Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Parkway

June 2017 New Stamps – Reconstruction Era NM Expands Their Passport Program and More Trail Stamps

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail continues to add cancellations around the Chesapeake Bay. This photo is from a new cancellation in Chestertown, MD.

 

Blue Ridge Parkway | Doughton Park Visitor Center

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | C&O Canal NHP HQ

Reconstruction Era National Monument |

        • Port Royal
        • St. Helena Island

San Juan Island NHP | Friday Harbor, WA

California National Historic Trail | Martin’s Cove, WY

Oregon National Historic Trail | Martin’s Cove, WY

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | NM Public Lands Info Ctr.

Santa Fe National Historic Trail | NM Public Lands Info Ctr.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail | Roving Ranger

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail | Historic Nauvoo

Old Spanish National Historic Trail  | Kelso Depot

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Trail of Tears Assoc., OK

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |

        • Columbia, PA
        • Chestertown, MD
        • Great Falls, MD
        • Sandy Point State Park, MD
        • Gloucester, VA
        • Warsaw, VA
The Rappahannock River National Wildlife Refuge in Warsaw, Virginia is also a new cancellation location this month for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT.

The highlight of this month’s new stamps come from the newly designated Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina.   The initial stamp for this new national park was released just a couple months ago in April 2017.   That first stamp was for historic Beaufort, South Carolina, which was captured by Union forces in the early days of the Civil War in 1861, and so was one of the places where the process of reconstruction in the south began.  Beaufort was also the birthplace of Robert Smalls, who was born into slavery in 1839.  During the Civil War, in 1862, Smalls made a daring escape from nearby Charleston, taking the helm of the confederate ship CSS Planter, slipping it past the guns of Fort Sumter, and taking it out to sea where he could surrender to Union forces.  In an amazing and ironic historic twist, Robert Smalls would later use the prize money he was awarded for the capture of the Confederate ship to later purchase a home in Beaufort that had actually been owned by the very family that had once owned him.

Port Royal is located just to the south of Beaufort proper.  Port Royal was the site of Camp Saxton, where Union forces recruited the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Regiment from among the enslaved black population of the area.

Also in the same year of  Robert Smalls’ daring escape in 1862, even as the Civil War was still crescendoing to its full peak,  two women from Pennsylvania arrived in the area to begin providing an education to the freed blacks.   They soon moved their school into an old brick church on St. Helena Island, just to the east of Beaufort proper, which is the third passport location for this park.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is adding a new cancellation this month for the new Doughton Park Visitor Center. Photo from 2016.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has added a 19th visitor center and passport location this month, with the addition of the Doughton Park Visitor Center.  Located at milepost 241, it fills a gap between the Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213 and the Cone Memorial Park Visitor Center at milepost 294.  Interestingly, there was previously a cancellation for the Cumberland Knob Visitor Center at milepost 219, but that location is now closed with the opening of the nearby Blue Ridge Music Center in 2006, and that cancellation is now in the history books.

According to a report in the Wautauga (NC) Democrat, this location was previously operated by a concessionaire as Bluff’s Lodge and Coffee Shop, but has been closed since 2010.  A partnership effort was organized, seeded by an anonymous donation to restore the property, which had deteriorated.  This year it is reopening as the Doughton Park Visitor Center and will be managed by Eastern National, which also runs the Parks Passport Program. Interestingly, the visitor center is only Phase 1 of the restoration of the project.  Phase 2 will include restoring the Coffee Shop – which will be welcome news for many travelers.  Restoration of the lodging is also in the plans as well.

The new Doughton Park Visitor Center is located just 22 miles from the now-closed visitor center at Cumberland Knob. Photo from 2010.

The new stamp for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail located at the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Hagerstown, Maryland is simply an updated replacement for previous stamps at this location.  Although the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail runs along the entire length of the C&O Canal towpath, the park Headquarters Building is located in Hagerstown proper, so Passport enthusiasts will have to make a brief detour from the Trail to get this cancellation.

Similarly, the new addition for San Juan Island National Historical Park is for the Park Headquarters in the resort town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  Visitors to the Park can also collect cancellations at the American Camp and the English Camp on either end of the island.   The American Camp marks where US soldiers established themselves in 1859 and began a face-off with a British warship, as a dispute about a pig uprooting a garden nearly escalated a simple border dispute into an international war. The English Camp marks where British soldiers landed and encamped in 1860 as part of a temporary settlement for “joint occupation” of the island until a permanent settlement could be reached – something that would not occur until nearly a decade later, when arbitrators appointed by the German kaiser awarded San Juan Island to the United States.

