Tag Archives: Potomac Heritage NST

Summer Stamps from the Golden Gate NRA to Badlands National Park

A stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge highlights the new additions this month.   Photo from  2009.
A stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge highlights the new additions this month. Photo from 2009.


Due to some extensive travels, I never made a post on the new June stamps, so here in one big post are all the new stamps from Eastern National for June and July – a grand total of 18 over the two months!

June Stamps:

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015

Dinosaur National Monument | 100th Anniversary 1915-2015

Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve | Cave Junction, OR

Golden Gate National Recreation Area:

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Land’s End
  • Fort Point
  • Presidio
  • Nike MIssile Site
  • Point Bonita Lighthouse
  • Muir Woods
  • Juan Bautista de Anza NHT

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Falmouth, VA

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Cherokee Removal MEM Park, TN

Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area

  • Highway 61 Blues Museum
  • Birthplace of the Frog

July Stamps

Badlands National Park | White River VC

North Country National Scenic Trail | Lowell, MI

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |

  • Fort Monroe, VA
  • Wrightsville, PA

The “year of the anniversary stamps” continued through June with two new additions.  Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument preserves a place where the first Americans dug for flint 13,000 years ago in North Texas.  The history of Dinosaur National Monument is of course much older than that, and I previously wrote about its 100th anniversary here.

The new stamp for Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve reflects its new name and expanded boundaries.   In December 2014, Congress expanded the boundaries to include some of the unspoiled scenery and pristine waterways surrounding the Oregon Caves as a “Preserve.”  Somewhat confusingly, however, Congress did not make this yet another national park that “counts twice,” unlike most of the other “& Preserve” parks in the National Park System.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes numerous parklands and historic sites within the city of San Francisco and its immediate suburbs.   Indeed, this park has Passport stamps scattered across 21 different locations, and all 8 of this month’s locations previously had stamps.  The Golden Gate Bridge Pavillion received its first stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th Anniversary in 2012, and so now appears to have a permanent stamp of its own.  Additionally, Fort Point National Historic Site, located below the Golden Gate Bridge, and Muir Woods National Monument, located in nearby Mill Valley, are actually separate units of the National Park System.  They previously had stamps for Golden Gate NRA that read “San Francisco, CA” on the bottom, but now have place-specific stamps of their own for their dual status under the management of Golden Gate NRA.

American painter Gari Melchers' estate, Belmont, is the latest addition to Passport Program for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
American painter Gari Melchers’ estate, Belmont, is the latest addition to Passport Program for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.


The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is one of three national scenic trails that count as national parks.   This new stamp is located at the home and studios of American impressionist painter Gari Melchers, located on the campus of Mary Washington University, outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail previously had a stamp at the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Meigs County, Tennessee.  This park was essentially a concentration camp where the Cherokee were rounded up rounded up 1838 before crossing the Tennessee River and being deported on the Trail of Tears to present-day Oklahoma.

In November 2014, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area received its first 18 Passport Stamps, located at the County Visitor Centers for each of the counties in the designated national heritage area.  These two stamps are its first for actual destination locations.   The Highway 61 Blues Museum is located in Leland, Mississippi, as is the Jim Henson birthplace.  Jim Henson, of course, is the famed created of Kermit the Frog and the rest of the muppets.

Badlands National Park includes spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring rock formations.  Photo from 1998.
Badlands National Park includes spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring rock formations. Photo from 1998.

Badlands National Park preserves spectacular scenary in South Dakota.  The White River Visitor Center services the less-visited Stronghold Unit in the southern portion of the national park, and is located with the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Previously, this visitor center had a non-standard stamp courtesy of the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority, which operates the visitor center, but this is the location’s first official stamp.

The North Country National Scenic Trail does not count as its own national park, but will run an impressive 4,600 miles (once completed) across the northern United States from Lake Champlain on the New York-Vermont border to Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota.   Lowell, Michigan is the site of the headquarters offices of the North Country Trail Assocation, which is helping to make this route a reality.

Finally, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trali is the National Park Service’s main program on the Chesapeake Bay.  Officially, it’s a set of water routes that commemorate the explorations of  the Bay and its tributaries by John Smith between 1607 and 1609.  Fort Monroe National Monument is now its own unit of the National Park System near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.  Meanwhile, Wrightsville, PA is at the far northern end of John Smith’s explorations, on the banks of the Susquehanna River near present-day York, Pennsyvlania.

