Tag Archives: Castle Mountains

September 2016 Stamps – Katahdin Woods, State Parks, and Many Trails

The site of Mission Dolores in Texas and associated visitor center is a new State Historic Site and has an updated stamp this month on the El Camino Real de Tejas National Historic Trail.

After some time away, I’m at least returning to blogging.  To catch up, I’ve decided to go ahead and write the monthly new stamps post for the months I missed. Here are the new stamps for the month of September 2016:

Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument | Penobscot County, ME

Natchez National Historical Park | Fort Rosalie

Nez Perce National Historical Park | Bear Paw Battlefield

Redwood National Park | Prairie Creek Redwoods SP

Redwood National Park | Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP

Rainbow Bridge National Monument |

      • Lees Ferry, AZ
      • Big Water, UT
      • Escalante, UT

California National Historic Trail | Fairway, KS

Oregon National Historic Trail | Fairway, KS

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail | Mission Dolores State Historic Site

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail | Pismo Beach, CA

Old Spanish National Historic Trail | Arizona/Utah

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | St. Clements Island SP, MD

North Country National Scenic Trail |

      • Douglas County, WI
      • Fergus Falls, MN
      • Itasca State Park, MN

The headline of course, is President Obama’s 100th birthday present to the National Park Service – the addition of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine.  Although this park is not as expansive as earlier proposals for a comprehensive Maine North Woods National Park, it is still a landmark addition to the National Park System.  Since Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in central Kansas was added to the National Park System in 1996, there have been only a handful of new parks added primarily for their value as natural landscapes.  Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument was added in 1991, but it was really just a boundary expansion of Virgin Islands National Park, just as Castle Mountains National Monument was really just a boundary expansion for Mojave National Preserve.  A few other new parks have included small landscape parcels as part of a larger history-themed park, but really the only other truly new landscape-focused park in the last 20 years has been Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico.

Congress established Natchez National Historical Park in 1988 to encompass the historic district of Natchez, Mississippi, and to include three National Park Service-managed properties, the Melrose Plantation, the William Johnson House, and the archaeological site of Fort Rosalie.   Fort Rosalie was a French trading post, established in 1716, and was the seed that eventually grew into the present-day town of Natchez.  The original authorizing legislation required the National Park Service to first study the archaeological significance of Fort Rosalie before adding it to the park.

The Nez Perce National Historic Park includes 38 sites across the Pacific Northwest.  The Bear Paw Battlefield site in Montana is where in 1877 Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce ended his attempts to flee US troops, just 40 miles short of safety across the Canadian Border.  The new stamp replaces an earlier version and will be kept at the Blaine County Museum in nearby Chinook, Montana.

Redwood National Park is expanding its Passport locations to include its partner State Parks. Photo from 2002.

Redwood National Park operates as a mix of federal and state lands along the Pacific Coast of northernmost California.  Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park are two of the partners with this effort, and are managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.  There are now 5 cancellation locations for Redwood National Park, three for the National Park Service visitor centers in Orick, Hiouichi, and Crescent City, and two for these two California State Parks.  As an interesting historical footnote, one of these stamps was originally mis-printed as Jedediah Redwoods SP and was used for a short time before being replaced by a correctly-worded stamp.  Additionally, no stamp at all has been issued for the third California State Park in this partnerships, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  This is presumably because as near as I can tell, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park lacks a proper visitor center as a location to place the stamp.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument is only accessible by boat, deep inside Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  These stamps, as well as the new stamp for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, will go to the various visitors centers for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the adjacent Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which provide information on visiting the area.

 

Rainbow Bridge National Monument preserves this natural arch. Photo from National Park Service

The stamps for the Oregon National Historic Trail and the California National Historic Trail will go to the Shawnee Mission State Historic State in Fairway, Kansas.   The Shawnee were relocated out of Ohio to an area just west of what is now Kansas City in 1825.   Methodist missionaries operated the mission from the 1830’s until the time of the Civil War.