The Mormon Handcart Historical Site in Martin’s Cove, Wyoming has two new cancellations this month.     Photo Mplark (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Mormon Handcart Site in Martin’s Cove, WY is operated by the Church of Latter-day Saints.  It marks the site where a party of Mormon emigrants pulling hand carts  and departing late in the season in 1859 became stranded for several days due to an early blizzard.  The site provides interpretation of the events at the site, as well as the rigors of pulling hand carts on the migration west.  The site previously has had cancellations for the Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express National Historic Trails.   The route used by the Mormon emigrants was the same route also used by settlers and gold rushers travelling on the Oregon and California National Historic Trails, respectively.  So this site now has a full compliment of four cancellations for the four Emigrant Trails across the west.

The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail does get one new cancellation this month, this one for the starting point of the trail in Nauvoo, Illinois.  This new stamp is located at the Historic Nauvoo Visitor Center, which is also operated by the LDS Church.   This new stamp is somewhat paired with the new stamp for Nauvoo, Illinois under the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area that was released in January 2017. That stamp has been located at the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo, which preserves a historic home of the man who was the founder of the LDS Church and also the former mayor of Nauvoo for two years up until his murder by an angry mob in nearby Carthage, Illinois in 1844.  The Joseph Smith Historic Site is operated by the Community of Christ, which was formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and which split from the larger LDS Church in 1860.  The Nauvoo Historic District represented by this month’s new cancellation  includes many other historic structures in Nauvoo, including the former home of Brigham Young who was the second President of the LDS Church, and who led the journey west to Utah.

The New Mexico Public Lands Information Center, operated by the Bureau of Land Management in Santa Fe, New Mexico has already had cancellations for the  Old Spanish, Santa Fe, and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trails.   The new stamps for the last two trails are simply subbing out previous stamps that read “Santa Fe, NM” on the bottom with stamps that now read “NM Public Lands Info Ctr.” on the bottom.  The Old Spanish Trail had actually made a similar switch back in 2012.  Interestingly, I can’t help but note that the street address for the New Mexico Public Lands Information Center is 301 Dinosaur Trail in Santa Fe!

The Roving Ranger Program at Golden Gate National Recreation Area helps connect people in the Bay Area to extraordinary locations like this one. Photo from 2015.

The new stamp for the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail will presumably be included as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area‘s Roving Ranger program.  The Roving Ranger truck takes the National Park Service’s outreach out into the communities of the San Francisco Bay Area to promote the National Park Service location that is right in their own backyard.   Meanwhile, the new stamp for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail simply reflects the move of the Trail’s headquarters offices from Little Rock, Arkansas to Webbers Falls, Oklahoma.

The new stamp for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail is actually the third iteration of a stamp at the historic Kelso Depot in Mojave National Preserve.  Previous iterations read “Kelso, CA” and “Mojave National Preserve, CA” on the bottom.

The Great Falls of the Potomac are one of several locations with a new Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT stamp this month.

Finally, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail continues its rapid expansion of Passport cancellations this month.   The six new additions this month give it a grand total of 41 Passport cancellations.  That total is good for 5th place in the National Park System, behind only the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area with a whopping 71, the Old Spanish National Historic Trail with 50, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail with 47, and the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail with 44.   Each of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake cancellation locations appears to come with a wayside exhibit, providing interpretive about John Smith’s voyages of exploration from the Jamestowne Colony up through the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the early 1600’s.

The two new locations in Virginia include the Rappahannock River National Wildlife Refuge near Warsaw, Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay community of Gloucester on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, between the Rappahannock and York Rivers.   In 2003, archeologists working near Gloucester discovered the site of Werowocomoco, which was the capital of the Powhatan Confederacy of some thirty Indian tribes in the area, and which traded and interacted with Captain John Smith and the Jamestowne Colony.

