Tag Archives: Grand Canyon

October 2017 – Motorcities NHA Reboots Its Passport Program & More!

The Navajo Bridge in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is one of the new cancellations this month. Photo Credit: Mark Averitt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51725523

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area |

  • Marble Canyon
  • Navajo Bridge, Marble Canyon

Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve | Hubbard Glacier – Yakutat

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training | Natchitoches, LA

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail |

  • Canyon Ferry Reservoir, MT
  • Fort Benton, MT
  • Yellowstone Gateway Museum, MT

Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area | Intermodal Tourist Center

MotorCities National Heritage Area |

  • Automotive Hall of Fame
  • Detroit Historical Museum
  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Durant – Dort Carriage Company
  • Edsel & Eleanor Ford House
  • Gilmore Car Museum
  • GM – Renaissance Center
  • Historic Fort Wayne
  • Meadow Brook Hall
  • Michigan Historical Center
  • Michigan Military Tech. & Hist. Soc.
  • Nankin Mills
  • Old Mill Museum
  • Plymouth Historical Museum
  • R. E. Olds Transportation Museum
  • Roush Automotive Collection
  • Sloan Auto Museum
  • Stahls Automotive Foundation
  • Walker Tavern Historic Site
  • Yankee Air Museum
  • Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum
The spectacular Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve has an updated cancellation stamp this month. Photo Credit: Aaron Logan from Sunnyvale, CA, USA – Hubbard Glacier, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3653937

Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve is the largest unit in the National Park System, encompassing 13.2 million acres around Alaska’s “southeastern hinge” between the panhandle and the main part of the state.   The new stamp this month combines two previously separate stamps, one for the Hubbard Glacier and the other for the Yakutat Ranger Station.  The Hubbard Glacier is at the extreme southeastern end of this park, at the point where Alaska itself is the narrowest, and the Alaska Panhandle is squeezed between the Pacific Ocean, the Canadian Yukon Territory and Province of British Columbia.  The Hubbard Glacier area is only accessible by boat or by plane, and has been described to me by one National Park Ranger who has worked in the area as “one of the most-spectacular sights in all of the National Park System.”   The town of Yakutat  is actually located a dozen miles away from the park itself, across Yakutat Bay in the Tongass National Forest, and more than 25 miles away from the Hubbard Glacier itself, but is the only community of any size in the area.  Rangers based in Yakutat are responsible for managing the visitors who approach the Hubbard Glacier area by boat, cruise ship, or seaplane.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area preserves an extensive portion of the Colorado River, including several of its tributaries, in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  In particular, it includes the Colorado River from the moment that it flows west out of Canyonlands National Park into the eponymous Glen Canyon, and then as the rivers widen into the famous Lake Powell, formed  by the Glen Canyon Dam in the city of Page in northern Arizona.  The park then also includes the Colorado River’s path through Marble Canyon south of the Glen Canyon Dam to the western tip of Grand Canyon National Park.   The two stamps this month are replacements for existing stamps.  One is for the Park’s main visitor center, the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center, in the Arizona town of Marble Canyon.  The Navajo Bridge is one of just two bridges (and one car ferry) across more than 250 miles of the Colorado River from the Hoover Dam all the way upstream to the remote town of Hite in central Utah.  This spectacular bridge is both an important transportation corridor in this part of the country, as well as an architectural landmark itself.

The National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training is located in historic Nelson Hall on Northwestern State University in Louisiana and gets its first passport cancellation this month. Photo Credit: Fitzed – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9445668

The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training is a research institute that was founded in 1994 on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.   The National Park Service facility has the mission of advancing the state of the art in the preservation of historic resources of all types. Its not clear how much of this facility really caters to visitors, but this stamp does advance the growing trend towards even National Park Service management offices  having a Passport cancellation.   One aspect of the National Park Service that many people don’t think about is the huge collection of historic artifacts in the various National Park Service museum collections from Civil War battlefields, to southwest American Indian pueblos, to pioneer forts and ancient fossil beds.  This center brings in National Park Service employees from across the country to help meet that preservation challenge.