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail stamp will presumably be found at the historic Price Historical Park in the town of Prismo Beach.   Although the ranch was founded decades after the 18th-Century Anza Expedition, Anza and his companions passed through what is now called Price Canyon on the journey north to San Francisco Bay  in 1775.

The new stamp for the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail is a replacement stamp, reflecting the redesignation of the former Mission Dolores Travel Information Center just south of San Augustine, Texas to an official State Historic Site.

The new Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail stamp will be at St. Clements Island State Park.  St. Clements Island is only accessible by bout tours during the summer months.   This new stamp continues the evolution of the Potomac Heritage Trail cancellation locations from representing a linear long-distance trail to more of a partnership program, similar to a National Heritage Area.

Two of the new stamps for the North Country National Scenic Trail will be at the Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids, Minnesota.  Itasca State Park is, of course, famously home to the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, making it one of the most-notable additions to the Passport Program this month. The significance of Itasca State Park has long made it one of the most-famous State Parks in the country, and now it is also part of the national Passport to Your National Parks program.  The third stamp will be at the Douglas County Forestry Department in Solon Springs, Wisconsin.

Follow these signs to adventure along the North Country National Scenic Trail.  Photo from 2006.
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March & April Stories Behind the Stamps – New Additions Hit 2,000 Cancellations!

View of Halema‘uma‘u from Jaggar Museum Overlook as darkness falls. The Jaggar Museum is one of several new cancellations. Photo credit: NPS.gov
View of Halema‘uma‘u in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the Jaggar Museum Overlook as darkness falls. The Jaggar Museum is one of several new cancellations this month. Photo credit: NPS.gov

I missed posting last month due to some big news.  The Parkasaurus family is now officially at 5 with the birth of our third child!   Mother and baby are doing great – although everyone is working on getting more sleep.  At the suggestion of our now-5-year-old, the Toothy T-Rex, this will be “Baby Brachiosaurus” in future Parksaurus posts.  We’re delighted to have a new addition to our family!

The other big news from last month is that the Passport program is that this month’s additions mean that there are now more than 2,000 active stamps.  Counting the total number of the stamps is partly art and partly science, since whether or not two Passport stamps are “the same” can be in the eye of the beholder.  However, based on the best information we have on which stamps are made regularly available for different locations within the national parks and the National Park Service’s partners, that is the current total.   Congratulations to the Passport program on this milestone!

So with those two announcements out of the way, here’s to a double-dose of “stories behind the stamps” for March and April.

First, the new cancellations for March that took us to 2,000:

Boston African American National Historic Site | African American Trail

Castle Mountains National Monument | Nipton, CA

Gateway National Recreation Area | Jacob Riis Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

      • Jagger Museum
      • Kilauea Visitor Center
      • Panau Coastal Contact Station

Cane River National Heritage Area | Grand Ecore Visitor Center

Underground Railroad Freedom Network | Harriet Tubman UGRR NHP

And here are the new cancellations for April:

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network | Washington’s Birthplace, VA
Underground Railroad Freedom Network | Washington’s Birthplace, VA

Oregon National Historic Trail | Oregon City, OR

Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area |

      • Iuka, MS
      • Tupelo – Birthplace of Elvis Presley

Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area |

      • Cleveland, TN
      • Grammy Museum of Mississippi
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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has a spiffy logo for their own centennial this year.

The highlight of this set of new stamps are those for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located on the big island of Hawaii.  This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and world-famous as easily the best place on Earth to witness a volcanic eruption in action.  This year, the park celebrates its centennial, along with the National Park Service as a whole.  The special centennial logo includes both of the park’s main volcanic features, the actively erupting crater of Kilauea is in the center, and the occasionally snow-capped Mauna Loa volcano is in the background.  Also included in the logo are the park’s pristine night sky, the endangered nene goose, a Hawaiian petroglyph, and the flower of the ‘ōhi‘a tree.  This flower is considered sacred to Pele, the native Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, and whom was believed to live in the Halema‘uma‘u Crater of Kilauea.