In Maryland, the new locations include Great Falls Park, which is managed by the George Washington Memorial Parkway.  The Great Falls of the Potomac River formed a natural barrier to Captain John Smith’s upstream explorations of the Potomac River.   Other locations include Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Maryland and the Sultana Education Foundation in Chestertown, Maryland on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Sultana Education Fuondation operates a replica of an 18th Century vessel, the Sultana, that was used for collecting tea taxes in the Chesapeake Bay.  It also conducts a number of environmental education programs for children, and promotes the newly-developed water trail on the Chester River.

The final new stamp will be located at the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center in Columbia, Pennsylvania, where US Route 30 crosses the Susquehanna River.   Captain John Smith never made it this far north on his voyages, as he was stopped by the great falls of the Susquehanna further south in Maryland.  However, the Susquehannock American Indians in this area used the Susquehanna River as part of a trading route network that stretched as far as New York State.  Thus, Congress has included the full length of the Susquehanna River as part of this National Historic Trail, in part for its historic significance to the American Indians, but also to use the National Historic Trail program to spread awareness of the extensive watershed for the Chesapeake Bay.

With this month’s new additions, the total number of active cancellations in the Passport Program is now 1,179.   Happy stamping!

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30 for 300 – Part III

And now, here is the conclusion of my 30 for 300 series with my Top 10 Memories from visiting my first 300 national parks!

In case you missed it, you may also be interested in Part I with #’s 21-30; Part II with #’s 11-20; and the Honorable Mentions.

#10) Exploring Ellsworth Rock Garden at Voyageurs National Park – July 2012

My 2012 trip to Voyageurs National Park was magical in multiple ways.   This trip was one of the first camping trips I did with my Jr. T-Rex, who only 20 months old at the time.   Voyageurs is also one of the best places in the country to see bald eagles in the wild, and we saw them seemingly everywhere.  Then, once evening sets in, the star birds of this Park are the loons, whose haunting calls echo over the lakes in the twilight hours.

The top highlight of this trip, however,  was discovering the Ellsworth Rock Gardens.    Back in the ’50s and ’60s, a gentleman by the name of Jack Ellsworth from Chicago vacationed on Kabetogama Lake in the summers and constructed a vast and elaborate set of terraces, flower beds, and fanciful rock sculptures. This site is truly “off-the-beaten-path,” as it is only accessible by boat – which also means no crowds.  We literally had the site to ourselves when we visited, despite being the middle of the summer tourist season.   To find something this elaborate quite literally in the middle of nowhere was truly one of the most surreal experiences of my travels.

Ellsworth Rock Gardens is one of hidden gems of Voyageurs National Park, and indeed, of the whole U.S. National Park System.
Ellsworth Rock Gardens is one of hidden gems of Voyageurs National Park, and indeed, of the whole U.S. National Park System.

 

#9) Picnic Under the Cherry Blossoms at National Capital Parks

Since the Parkasaurus Family lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC this has become an annual tradition for us – and so this is the only one of my “30 for 300” without a specific date attached to it.  Yes, the Tidal Basin area gets absolutely crowded during cherry blossom season – but for good reason.   There really is nothing like strolling under the cherry blossoms at peak bloom.  The trees form a sea of puffy white bloosoms above you, with iconic accents provided by the visages of the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the other monuments and memorials around the Tidal Basin.  The cherry blossoms are fleeting, though, with peak bloom lasting only 3-5 days each year.  So each year we monitor the reports closely of when the peak bloom will be, and we always make sure to find time in our schedule to head downtown with a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy the spectacular scenery of one of the Nation’s Capital’s rites of spring.

Even with the well-deserved crowds of people around you, it is still possible to find spots to enjoy the pure clouds of cherry blossoms.
Even with the well-deserved crowds of people around you, it is still possible to find spots to enjoy the pure clouds of cherry blossoms.

 

#8) Hiking to Cathedral Rock at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – May 2006

Located way up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is another of my favorite hidden gems of the National Park System.  In fact, if it were rebranded as Pictured Rocks National Park instead of national lakeshore, it would probably get a lot more of the attention that it so richly deserves.

My visit to this Park in 2006 included one of my all-time favorite hikes.  From the trailhead at the end of Chapel Road, there is a choice of two trails, one leading to Cathedral Rock and Chapel Beach, the other leading to Mosquito Beach.  I must admit that I never took the trail to Mosquito Beach, but this seems like an easy choice, right?

