Tag Archives: Fort Union

February Stories Behind the Stamps: El Malpais & Erie Canal

El Malpais National Monument headlines the list of new stamps this month.
El Malpais National Monument headlines the list of new stamps this month.  This is a view from the sandstone bluffs overlooking one of the lava fields.

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
    • Waterford Flight

Santa Fe National Historic Trail | Las Vegas Citizens for Historic Preservation

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Audubon Acres, TN

The newly-rebranded El Malpais Visitor Center at El Malpais National Monument
The newly-rebranded El Malpais Visitor Center at El Malpais National Monument.  Photo credit: Brian Bailey

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-part trip 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 restored Sam Patch canal boat is one of the highlights of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. A new stamp has been seen to the T. Spencer Knight Canal Park in Newark, NY just a few miles from Pittsford, NY where the Sam Patch is based.
The restored Sam Patch canal boat is one of the highlights of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. A new stamp has been seen to the T. Spencer Knight Canal Park in Newark, NY just a few miles from Pittsford, NY where the Sam Patch is based.

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor stretches, in the words of the famous song, “from Albany to Buffalo.”  Two of the four new stamps are already Passport locations.  The Albany Institute of History and Art has been preserving the heritage of the upper Hudson River Valley since 1791, and is already a Passport location for the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.  Both Heritage Areas overlap in the Albany area of New York State.  The new stamp for the T. Spencer Knight Park and Visitor Center is  a rebranded replacement stamp for the existing Port of Newark Canal Park.  The park features a mural depicting the Erie Canalway and a hiking trail along the canal.

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 Las Vegas Citizens Committee for historic Preservation has a new stamp this month for the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, and is the new friends organization for nearby Fort Union National Monument.
The Las Vegas Citizens Committee for historic Preservation has a new stamp this month for the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, and is the new friends organization for nearby Fort Union National Monument.

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.

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