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail now has 37 active cancellations with the addition of these three new cancellations from the state of Montana.   The town of Fort Benton, in the central part of the state, contains the interpretive center for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  That monument preserves spectacular cliffs and rock formations, as well as one of the last wild stretches of the Missouri River that remains much as Lewis & Clark would have experienced it.    The Canyon Ferry Reservoir is located much further upstream, near the state capital of Helena.  Suffice to say, the Canyon Ferry dam has not left the Missouri River much as Lewis & Clark would have experienced it, as has happened to so many stretches of the Missouri River.  However, the dams are import sources of electrical power and flood control, and also provide natural points for providing historical interpretation.  Finally, the Yellowstone Gateway Museum is located in Livingston, MT, just east of Bozeman, MT on the Yellowstone River.  The Yellowstone River Valley was explored by William Clark on the return trip  home from the Pacific Ocean.

The Intermodal Tourist Center in Picayune, Mississippi also serves as the Lower Pearl River Valley Museum.   This location is so named because it also serves passengers riding the Amtrak Crescent Train, which runs from New York to Atlanta and New Orleans.  This new stamp brings the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area up to 41 cancellations.  Parkasaurus discussed this heritage area extensively in our July 2017 post.

The MotoCities National Heritage Area re-launched its passport program this month. Photo from 2006.

Finally, this month it is the turn of the Motor Cities National Heritage Area  to expand.   This heritage area includes portions of 16 counties in southeast and central Michigan, and the partner association for his heritage area focuses on programs and activities telling the history of the automobile industry in the area.   Up to this point, the heritage area had 18 active cancellations, and the new additions this month bring it to 27 active active cancellations.  Since this is a reboot of the passport program for the Heritage Area, I’ll give a brief overview of all the active cancellations.

Eastern Michigan is the home of America’s iconic automobile brands, and a number of automobile museums, 10 of which have cancellations now.   The GM – Renaissance Center is located in the world headquarters of General Motors in downtown Detroit.  The Sloan Auto Museum in Flint, Michigan is devoted to the history of the Buick brand, and is now part of a larger science center.  Also in Flint is the museum of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company‘s offices,  which is believed to have been the largest manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages in the age before the automobile.  The R. E. Olds Transportation Museum in the state capital of Lansing, Michigan is dedicated to the history of the Oldsmobile brand.  The Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum in the town of the same name has a collection ranging across a number of current and former automotive brands, including a Hudson Hornet race car – a car made famous in the Disney-Pixar “Cars” series of movies.  Also in Ypsilanti is the Michigan Firehouse Museum, with collections spanning the history of fire fighting equipment, including the history of fire fighting vehicles. The Roush Automotive Collection in Livonia  is dedicated to the history of the company, and includes a large number of race cars. The Gilmore Car Museum in  the town of Hickory Corners has a collection of more than 200 vehicles, along with other attractions.  The Stahls Automotive Foundation has more than 80 vehicles in Chesterfield, Michigan.  Finally, the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn has honored more than 800 significant figures in the automotive industry from around the world.

Dearborn is also the home of the most-famous automotive industrialist of all time, Henry Ford.  There are seven cancellations dedicated to his legacy.  Several of the MotorCities NHA passport locations are dedicated to him, his family, and his works.  The Nankin Mills in Westland, Michigan and the Old Mill Museum in Dundee, Michigan both preserve early 19th-century grist mills that were once owned by Henry Ford.   The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is where Henry Ford produced the first Model  T.  Edsel Ford was Henry Ford’s only child, and the home he shared with his wife Eleanor in Grosse Pointe Shores is now open for visitation.  The Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport in Belleville, Michigan is where Henry Ford directed the construction the B-24 Liberator Bombers during World War II.  Today it has a number of display aircraft, and also offers rides in historic aircraft.  The Henry Ford National Historic Landmark in Dearborn, Michigan is one of the largest museums in the country, devoted to the history of the industrial revolution in the United States, along with other aspects of modern American history.   Greenfield Village is a living history museum attached to The Henry Ford with an extensive collection of historic buildings.  Among those historic buildings, is the home of the Wright Brothers, which was moved here by Henry Ford from Dayton, Ohio, long before the site eventually became part of Dayton Aviation National Historical Park.