With these new additions there are now 1,915 active Passport cancelations out there, or 1,827 if you exclude the various anniversary and special program stamps.

A parting shot from Fort Point National Historic Site, located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.  Photo from 2011.
A parting shot from Fort Point National Historic Site, located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo from 2011.


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When Is a National Park Not a National Park?

The National Colonial Farm in Piscataway Park is part of a national park that isn't a national park.  Photo from 2010.
The National Colonial Farm in Piscataway Park is part of a national park that isn’t a national park. Photo from 2010.

This is Part 3 in a series on Counting the Parks, click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

One of the more unusual oddities about the 401 U.S. National Parks  is that some of them are national parks without being national parks.   What do I mean?

Just take a look at the names of the of the following parks, all of which count towards the total of 401 U.S. National Parks:

You may notice that all of these parks are missing the word national.   They are simply parks, not national parks, even though all of them are run by the National Park Service.   All of the above are within day-trip distance of Washington, DC – and so all seem to owe their designation in some way to the special history and relationship of our Federal government to the Nation’s Capital.   Here’s a bit more-detailed run-down of each of these six.  I will have to do a follow-up post on two other parks that also included in this group:

Catoctin Mountain Park is easily the most-scenic out of these six.  Located on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, it protects from development the area immediately surrounding the Camp David Presidential Retreat.   Recreational opportunities include several hiking trails and campgrounds, including several cabins and lodges.

Chimney Rock is one of several scenic spots in Catoctin Mountain Park.  Credit: Alicia Lafever, nps.gov
Chimney Rock is one of several scenic spots in Catoctin Mountain Park. Credit: Alicia Lafever, nps.gov

Fort Washington Park is perhaps surprisingly included in this category, rather than being designated a national monument or a national historic site.   This is one of at least a half-dozen national park sites that preserves the story of coastal defenses in the United States during the 19th Century (coastal defense forts were built to last – so they tend to make good historic sites.)   Fort Washington is located in Maryland, just downstream of Washington, DC on the Potomac River.   Today in addition to historical programs, it is a very popular picnic site for the local community.

Greenbelt Park is located in the planned community and Washington, DC suburb of Greenbelt, MD.   Greenbelt is one of three planned communities that arose out of the Great Depression, the others being Greenhils, OH near Cincinnati and Greendale, WI near Milwaukee.  I’ve often thought that it would be interesting for Greenbelt Park to develop a visitor center and exhibits dedicated to the history of urban planning in this country – but for now it is primarily a recreational park of mostly local interest.   If you are planning to visit the Nation’s Capital and would prefer to camp, rather than get a hotel room, then Greenbelt Park is the place to go – as it is a very short drive from the Greenbelt Metro Station.

Piscataway Park is located not that far from Fort Washington Park in southern Maryland.   It was originally set aside to preserve the natural view from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate, on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  (Interestingly, Mount Vernon would rank near the top of any list of “most famous places in the U.S. that are not national parks” – but that’s a topic for anotherpost.)   In addition to preserving the sightlines for moder-day visitors to Mount Vernon, Piscataway Park also hosts the National Colonial Farm – a living history park of Colonial Farming practices.   This makes it one of at least three living history colonial farms in the National Park System, along with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Northern Virginia and the farm at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana.

Prince Wiliam Forest Park is very similar to Greenbelt Park in primarily a recreational park primarily of local interest near Quanitco Marine Corps Base,  a little more than an hour south of Washington, DC in northern Virginia.  There are several hiking trails in the park,  including the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, as well as a large campground, and the park loop road is very popular with joggers and bicyclists.  There are also a number of interpretive displays here on the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps in building this park during the Great Depression.   This park also has more than a few hidden gems, including a historic pyrite mine and a tree stump from a petrified forest.

This petrified tree stump is one of the surprising hidden gems to be found at Prince William Forest Park.


