Grand Canyon National Park | Desert View Watchtower
Lake Mead National Recreation Area |
Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor | New York State
The Desert View Watchtower is a landmark on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. It was originally built in the 1930’s, and was designed by female architect Mary Colter. In recent years, the Watchtower had been used as a gift shop by a Park concessionaire, up until the National Park Service taking back management of the building in 2015. In 2016, the Watchtower was reopened after being restored to visitor uses closer to Mary Colter’s original vision of the space. Additionally, the National Park Service has partnered with area American Indian Tribes to include artwork by tribal artists on the site. The stamp this month is a replacement for an existing stamp that had either worn out, or its date had expired.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is something of a sister park for Grand Canyon, encompassing the lands surrounding the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona. The park stretches from the point on the Colorado River where Grand Canyon National Park ends the downstream through Lake Mead above the Hoover Dam and Lake Mohave above the the Davis Dam, north of Bullhead City in Arizona.
Prior to this month, there were 9 stamps available for Lake Mead NRA. One is for the main visitor center, located just outside of Boulder City, Nevada. The other eight were for various ranger stations and entrance stations located around the park’s 1.5 million acres. The Boulder Beach and Colville Bay Ranger Stations are both located on the north shore of Lake Mead, relatively near the most-visited section of the park near Boulder City and Las Vegas. With these additions, Lake Mead NRA now has 11 available cancellations. The only remaining Ranger Stations in Lake Mead NRA without their own cancellations are the entrance station at the junction of Lakeshore Road, Northshore Road, and the Lake Mead Parkway and also the remote Meadview Ranger Station in the far eastern portion of the park on the Arizona side of Lake Mead. Perhaps these will be sites for future cancellations?
Finally, the new stamp for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, with the generic text “New York State” on the bottom, will be located at the Canalway Headquarters at Peebles Island State Park in Waterford, New York where it will presumably be a replacement for an existing stamp. In an e-mail, the National Park Service staff advises stampers to call ahead before attempting to collect this stamp, as occasionally the staff at the office may be called away to various projects or events on the Canalway.
With this month’s new additions there are now 2,184 active Passport Cancellations, or 2,072 if you exclude the various anniversary and special event cancellations available.
Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor | Stephen & Harriet Myers Residence
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area | Stephen & Harriet Myers Residence
Oregon National Historic Trail |
Craters of the Moon NM & PRES
Fossil Butte NM
Pony Express National Historic Trail | Camp Floyd State Park
The Lolo Pass in Idaho is where the Lewis & Clark expedition made a treacherous mountain crossing in September 1805, despite the early onset of winter weather. This stamp will be available at the US Forest Service’s Lolo Pass Visitor Center on US Route 12. The new stamp for the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail finally replaces a previous stamp that had been available here from 2004 to 2007. In addition, this site has had a stamp for the Nez Perce National Historic Trail since 2011.
The new North Country National Scenic Trail replaces a previous stamp reading simply “New York” on the bottom that had been available at both the US Forest Service Finger Lakes Ranger Station in the town of Hector, NY as well as at Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, NY. The “New York” stamp is still available at Fort Stanwix.
The Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site preserves a small section of what was originally a 36 mile railroad using a series of cables to carry canal boats over the Allegheny Mountains between separate sections of the Pennsylvania Canal. Operating from 1834 to 1854, until steam engines rendered the system of canal boats and cables obsolete, the railroad is known to also have been used by slaves attempting to escape to freedom; hence its inclusion in the Underground Railroad Freedom Network.
Meanwhile, the main route of the Oregon National Historic Trail passes some 60 miles to the south of the 50 million year-old fossils of Fossil Butte National Monument at Fort Bridger and Fort Bridger State Historic Site. However, an alternate route, known as the Sublette Cutoff, passes within just 5 miles of the park, and the park has recently added the Oregon Trail to its interpretive activities. Interestingly, the nearest town to Fossil Butte is Kemmerer, Wyoming, which is the home of the original J.C. Penney store.