The full loop trail to Cathedral Rock and Chapel Beach is 9 miles, so it makes for a substantial day hike.  Additionally, one of the few drawbacks of this hike is that a substantial portion of those 9 miles leads you through relatively non-descript pine forest.  The payoff at the end is worth it, however.  After spending an hour and a half walking through the forest, the sensation of going over that last rise and seeing the pristine waters of Lake Superior and the spectacular rock formations on its coastline open up before you is truly breath-taking.

Cathedral Rock is one of the most-impressive natural features on the Lake Superior coastline.
Cathedral Rock is one of the most-impressive natural features on the Lake Superior coastline.

 

#7) Climbing the High Dune by Moonlight at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – July 1999

Sand dunes in Colorado?   This National Park certainly provides the unexpected.  There are few sights that can compare to seeing North America’s tallest sand dunes nestled against the base of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado.   On my trip to this park in the summer of ’99, I arrived relatively late in the evening and claimed a campsite in the Park’s Pinyon Flats Campground.   I then took advantage of the full moon that evening to go out and climb to the top of the High Dune under the soft glow of the moonlight.  Reaching the dunes involves crossing a shallow stream, and from there, with the benefit of the cool night air, bare feet were definitely the order of the day.   While most people who visit this Park in July have to deal with the scorching sunshine and heat on the dunes, my trip was a magical mystery tour in an other-worldly landscape with cool sand under my feet and the full moon high in the sky.

The dunefield at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve under the sunlight, rather than the moonlight.  Photo from a return visit in April 2015.
The dunefield at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve under the sunlight, rather than the moonlight. Photo from a return visit in April 2015.

 

#6) “Baby Moon” on the Blue Ridge Parkway – October 2010

The Blue Ridge Parkway has been one of my absolute favorite national parks ever since I drove it end-to-end in August 2001.  If you love a good road trip, as I most certainly do, then the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469 miles with no traffic lights, no stop signs, and almost never-ending series of overlooks, historic sites, and waterfall hikes is almost like a little slice of heaven.   In the Fall of 2010, as Mrs. Parkasaurus and I were preparing for the birth of our Jr. T-Rex, we decided to take a “baby moon” trip together before the baby arrived.  A trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway during Fall colors season, and to enjoy a corn maze in the shape of the Parkway’s 75th Anniversary logo was a logical choice.  On the way back home, we happened to discover a cabbage patch growing right up next to the Parkway, which seemed like the perfect symbol for our trip.

Mrs. Parkasaurus picking out a baby from the cabbage patch on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Mrs. Parkasaurus picking out a baby from the cabbage patch on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

#5) Hiking the Lamar Valley at Yellowstone National Park – August 2006

Yellowstone National Park, in my estimation, is one of the ten most amazing places in the world, and thus rightfully attracts its fair share of visitors.    Away from the geysers and thermals however, and away from the traffic jams caused by the bison and the grizzly bears, there are still places in Yellowstone where you can get off the beaten path.  On my second trip to Yellowstone, in 2006, that place for me was the Lamar Valley in the far eastern end of the Park.  I no longer even remember what inspired me to do so, but I set off on a hike in this part of the Park without even so much as a marked trail – and just spent a couple hours taking in the grand scenery of the American West and a little quiet solitude.

A solitary bison in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.
A small group of bison in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.

 

#4) Finding Incredible Isolation at American Samoa National Park – September 2005

I could easily fill an entire blog post about my trip to American Samoa National Park (which for some reason is officially called the National Park of American Samoa) – and in fact, I may just try and do that sometime down the road.   Suffice to say that just visiting American Samoa National Park involves travelling to what is far and away the most-remote location in the National Park System – located as it is some 4,500+ miles southwest of Los Angeles in the Southern Hemisphere.   However, even within a Park like this, there is remote, and then there is really remote.  Only a handful of visitors each year are able to make it out to the island of ‘Ofu.  For the lucky few who make it, it is a true tropical paradise.  Dramatic rainforest-covered cliffs drop down to white sand beaches, with a pristine coral reef literally almost close enough to touch.  I’ve traveled to many different places, but I’ve never felt further away from the cares of the world than when I was on the island of ‘Ofu.

