldwide childhood sport of sliding downhill.  but, whereas in the north this sport utilizes snow and steel-runnered sleds, its Isthmian cousin substitutes the slippery dead grass of a handy slope for the snow of the northland and a fallen palm frond in place of the sled.

Stargazing, too, is a favorite dry season activity on the Isthmus, the virtually moisture-free atmosphere providing a clear view of the stellar bodies, which generally are obscured during the rainy season.

To accommodate those interested in the planets, constellations, and other wonders of space, the Miraflores Observatory will open for its annual dry season schedule of two evenings per week, starting this month.  Each evening will include a brief lecture and a chance for visitors to view the skies through the observatory's telescope.

Arrival of dry season and the activities which are peculiarly a part of it does not, however, signal the end of rainy season activities, of which there are many on the Isthmus, a number of them sponsored by the Company/Government.

Among the year-round activities organized, sponsored, or otherwise actively carried on through the Company/Government and its units, are visits to the locks which lift and lower ships on their transits, cruises through Gaillard Cut aboard the sightseeing launch Las Cruces, visits to Summit Gardens and Contractors Hill, and, or course, the transcontinental operations of the Panama Railroad.

Some of these activities can be indulged on most any day and at any time, while others require special advance arrangements or planning, some being available on only certain days or during only certain hours of the day.  whatever your interest in the Zone, however, one or more of these activities can supply you and your family with entertainment and enjoyment.

Visits to the locks are one of the favorite activities of  young and old alike, even among those who have been residents of the Canal zone for many years and have visited the locks many times.  As they will tell you, there is something endlessly fascinating about seeing huge ships quietly and effortlessly lifted or lowered from one level to another.

Visiting hours for the general public at Miraflores and Gatun Locks are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, for either groups of several persons or a single individual making a casual visit.  Bilingual tour guides from the locks security forces are on duty during these hours at both sets of locks to explain the operation of the locks and give some of the history of the construction of the Isthmian waterway.

Trips aboard Las Cruces, the 64-foot sightseeing launch recently acquired by the Canal, can be made through a number of arrangements.  The vessel is available for use of all officially recognized employee groups and organizations in the Canal Zone and the Republic of Panama, including tourist agencies, and may be used for day or nighttime trips, any day of the week.

The basic trip aboard Las Cruces is between Pedro Miguel Locks and Gamboa, a distance of about 9 miles, which embraces all of Gaillard Cut, the immense ditch which was cut through the Continental Divide to create a major portion of the waterway, and which now is being widened from 300 to 500 feet to provide for faster, safer transits by vessels using the Canal.

At Summit Gardens and high atop Contractors Hill on the west bank of the Canal at the Continental Divide, special picnic grounds have been provided for those who enjoy such outings.  The Contractors Hill area, while providing a spectacular view of the Canal at this deepest point of excavation for the waterway, is rustic in nature, with only picnic shelters and tables provided.

The Summit Gardens areas set aside for picnicking are shaded by the vast assortment of tropical trees and other plants gathered from throughout the world and brought here for experimental growth and study of their development in the local environment.

The Gardens, located along Gaillard Highway a few miles south of Gamboa, are open to sightseers and picnickers daily during most of the daylight hours, during both the rainy season and dry seasons.  Tours of school children from both the Republic of Panama and the Canal Zone normally are scheduled Mondays through Fridays and require sufficient adult supervision by the person requesting arrangements for the tour.

These activities are, of course, only those actively sponsored by the Canal organization.   Many others are available in the Zone and the Republic for those inclined to pursue them, including fishing in both fresh and salt water, swimming, skin-diving, shell-fishing, and a myriad of other activities ranging from visits to Barro Colorado by arrangement with Smithsonian Institution to netting butterflies.  so, on those dreary days when you lament that you "don't having anything to do," look around; maybe you can find something that will interest and intrigue not only you but the whole family for a day, a week, a month, or even a lifetime.  Many others have.

Presented by CZBrats
October 3, 1998

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