Since the beginning of the Passport program in 1986, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has had a single cancellation, labeled as “Hawaii National Park, Hawaii;” available at each of the park’s visitor contact locations.  This label was a perhaps unintentional tribute to the fact that the park was originally established as Hawaii National Park in 1916, and at that time, the park also included what is now known as Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui.  The two parks were separated in 1961.   Now the park will have separate cancellations at each of its main visitor contact points, including the Kilauea Visitor Center and the Jaggar Museum.   The Kilauea Visitor Center is located at the park entrance, very near the rim of Kilauea Crater.  The Thomas A. Jagger museum is devoted to the history of volcanology, or the study of volcanoes.  Located 3 miles from the Kilauea Visitor Center on the Crater Rim Road, it has a spectacular overlook for viewing the ongoing eruption, right on the edge of the crater itself.  The park has a short online tour of the Crater Rim Road for those of us who can’t make it out to Hawaii any time soon!

The Panau Coastal Contact Station is located at the end of the Chain of Craters Road, the park’s 19 mile (one way) tour road into the heart of the park.  It too has a short online tour available. This contact station is a mobile facility, allowing it to be moved out of harms way in response to changing volcanic activity.   A few years ago, it was possible to see a lava flow meeting the ocean at the end of the road, but as of this writing in 2016, there has not been volcanic activity in the area for several years.  Still a trip to the end of the Chain of Craters Road will take you to the Hōlei Sea Arch.  Also near the end of the Chain of Craters Road is the parking area for a short 0.7 miles (one way) trail to the Pu’u Loa petroglyph site with some 23,00 petroglyphs – so the road is still well worth taking on your visit.

Harriet Tubman - Underground Railroad National Historic Park has logically added an Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom Cancellation. Photo from 2014.
Harriet Tubman – Underground Railroad National Historic Park has logically added an Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom Cancellation. Photo from 2014.

Several other stamps were also issued to full-fledged units of the National Park System.  The brand-new Castle Mountains National Monument received its first Passport cancellation, which will, as expected, be located at the various visitor centers for Mojave National Preserve.  The relatively new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland has also very logically received a secondary cancellation for the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom  partnership program. The Boston African American National Historic Site includes both the NPS-managed Abiel Smith School site, as well as the Black Heritage Trail connecting 14 mostly privately-held historic sites related to free African Americans who lived in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.  As of this writing, its not clear why the stamp reads “African-American Heritage Trail” but the NPS website refers to it as the trade-marked “Black Heritage Trail.”

The Gateway National Recreation Area provides urban recreation opportunities in and around New York City.  The Jacob Riis Park, on the south side of Jamaica Bay, is a popular beach destination for New Yorkers in the summer.   This cancellation will be located at the rennovated historic bathhouse in the park.

The Toothy T-Rex is 3.5 years old in this picture, about the age George Washington might have walked these very shores of the Potomac River watching tobacco being ferried out to trading ships. Photo from 2014.
The Toothy T-Rex is 3.5 years old in this picture, about the age George Washington would have been when he would  have walked these very shores of the Potomac River watching tobacco being ferried out to trading ships deeper in the river. Photo from 2014.

Finally, the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Virginia marks the location of the colonial plantation on Popes Creek where George Washington was born.  There is a reconstruction of a period-appropriate plantation house on the site, but more-recent archaeological work indicates that the Augustine Washington Plantation house would actually have looked much different than the reconstruction.  George Washington would live here until he was four, before moving to Ferry Farm near present-day Fredericksburg, Virginia (which like the Birthplace National Monument is also part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.)   Like almost all Virginia plantations of this time period,  Augustine Washington’s Popes Creek plantation would have relied upon slaves, estimated to be about 20-25 slaves in this case.   The replicas of the places where the slaves lived and worked here places this park in the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom.