The one hiking trail on the island of 'Ofu doesn't get a lot of foot traffic, so the author found that a machete came in handy.
The one hiking trail on the island of ‘Ofu doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, so the author found that a machete came in handy.  Some of ‘Ofu’s beautiful beaches can be seen in the background.

 

#3) “Ocean in View, O the Joy!” at Lewis & Clark National Historical Park – July 2005

In addition to dinosaurs, I’ve always had a soft spot for national parks dedicated to explorers.   In the summer of 2004, my best friend and I decided to celebrate the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s Cexpedition by taking three weeks to travel the entirety of the National Park Service’s Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, which now marks the route.   Nearly two weeks into the trip, we finally reached what was then-called Fort Clatsop National Memorial and is now called Lewis & Clark National Historical Park.  Whatever you call it, the ending point of the Trail is the National Park Service’s reconstruction of the small fort that Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their men (along with Sacagawea and her family) built to pass the winter of 1805-1806.  Our sense of relief at reaching the end of our road trip was of course nothing compared to the relief that Meriwether Lewis  and Wiliam Clark must have felt when writing the words in his journal, “Ocean in View, O the Joy!”   Still, our trip following in their footsteps, and listening to an audiobook of their journals along the way, and traveling from one end of our country to another was full of memories that are not soon to be forgotten.

The author and his friend celebrating at the reconstructed entrance to Lewis & Clark's Fort Clatsop
The author and his friend celebrating at the reconstructed entrance to Lewis & Clark’s Fort Clatsop

 

#2) Interning at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Summer 1999

As an undergraduate, I double-majored in geology and economics.   As I entered college, my dream was to some daydevelop a career studying fossils as a paleontologist.   By the time my college days were over, however, I had recognized that my future calling lay in economics, rather than geology or paleontology.  Still, I stuck it out and completed my double major, and before beginning a career in economics, I took advantage of my geology degree to spend the summer after graduation as an intern with the National Park Service.

It was actually that summer internship which set me on my journey of trying to visit all of the U.S. National Parks.  You see, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is an absolutely incredible place, with beautiful Rocky Mountain alpine scenery and 35 million year old fossils of insects so perfectly preserved that you can still see the veins in the wing of a fossilized wasp.   Yet, before taking this internship, I had never even heard of it.  Thus, it occurred to me – how many other incredible places that I have never heard of could I discover if I started visiting national parks?   And so the journey began…

The author, performing some trail maintenance as a Ranger intern in his younger days at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
The author, performing some trail maintenance as a Ranger intern in his younger days at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

 

#1) Wedding Day at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – July 2008

If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve noticed a pattern with my 30 for 300’s #’s 21-30 and #’s 11-20.   Sure enough,  10 months after getting engaged at Harper’s Ferry, we returned to the Park to get married at Historic St. Peter’s Chapel.

The author and Mrs. Parkasaurus get their first Passport stamps together as an (almost) married couple just before their wedding ceremony.
The author and Mrs. Parkasaurus get their first Passport stamps together as an (almost) married couple just before their wedding ceremony.

We made the most of the experience, including getting Passport Stamps together to mark the special day, and then climbing the old stone steps to the Chapel’s location on the cliff above the lower town.  Since the Appalachian National Scenic Trail runs along those steps, my wife can say that she hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail in her wedding dress!

The happy couple and the scenary of Harpers Ferry National HIstorical Park.
The happy couple and the scenary of Harpers Ferry National HIstorical Park.

Thank you very much for joining me on this trip down memory lane through some of my favorite moments from visiting my first 300 national parks.  I obviously continue to love both visiting parks for the first time, and revisiting the parks I have been to before, and I hope you will continue to join me in sharing that journey on this blog.

Top 10 Stamps

If you missed it, here is Part I with #’s 21-30; here is Part II with #’s 11-20; and here are the Honorable Mentions.

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Just What Is a National Park Anyways? And How Do You Get 401 of Them?

Whenever I tell people that I’m trying to visit all of the U.S. National Parks at least once, one of the first questions that inevitably follows is: “How many national parks are there?”

When I answer that “there’s 401 of them,” their eyes often grow big, as many people have no idea there’s so many.  That reaction is then often followed by something along the lines of “Oh, so you mean that you are trying to visit not just national parks, but also all the national monuments, and national historic sites, right?”