Finally, Rock Creek Park is located right within Washington, DC itself.   Its interesting to note that it was established by Congress all the way back in 1890, four days before Yosemite National Park was established – making it one of the oldest parks in the U.S. National Park System.  Although it is more than twice as large as New York’s Central Park – it is largely managed as wild area, rather than as manicured landscape.  Among the recreational highlights of the park are a Planitarium at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, as well as horse stables.

All told, none of these six parks would be at the top of one’s list if you were visiting the United States from another country, or even if you were visiting the east coast from the other side of the country.   With that being said, all of them have their highlights and interesting bits of history to investigate, particularly if you are attempting to be a “park completist.”

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When Is a National Scenic Trail a National Park?

The author on the Appalachian NST near Boiling Springs, PA. The Appalachian NST is one of three trails that are also counted as a national park as well.

One of the tricky aspects about visiting all of the U.S. National Parks is just identifying the list of what are the national parks in the first place.  In my first post, I mentioned that there are three National Scenic Trails in the U.S. National Park System, and I thought that I would write a little bit more about them. The list of U.S. National Parks includes three national scenic trails;

And yet, there are a total eleven national scenic trails in the United States.  So why does these three “count,” but not the other eight?   What makes these three so special?

Officially, the designation of a long-distance hiking route as a national scenic trail was established by the National Trails System Act of 1968.  Of course, the grand-daddy of them all, the Appalachian Trail was first conceived all the way back in the early 1920’s.   Not too long after that, the parallel concept of of a Pacific Crest Trail was proposed in the 1930’s, running along the Sierra Nevadas. Both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail were designated the first two national scenic trails in 1968.  Confusingly, however, the Appalachian NST became a national park site, but the Pacific Crest NST did not.   In particularly, the National Park Service was authorized to purchase most of the right-of-way for the Appalachian Trail – in that respect, at least, making it a true national park.  The Pacific Crest NST, on the other hand, largely runs through existing national parks, national forests, Bureau of Land Management land, and existing state parks.

By 1980, three other national scenic trails were designated.  The Continental Divide NST would parallel the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails by running down the spine of the Rocky Mountains.   The North Country NST, on the other hand, would turn long-distance trails on their head by running mostly east-west from Lake Champlain in upstate New York to Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota.    Finally, the Ice Age NST would become the first single-state national scenic trail, making a long loop connecting sites throughout the state of Wisconsin. None of trails, however, authorized the acquisition of land by the National Park Service, and so none of these three trails are officially listed as national parks -even though the National Park Service is the lead Federal liaison for both the North Country and Ice Age Trails.  (The US Forest Service, in the Department of Agriculture, is the lead Federal agency for the Continental Divide Trail.)

In 1983, however, three more national scenic trails would be designated.   The Florida NST runs from the end of the Florida Panhandle all the way down to Big Cypress National Preserve, just north of Everglades National Park, and is not counted as a national park.  On the other hand, the Natchez Trace NST and the Potomac Heritage NST would both receive this distinction.  The Natchez Trace NST was designed to run alongside the Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.  The Potomac Heritage NST was designated to run along the tow-path of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Maryland and Washington, DC, with extensions eastward through Maryland and Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay, and an extension westwards to Pittsburgh.  In this respect, both the Natchez Trace NST and Potomac Heritage NST were unique in that although the National Park Service would not be acquiring additional Federal land for these trails (as was done for the Appalachian NST), these two new trails would be running in large part through existing Federal land – indeed through existing National Park Service land.

I actually had occasion to contact the National Park Service about this issue, and they indicated to me that shortly after these new trails were designated in the 1983, the legal department at the National Park Service Headquarters made the determination that these two new trails should be counted as national parks.   Although they did not cite the specific legal rationale that was made all those years ago, I almost have to believe that the fact that these trails were largely designated on National Park Service land must have played a role in the determination.   The irony, of course, is that since the Natchez Trace Parkway and C&O Canal NHP are both already national parks, in many cases these trails become places where you can “visit two parks at once!”   Go figure!

Anyhow, its worth noting that it would be 26 years before another national scenic trail would be designated.  In 2009, three new national scenic trails were created: the Arizona NST runs north-south through the State of Arizona, the New England NST runs from Long Island Sound in Connecticut to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, and the Pacific Northwest NST runs from the Continental Divide NST in Montana to Olympic National Park in Washington State.  None of these three, however, are counted as national parks.

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