Apart from the replica colonial plantation at this site, many visitors may overlook that this park includes a one mile hiking trail through a marsh bordering Popes Creek, as well as a section of beach along the Potomac River.  The Potomac River site is where a young George Washington may have watched tobacco being ferried out to waiting ships in the Potomac River.

The US Army Corps of Engineers' Grand Ecore Visitor Center on the Red River is the newest cancellation location for the Cane River National Heritage Area.
The US Army Corps of Engineers’ Grand Ecore Visitor Center on the Red River is the newest cancellation location for the Cane River National Heritage Area.

Among partnership sites this month, the Cane River National Heritage Area commemorates the unique Creole culture of northwest Louisiana.   The center of the Heritage Area, the town of Natchitoches, has the distinction of being the oldest town in the former Louisiana Purchase, having been founded in 1714, some four years before New Orleans.  It was founded on the banks of the Red River as an outpost for the fur trade with the Spanish in nearby present-day Texas.  The Grand Ecore Visitor Center is a US Army Corps of Engineers facility that interprets the Corps’ management of the Red River, as well as nearby Confederate earthworks from the Civil War. “Ecore” is the French word for “bluffs,” and refers to the bluffs of the Red River on which it is located.

The town of Oregon City, Oregon is located on the southeastern edge of the Portland metro area in Oregon, and is home to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.   Why does the Oregon Trail end in Oregon City, you may ask?  The town of Oregon City was founded as a fur trading outpost and a lumber mill at the confluence of the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers.  At the height of travel on the Oregon Trail, Oregon City was the largest town in the area, and in 1844 it became the administrative capital of the newly-formed Oregon Territory.  It would not be until near the end of the 19th Century that Portland, with its deepwater port, would overtake Oregon City in size.  In addition to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Oregon City is also home to the McLoughlin House Unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.  John McLoughlin founded Oregon City while he was with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1829, and he returned to Oregon City to build this house after leaving the Company in 1846.

Tupelo, Mississippi is home to the tiny Tupelo National Battlefield - and also the birthplace of Elvis Presley!
Tupelo, Mississippi is home to the tiny Tupelo National Battlefield – and also the birthplace of Elvis Presley!

The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area are located in in northeast and northwest Mississippi, respectively.   The town of Cleveland, MS is in Bolivar County (which has its own Mississippi Delta NHA cancellation) and is home to the Grammy Museum Mississippi.  This extension of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opened March 5, 2016.  The town of Iuka, Mississippi, meanwhile, is located in Tishomingo County (which has its own Mississippi Hills NHA cancellation).   According to its Wikipedia Page, spring water from here won first prize at the St. Louis World’s Fair – so there is that.

Tupelo, Mississippi is the center of the Mississippi Hills NHA.  In addition to hosting the flagship Visitor Center for the Natchez Trace Parkway and the tiny Tupelo National Battlefield,  it is also home to the  privately-held Birthplace of Elvis Presley.  There’s no denying Presley’s enormous impact on American popular culture, but given that most historic sites associated with his life are privately held, the inclusion of a site like this through a National Heritage Area is likely the closest the National Park System will come to including a site devoted to “The King.”

With the new cancellations from March and April added in, there are now 2,006 active  cancellations available.  If you exclude the anniversary and special event cancellations, there are still 1,910 active cancellations available.  Always more to explore!

The Holei Sea Arch is one of the attractions at the end of the Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Panau Coastal Contact Station at the end of the road is one of the new cancellations now available.
The Holei Sea Arch is one of the attractions at the end of the Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Panau Coastal Contact Station at the end of the road is one of the new cancellations now available.
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Welcome Castle Mountains National Monument to the National Park System

Castle Mountains National Monument is the newest national park. Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov
Castle Mountains National Monument is the newest national park. Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov

On Friday February 12, 2016, President Obama visited Palm Springs, California to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate three new national monuments in California’s Mojave Desert.

