Celebrating 10 of our country’s diverse national parks
The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25th, 2016, and many of the parks are planning to celebrate the centennial of Woodrow Wilson putting pen to paper to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and … leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
One major event already on the books is a party at Yellowstone National Park–the world’s first national park. The party on Aug. 25 will celebrate the National Park Service and the Gardiner Gateway Project, which is improving and transforming the area around the landmark Roosevelt Arch at the park’s north entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Additionally, the National Park Service waived admissions for 16 days to 127 parks, including Yellowstone and Joshua Tree, in order to help reignite interest in the parks throughout the country.
With so many national parks to choose from across the country, all so diverse and unique and offering so much for visitors, it can be tough to decide which to visit. From the lesser visited parks like Lassen Volcanic National Park in California and Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, to the most popular parks we learned about in school, the National Park Service is hoping that its centennial celebration will bring more and more visitors, not only to their most popular parks, but to all its parks.
Yosemite National Park
In October, 2015, the park celebrated its 125th anniversary, a big celebration that served as a mini-preview of the celebrations currently taking place. The National Park Service launched a commemorative exhibit that ran through the end of the year. “The Lure and Lore of Yosemite” was located at the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst, California, and was designed so that guests could indulge in the inspired writings of the park’s early advocates, such as John Muir, in addition to viewing maps, artwork and historical documents from the late 19th century.
Grand Canyon National Park
Most visitors to the Grand Canyon in Arizona have only admired all the glory the park has to offer from the top of the rim, but few have ventured to the bottom of the canyon, mostly due to the extreme effort to hike or paddle to the bottom of the canyon, which spans 277 inspiring miles, with drops 5,200 feet deep from the rim. With the Colorado River running through the canyon, whitewater rafting here has been described as the best in the world. The Navajo Nation is currently debating on a possible plan to build a two million square foot construction project, including a tram to the base of the canyon, which would help bring more visitors to one of the most gorgeous places on earth–one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park in Montana’s Rocky Mountains is one of those parks that offers so much and should be on everyone’s bucket list. In 1850, the park was home to 150 glaciers, and now the number of remaining glaciers has dropped to an astonishing 25, realistically putting a time limit on being able to see them. By 2030, glacier regression models predict that there will be zero glaciers at the park. In 2015, the park had its 100 millionth visitor!
Denali National Park & Preserve
This park is the State of Alaska’s most popular tourist attraction. It offers visitors more than six million acres of pure wild land in the United States, including the tallest mountain on the continent–20,320-foot Mount McKinley. Last year, the park’s Denali Education Center unveiled a one-of-a kind program titled, “Life in Denali,” which was designed and created to address some of the most common questions that inevitably arise about life in the very far north and showcases why people settle and stay in remote Alaska.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in New Mexico, the park encompasses the sacred ancestral homeland of the Hopi and Pueblo people. With more than 4,000 prehistoric archeological sites, the park contains the most extensive site of historic pueblos in the America Southwest. In 2013, the park was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, joining the ranks of only three other U.S. national parks, making it one of the most coveted places for stargazing. Located in the remote San Juan Basin in the northwestern part of the state, the park is only accessible by dirt road.
Acadia National Park
The 47,000 acres that make up Acadia National Park is home to many titles. It’s the only national park in the State of Maine, the oldest national park east of the Mississippi, the home to the tallest peak on the Atlantic Coast–Cadillac Mountain, and it was the first national park in America to have an endowed trail system. In 2015, the Acadia Trails Forever celebrated its 15th anniversary. The project was established by Friends of Acadia and Acadia National Park to restore the 130-mile hiking trail, and, since then, has continued to repair miles of lost trails in the park.
Rocky Mountain National Park
With 72 peaks standing taller than 12,000 feet, including some higher than 13,000 feet, and Long Peaks, which stands at 14,259 feet, it’s no wonder why the mountain majesty that is Rocky Mountain National Park in the north-central region of Colorado is one of the more popular national parks. The park has more than 300 miles of hiking trails, which go throughout the park’s landscape. The park turned 100 years old last year and opted to celebrate for an entire year.
Mammoth Cave National Park
This park in central Kentucky is home to the longest cave system on Earth, currently housing 400 miles of subterranean passageways that have been explored by few. A portion of the caverns and tunnels are open to the general public via ranger-guided tours that span anywhere from one to four hours. The park is also home to bats, which, unfortunately, have steadily decreased in numbers over the past century and a half. The park is currently undergoing efforts to protect bats and raise awareness about their slow disappearance from the park.
Olympic National Park
With nearly one million acres of raw wilderness that ranges from the Pacific Coastline to the peaks of the Olympic Mountains in Washington, beyond being a national park, the park is also an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. Ninety-five percent of the land is designated wilderness, which means no roads run through it. In 2015, the park opened The Glines Canyon Spillway Overlook, so that guests can now view down into the 200-foot deep canyon to view the Elwha River flowing,
Grand Teton National Park
Located in Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park is at the top of everyone’s favorite list. It’s the home of the major peaks that make up the Teton Range, including its namesake, Grand Teton, at 13,775 feet tall. The park is infamous for being a playground for grizzly and black bears, elk, moose, bison, big horned sheep, river otters, beavers, marmots, bald eagles, and many other animals. Seeing wildlife is so common that photo safaris are among the most popular of the park’s tour offerings.