Although all available campsites in the East Bay Regional Parks are booked for Labor Day weekend, take heart: day-trippers can choose from what is almost an overabundance of activities and events.

Let's start with the 14th Annual Historic Rail Fair at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. It's in session from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Monday.

Railroading buffs will enjoy attractions including antique steam locomotives, an 1890 steam porter engine, train rides, hand car rides, displays of garden and model railroads, rail yard equipment and more. There will also be food for sale, live music and a hobo game for children.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 (the Dumbarton Bridge approach) in Fremont. Admission to the Rail Fair is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, $5 for children ages 4 through 17 and free for children 3 and younger. Parking is free.

For more information, visit the website of the Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources at www.spcrr.org.

COYOTE HILLS: If you'd prefer to experience an older form of technology, drop in at nearby Coyote Hills Regional Park, where naturalist Kristina Parkison and friends will host a "knap-in."


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No, it's not a group snore-fest. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, experienced stone tool makers will demonstrate knapping: how to transform obsidian and other rocks into spear points, arrowheads and drills.

Anyone 13 or older can try their hand at the craft themselves, but you must bring leather gloves and protective eye wear in order to do so. The knap-in is free. Coyote Hills is at 8000 Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont. There's a parking fee of $5 per vehicle. For information, call 510-544-3220.

SMOKEY SAYS ...: Smokey Bear, that uniformed ursine environmental ambassador, will put in an appearance during the campfire program at Anthony Chabot Campground. It's from 8 to 9 p.m. Saturday

Come and wish Smokey a happy birthday. He's 70 this year. The campground is located about a mile inside Anthony Chabot's Marciel Gate, which is on Redwood Road 6 miles south of the intersection with Skyline Boulevard in Oakland. Noncampers are welcome for the program. Dress warmly; it can be cold at night in those woods. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Alameda: At Crown Beach in Alameda, water birds will be the focus in a free program from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Crab Cove Visitor Center. Multitudes of shorebirds and ducks from the far north migrate to the Bay Area every winter. It's a chance to learn more about the birds' amazing feats of flight, join in some fun games, and view the birds close-up. Binoculars will be available for loan.

And on Labor Day itself, Monday, Crab Cove will hold open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It starts with beach exploration at 11 a.m., then Family Nature Fun with seaweed at 2 p.m. and fish feeding at 3 p.m. Other nature-themed activities will be under way throughout the day. Crab Cove is at 1252 McKay Ave. off Alameda's Central Avenue. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Berkeley: Skulls, though not crossbones, are on the agenda in a program from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Tilden Nature Area next to Berkeley, led by naturalist Anthony Fisher.

Anthony will display the Environmental Education Center's animal skull collection for visitors to sketch. He'll talk about what skull structures reveal about how each animal lives. The center is located at the north end of Tilden's Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Carquinez Strait: Panoramic views of Carquinez Strait and north Contra Costa County will be the reward for a steep hike to a hilltop from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, led by naturalist Ashley Elliott.

Meet Ashley at the Nejedly Staging Area on Carquinez Scenic Drive west of Martinez. The staging area is on the left just past Alhambra Cemetery. The hike is for ages 8 and older, please. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2752.

Antioch: Reptiles will be the stars of a free program from 8:15 to 9:45 a.m. Saturday at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, led by naturalist Kevin Dixon.

Kevin will hold forth in the parking and picnic area at the upper end of Somersville Road. Find out how snakes get around without arms, legs and hands, and learn what lizards eat.

On Monday, Black Diamond will host open house from noon to 4:30 p.m. at its underground mining museum. Visitors ages 7 and older can take free, self-guided tours through the restored, 1930s-era Hazel-Atlas silica sand mine. Staff will be stationed along the way to explain the mining techniques and equipment.

There's a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the park entry kiosk is staffed. Black Diamond Mines is located at the end of Somersville Road about five miles south of Highway 4. However, construction is under way on Somersville Road outside the park between James Donlon Boulevard and Buchanan Road. So to reach Black Diamond Mines from Highway 4, you have to take Contra Loma Boulevard to James Donlon Boulevard, then turn right on James Donlon to Somersville Road. Work on the section of Somersville Road outside the park is scheduled for completion in the fall. For more information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

Oakley: There are programs scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley.

Delta Fish are the topic from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Find out what kinds you can catch in the Delta, and how to preserve their environment for future generations.

Sunday is Family Fun Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring your family and a picnic, and the naturalist staff will set up games, activities and interactive displays to showcase the attractions of the Delta. Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Main Street in Oakley. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

San Leandro: If you're not too exhausted from your Labor Day celebrations, you can join the Wednesday Walkers next week at Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro.

This one's an easy, flat, 3-mile stroll along the shoreline starting at the park's entrance at the north end of Neptune Drive. No dogs on this one, please. Hikers of all ages and abilities are welcome on the naturalist-guided Wednesday Walks at a different park each time. For information, call 510-544-3212 or email cgarcia@ebparks.org.

Hayward: Labor Day may mark the end of the summer season, but fall festivities start with the Apple Festival at Garin Regional Park in Hayward on Sept. 6. More about that event in the next column.

A few tips: Some general advice for Labor Day itself -- all the regional parks will be open with picnic tables available on a first-come, first-served basis. It's best to arrive early if you want a choice, especially at parks with swim beaches, which tend to be very popular that day.

If all tables are taken, spread a blanket and picnic on the lawns. Portable barbecues are OK on lawns, but not in the dry grass. Dispose of coals only in the concrete receptacles designed for that purpose, not in the regular trash barrels. For obvious reasons, this is the time to be extremely careful with fire.

Especially in the swim areas, and in the event of an emergency, please abide by any and all instructions from lifeguards, park rangers, police and firefighters. The district wants everyone to have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.

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