Well, yes and no.   There are indeed only 59 places with the designation national park,  which are places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon, which most people think of when they hear the term national park.  However, there’s nothing simple or straightforward about what are the other kinds of designations that make up the U.S. National Park System.  Its pretty much the case that there’s a list, and you just simply have to know what’s on the list.  I’ll try and give a brief overview of what I mean here, and from time to time I’m planning to come back to this topic to explain more of the details.

So, without further ado, her are the designations that make up the National Park System:

National Parks – You can’t go wrong with this one.  There are 59 of these, and not surprisingly, all 59 count towards the list of national park sites.

National Historic Sites & National Historical Parks – There are 125 of these – the most of any type.  In theory, a national historical park is simply a larger, or more-expansive, national historic site.  In practice, I find there isn’t often a clear line of distinction between the two, (as with so many things!)  In any event, the vast majority of these areas count towards the list of national park sites, but there are a few exceptions, which I’ll discuss in a future post.  The 125 sites also includes one International Historic Site.

National Monuments – Just to make things confusing, would you believe thate the Washington Monument is notnational monument? There are 75 of these.  For the most part, a national monument is an outstanding natural area or historical/archaeological area that was protected by a Presidential proclamation – although there are exceptions to that too.  A great many national monuments are national parks, but a great many are not as well.  In fact,  there are no fewer than six different Federal agencies that manage national monuments.

National Memorials – Most of these are national park sites, and many of the 29 of those that are national park sites are in Washington, D.C.   The Lincoln Memorial is one, as is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and so is the Washington Monument.

National Battlefields & National Military Parks – Quick, think of the name of a famous Civil War or Revolutionary War Battlefield.  Odds are, the place you thought of is a national park site.  There are 25 of these.

National Recreation Areas – Just like national monuments, many of these are national park sites and many of them are not.  There are 18 of these that are national park sites, and they generally come in two varieties: many of them are reservoirs created by hydroelectric dams for water-based recreation, the others are scattered areas of urban parklands that were created to “bring the national park experience to the people.”

National Seashores & Lakeshores – There are 14 of these, and they are pretty much what the name says they are.   As near as I can tell, all of them are national park sites.

Parkways – The are actually four road-based national parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway probably being the most-famous (and also being one of my favorite national parks.)   The National Park Service actually operates several other parkways – but there’s only four that count as stand-alone national park sites.

National Scenic Trails – There are eleven long-distance national scenic trails out there, but only 3 of these that are national park sites, the most-famous of which is surely the Appalachian Trail.

National Rivers – If you thought this list was inconsistent up until now, the rivers in the National Park System only add to the confusion. This category includes some places designated as wild & scenic rivers, some as scenic & recreational rivers, some as wild rivers, and some as just plain national rivers.  Whatever their designations, all are considered part of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System to protect their wild & scenic nature, or outstanding recreational opportunities.   Many of them are managed by the National Park Service, while many others are not.   Out of those managed by the NPS,  15 have risen to the status of being full-fledged national park sites.

National Preserves & National Reserves – Most of these, but not quite all, are national park sites, a total of 20 to be exact.  These are protected areas that generally allow a greater amount of human activity, such as hunting and trapping, that generally are not allowed in other national park sites.  Perhaps most-confusing is the fact that 9 out of the 20 of these are actually part of a bigger “national park & preserve” – which is a large national park that effectively “counts twice” towards the total of 401 national parks.

Odds & Ends – Finally, there are 11 national park sites that don’t fit into any of the above categories.  Some of them are just plain unique sites.  For example, did you know the White House is managed by the National Park Service?  Many of the others are parklands around the Greater Washington, DC Metropolitan Area that just happen to be managed by the National Park Service for historical reasons.

So there you have it!  That’s how you get to 401 national parks.

Thus, if you say that you are going to try and visit all 401 national parks, you can say that you will be visiting all the national parks,  as well as all the national seashores & lakeshores, and all the national battlefields & national military parks.  You can also say that you will be visiting most of the national historic sites & national historical parks, as well as most of the national memorials, and most of the national preserves  national reserves.   Beyond that, you can say that you will also be visiting many national monuments and many national memorials, as well as many other places that don’t fit nice and easy classifications.

What you can say, however, is that almost every visit to one of the 401 national park sites in this country will be special, and will reflect that National Park Service’s special commitment to visitation and interpretation of America’s most-important treasures.

 

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