Two of those new national monuments, the Mojave Trails National Monument and the Sand to Snow National Monument will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the National Landscape Conservation System.  Both of them are “gap-filling” monuments.  The Mojave Trails National Monument forms a U-shaped ring around the southern edges of the existing Mojave National Preserve in California, as well as protects a corridor connecting Mojave National Preserve to its more-famous cousin, Joshua Tree National Park.   The Sand to Snow National Monument preserves most of the land in a corridor connecting the western end of Joshua Tree National Park to the eastern end of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which President Obama himself proclaimed in 2014.

The third, Castle Mountains National Monument, becomes the newest unit of the National Park System, bringing the total number of national parks to 410.   According to reporting in The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California, when Mojave National Preserve was first created in 1994, Senator Diane Feinstein ensured that the Castle Mountains were excluded from the then-new national park in order to protect gold mining interests in the area.  Two decades later, Senator Feinstein began championing a new proposal to expand the protected areas of the Mojave Desert, including creating the two aforementioned national monuments.  This proposal also called for bringing most of the Castle Mountains into the fold of Mojave National Preserve, leaving a much-smaller parcel of land outside the park boundaries to accommodate the Hart Gold Mine.   This map shows how Castle Mountains National Monument “fills the gap” inside Mojave National Preserve,  and how the Hart Gold Mine will remain a “doughnut hole” (with an access road) inside Castle Mountains. After several years of unsuccessfully trying to get her Mojave Desert protection bill through the normal legislative process in Congress, she turned to President Obama and the Antiquities Act.

Another view of the newest national park. Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov
Another view of the newest national park. Despite the name, the new park includes both the namesake Castle Mountains, as well as surrounding desert areas that partially “fill the gap” In the existing borders of Mojave National Preserve.  Photo Credit: whitehouse.gov

So in some ways, Castle Mountains National Monument is an “accidental national park.” Since the President of the United States does not have the authority to add new land to an existing national park, but does have the authority to create a new national park using the Antiquities Act.  So if the Castle Mountains had been included in the original Mojave National Preserve in 1994, or even if the Castle Mountains had been added to Mojave National Preserve by Congress at any time over the last four years, there’s probably one less national park, and I’m probably not writing this post.

Still, the Castle Mountains do seem to have legitimately beautiful scenery – as some of the publicity shots being released with the new national monument designation amply demonstrate.  Additionally, the Castle Mountains will also have the advantage of branding.  After all, who wouldn’t want to go hiking in a place with a name like “Castle Mountains National Monument?”  The very name makes it sound like a place to find an adventure.

The historic Kelso Depot Visitor Center in Mojave National Preserve will likely be the closest information point for Castle Mountains National Monument. Photo from 2007.
The historic Kelso Depot Visitor Center in Mojave National Preserve will likely be the closest information point for Castle Mountains National Monument. Photo from 2007.

For the immediate, future, however, the Castle Mountains will likely remain relatively difficult to visit.   Just reaching the boundaries of the new national park will require travelling around 10 miles down remote dirt roads.   It remains to be seen if the National Park Service will pursue any kind of visitor facilities in this new park, such as establishing any permanent hiking trails, let alone improving a road into the park of even establishing and staffing a ranger station in the new park.  For now, visitor information will be handled out of Mojave National Preserve.  Certainly one possibility would be for Congress to eventually combine together Mojave National Preserve and Castle Mountains National Monument into a single park, although considering that Congress did proposed legislation to do this for several years, that seems unlikely.  For now, visitor services will be handled out of Mojave National Preserve, the main visitor for which is in the historic Kelso Depot, a former train station in the middle of the desert, and a place with a history all its own.

In the meantime, the Castle Mountains of the Mojave Desert become a new place on the bucket list for national park completists, and the sort of destination of which dreams of a new national parks adventure are made.   This image by Justin Weiss is a nearly-perfect representation of that, prints of the image can be purchased, proceeds from which benefit the National Parks Conservation Association advocacy group.

Historic-style National Park Service poster by Justin Weiss.
Historic-style National Park Service poster by Justin Weiss.

 

 

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