Finally, Camp Floyd State Park preserves a historic stagecoach inn, just south of the Salt Lake City metro area in the town of Fairfield. Camp Floyd is one of the first stops where the Pony Express National Historic Trail diverges from the California National Historic Trail. The California Trail, which took 49ers to the gold fields of California, roughly follows the route of what is now Interstate 80 across northern Utah and Nevada. The Pony Express Trail, however, took a route that was roughly 50 miles to the south, a route that doesn’t appear to have translated into our modern road system.
Eastern National has released the new stamps for the month of February. There is just one new stamp for units of the National Park System, and a few others for partnership programs. All told only two of the seven new stamps are actually for truly new locations. Here’s the list:
El Malpais National Monument | El Malpais Visitor Center
Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor |
Albany Institute of History & Art
Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum
T. Spencer Knight Park and Visitor Center
Santa Fe National Historic Trail | Las Vegas Citizens for Historic Preservation
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Audubon Acres, TN
The highlight of this month’s new stamps is El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico. Located right next to Interstate 40 about 80 miles west of Albuqeurque in the town of Grants, the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Visitor Center serves as a joint visitor venter for the National Park Service’s El Malpais National Monument and the adjacent El Malpais National Conservation Area, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The new stamp this month reflects the National Park Service’s decision to re-brand the generic-sounding Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center as the El Malpais Visitor Center and to more prominently feature the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management logos, connecting the Visitor Center to the El Malpais park lands. This article from the Cibola (NM) Beacon has more background on the decision. In particular it notes that the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center was originally built in 1999 with an overly-optimistic projection of 500,000 visitors per year, but last year only welcomed 23,000 visitors – which was only just about one-eighth of the 175,000 visitors to El Malpais National Monument itself. Hopefully the rebranding will more closely connect the facility to visitors to the park, as it is legitimately a very nice, spacious facility with lots of natural light and space for quality exhibits.
More importantly, hopefully this will be part of a campaign to draw more people to explore El Malpais National Monument. In recent years, the Federal Government has started using the national monument designation for more and more places, including historic sites like Pullman National Monument and Honouliuli National Monument, fossil sites like Waco Mammoth National Monument. The national monument designation has also been increasingly used for places in the National Landscape Conservation System, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and which typically lack the visitor facilities of national park service areas. So when visitors to an area see national monument, its really hard to know what to expect.
El Malpais in particular is a hidden gem for many who discover it. The name is Spanish for “the bandlands,” and it preserves the remains of a lava field from a volcanic eruption that occurred just 2-3,000 years ago. Most significantly, its worth noting that at more than 114,000 acres in size, El Malpais National Monument is larger than 21 full-fledged national parks. Indeed, it is more than twice the size of Acadia National Park, which just recently was the subject of a two-parttrip report on Parkasaurus. Thus, despite the fact that El Malpais National Monument is almost completely lacking any sort of national reputation as a “destination park,” its large size provides plenty to explore and discover.
The Waterford Flight stamp will be located at the Waterford Harbor Information Center, which is a brand-new Passport location for the Canal. The Waterford Flight Locks are a set of five locks on the modern Erie Barge Canal, that raises boats more than 150 feet in just 1.5 miles around the Cohoes Falls of the Mohawk River. This is the greatest vertical distance for a set of canal locks in the world!
The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is located just north of Buffalo, NY in the suburb of North Tonawanda – and yes, the museum uses that older spelling of carousel. The factory dates back to the second decade of the twentieth century, and it immediately looks like one of the most-intriguing Passport destinations in the Heritage Area.
The Santa Fe National Historic Trail marks the famed 19th Century trade route between Kansas City in the United States and the town of Santa Fe in the newly-independent country of Mexico. The Las Vegas Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation in Las Vegas, New Mexico promotes the history of the town, located about an hour’s drive to the east of Santa Fe itself. The group also operates a Santa Fe Trail Interpretive Center in downtown Las Vegas. According to their website, last month they also became the official “friends organization” for nearby Fort Union National Monument. The new stamp replaces an earlier stamp with a typo in it, reading only “Citizens Committee Historic Preservation, NM” (i.e. missing the word “for.“)
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail marks the route of the forcible expulsion of Cherokee American Indians and others from the eastern United States to present-day Oklahoma. Audubon Acres is a local nature preserve operated by the Chattanooga Chapter of the Audubon Society. Significantly, the first naturalist on this property was actually a Cherokee American Indian by the name of Spring Frog. The restored Spring Frog Cabin, where he lived, provides insight into the lives of the Cherokee in this area before their removal. Additionally, many of the plant labels in the sanctuary are labeled in both English and in the Cherokee language.
The three new stamps this month (i.e. those that are not replacements for existing stamps) bring the total number of Passport cancellations to 1,997. Next month the Passport program will likely add its 2,000th cancellation! Excluding cancellations for special programs and anniversaries, there are 1,897 Passport cancellations available.
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area preserves almost all of the off-shore islands in Boston Harbor, including a few that are now connected to the mainland. The stamp for Little Brewster Island is the fifth active stamp for this park. It joins a stamp for “Boston, MA” on the mainland at Long Wharf in dowtown Boston, as well as stamps for Georges Island, Peddocks Island, and Spectacle Island. The 34 islands that comprise this park include a mix of natural scenery, historic resources related to 19th century harbor defenses, and outstanding recreational opportunities. Little Brewster Island is the most-distant of the four islands with stamps, located some 8 miles from downtown Boston.
(As a side note, it should be noted that Boston Harbor Islands NRA previously had a stamp for the Gateway Pavillion information center in downtown Boston, but that stamp has not been available since 2013. Meanwhile, according to the Park map there are Ranger Stations on at least four other islands, so this park may yet add additional stamps in the months and years to come.)
Olympic National Park is one of the true gems of the U.S. National Park System, located on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. This stamp for the concessionarie at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is one of 14 cancellations available around this large national park. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is located in the temperate forests on the northern side of the park in the valley of the Sol Duc River.
The new stamps for North Manitou Island at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore makes for five cancellations at this national park located on the shores of Lake Michigan in the western part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Three of those stamps are on the mainland, and now there is a stamp for both South Manitou Island and North Manitou Island located off-shore in Lake Michigan.
The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail connects sites in Arizona and California along the route taken by de Anza in 1776 to establish the settlement of San Francisco. Fort Ord National Monument was established by President Obama in 2012 on the former site of the military base of the same name on Monterey Bay. Thus, this month marks the first two stamps in the Passport Program to be located in the world-famous scenic destination of Monterey, California. The Big Break Regional Park preserves some of the land on the San Joaquin River Delta at the base of San Francisco Bay.
The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail marks Smith’s voyages of exploration in the Chesapeake Bay from 1607-1609. This month, stamps appear to have been added for just about every Virginia State Park located on the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, Chickahominy Riverfront Park is a local park located in James City County, Virginia. Henricus Historical Park commemorates a famous #2 – it recreates the second successful English settlement in the New World. It was established 80 miles up the James River in 1611 by settlers departing from Jamestown. Mathews County Virginia has a Visitor and Information Center for its network of water trails to explore. Reedville, Virginia is located at the end of Virginia’s Northern Neck, on the Chesapeake Bay. Its Fisherman’s Museum is also a stamping location for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. Vienna, Maryland is the launching point for the Nanticoke River Water Trail, which runs along the Nanticoke River all the way into southern Delaware.
The Thomas Stone National Historic Site is also an outright national park, located in the small town of Port Tobacco in southern Maryland. It preserves the home of one of Maryland’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. It probably would not have made it in to the National Park System on its own, but for the fact that the house was damaged by fire in 1977, and designation as a national park site the next year was about the only way to save it from the wrecking ball. The new stamps for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail both replace existing stamps that were already at the site, reflecing both the site’s scenic location on the Potomac River and on the route of the British invasion of Maryland during the War of 1812. This site also had a generic stamp listing all the states of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, but this its first stamp specific to the site itself. This trail marks the route of American General George Washington and the French General Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau from Newport, Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia at the end of the Revolutionary War. The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network and the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom are two National Park Service partnership programs, reflecting this park’s location on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and as a former plantation were slaves lived, worked, and occasionally, escaped to freedom.
The National Park Travelers Club is a social Club that provides networking for Passport stamp collectors. They now have nine passport stamps that will be available at their member-meetups, one stamp for each Passport region.
In addition to trying to visit all the U.S. National Parks, I’m also a big fan of the Passport to Your National Parks program. In fact, I am not entirely sure which idea came to my first – trying to visit all the U.S. National Parks or trying to collect all the cancellations in the Passport Program. The two goals, at least back when I started, really seemed to go hand-in-hand… by trying to collect all the passport cancellations, I would naturally visit all the national parks in the process, and vice-versa.
The Passport Program is sponsored by Eastern National, Inc. – which is the non-profit cooperating association that operates the bookstores for many of the national park sites in the eastern United States. Since many of the national parks in the eastern U.S. lack the publicity of a Yellowstone or a Grand Canyon, the passport program was initially conceived as a way to promote visitation to all of the national parks, both large and small, both famous and off-the-beaten-path.
Each month, Eastern National releases the list of new Passport Cancellations. This month there are four of them:
Cape Lookout National Seashore | Beaufort, NC
Independence NHP | Franklin Court Printing Office
Erie Canalway National Heritage Area | H. Lee White Marine Museum
Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom | New Castle Court House Museum
By my count that brings the total number of passport cancellations in the program to approximately 1,929 active major cancellations. Obviously, with only 401 national parks, that works out to many more than one cancellation per national park! That’s in part because larger parks may have multiple cancellations for different locations throughout the park, and other parks may have special cancellations available for a specific anniversary celebration, such as the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.
Franklin Court (where a museum stands on the location of Ben Franklin’s former house)
Benjamin Franklin Museum
Franklin Court Printing Office (where the National Park Service has restored Ben Franklin’s print shop for working demonstrations)
Declaration House (where Thomas Jefferson did most of the writing for the Declaration of Independence)
Old City Hall (which was used by the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791-1800 while the U.S. Capitol was in Philadelphia
The eighth is for the Germantown White House, which is a house in what was in the 18th century then-suburban Germantown. President Washington stayed there to escape a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia during Philadelphia’s time is the national capital.
While Independence National Historical Park includes dozens of other buildings in downtown Philadelphia, perhaps the most-notable thing about this list of passport cancellations is that there are now three stamps for Benjamin Franklin, as well as a stamp for the Liberty Bell, but no specific stamp for visiting Independence Hall – the iconic centerpiece of the park itself. Go figure!
Harker’s Island, NC – the park headquarters, main visitor center, and primary ferry departure point to Cape Lookout itself are all here
Light Station Visitor Center – this is the main visitor center on Cape Lookout itself, it is only accessible by ferry
Portsmouth Village – it actually takes two ferries to reach this remote location, a place that is legendary for the epic number of mosquitoes on the island!
The other thing which boosts the total number of cancellations is that the National Park Service does much more than simply manage the U.S. National Park System. In particular, it operates a number of partnership programs, including National Heritage Areas, which opens the Passport Program to other sites that aren’t themselves national parks..
The new location for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area gives that program 27 total cancellations. Of those, four are located at national parks located within the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area. The other 23, like the H. Lee White Marine Museum, in Oswego, NY are other historic sites that are not Federally-run, but participate in the Passport Program through the National Heritage Area partnership program with the National Park Service.
Finally, the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom is yet another partnership program. In this case, special Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom passport stamps are given to any of the 401 national park sites that tells the story of slavery or emancipation in some way, shape, or form. This site is going to the New Castle, Delaware Old Court House Museum, which is part of First State National Monument. The Old Court House was the site of a famous trial of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, who were convicted of working as stationmasters on the Underground Railroad in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. This cancellation brings the number of active and available Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom cancellations to 26.