The ten remaining cancellation sites tell the broader story of the history of eastern Michigan, including the automotive history.  Historic Fort Wayne is a reconstruction of the War of 1812-era fort that predated the city of Detroit.  The Walker Tavern Historic Site in Brooklyn, Michigan preserves an early stage coach stop. The Saline Depot Museum preserves a historic railroad depot in Saline, Michigan.  The Northville Mill Race Village has a collection of historic buildings moved to the site. The Michigan Military Technical and Historical Society is a military museum located in the inner-suburb of Eastpointe, Michigan. The Plymouth Historical Museum is dedicated to the history of the town, and the automotive brand, of the same name.   Meadow Brook Hall in Auburn Hills was the mansion of the heiress to the Dodge Automotive brand. The Detroit Historical Museum is the centerpiece historical museum, and the Detroit Institute of Arts is the main art museum, for one of America’s largest metro areas.  Finally, the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing is the main history museum for the state of Michigan.

Final Shot: Meadow Brook Hall, the estate of the heiress to the Dodge automotive fortune, is one of the many cancellation locations in the Motorcities National Heritage Area. Photo Credit: Kelocyde [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
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May 2017 Stamps – Desert Views & a Canalway Headquarters

The Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon National Park highlights this month’s new cancellations. Photo from 2009.

Just a few new stamps for the month of May:

Grand Canyon National Park | Desert View Watchtower

Lake Mead National Recreation Area |

  • Boulder Beach
  • Calville Bay

Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor | New York State

A view of the Grand Canyon from the Desert View Watchtower. Photo from 2009.

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?

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is known for its red rock formations. This photo was taken along the Northshore Road, not far from Calville Bay Ranger Station, which has a new cancellation this month. Photo from 2007.

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.

The final shot this month is a view of the Grand Canyon from the Desert View Watchtower. Photo from 2009.
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July Stories Behind the Stamps – Stories of New England’s Economy

The historic buildings and wharves of Salem Maritime National Historic Site are among the locations with new Passport cancellations this month.
The historic buildings and wharves of Salem Maritime National Historic Site are among the locations with new Passport cancellations this month. Photo from 2005.

A large set of new stamps for this month:

Honouliuliu National Monument | Waipahu, HI

Stonewall National Monument |New York, NY

Salem Maritime National Historic Site:

      • Custom House
      • Derby House
      • Derby Light
      • Narbonne House
      • Waite & Peirce

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park:

      • Hopedale, MA
      • Kelly House
      • Slater Mill
      • Slatersville, RI
      • Whitinsville, MA

Appalachian National Scenic Trail | Shenandoah National Park

Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership:

      • Lake George Historical Association Museum
      • Pember Museum of Natural History

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail:

      • Pinedale, WY
      • South Fork, CO
      • Pagosa Springs, CO
      • Chama, NM
      • Cuba, NM
      • Pie Town, NM
      • Silver City, NM

North Country National Scenic Trail:

      • Crown Point State Historic Site, NY
      • Madison, Wisconsin

The headliners from this group are the stamps for the newly designated Stonewall National Monument in New York City and the relatively newly designated Honouliuli National Monument outside of Honolulu, Hawaii.  Despite the name, Stonewall National Monument consists of Christopher Park, located adjacent to a bar known as the Stonewall Inn – which was famously the site of riots on June 28, 1969 protesting police harrassment of gays.  The stamp is being made avaialable at an information table in the Park, as well as each of the seven other national park sites located in Manhattan and nearby Mount Vernon, NY.

Honouliuli National Monument was added to the National Park System in March 2015.  It previously had a locally-made stamp it was using as a cancellation, this its first official Passport cancellation from Eastern National.

The Derby House is to the left of the path, and the Hawkes House is to the immediate right of the path. The Derby House is represented on one of the new stamps this month for Salem Maritime NHS.
The Derby House is to the left of the path, and the Hawkes House is to the immediate right of the path. The Derby House is represented on one of the new stamps this month for Salem Maritime NHS.  Photo from 2005.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site is located in the town just north of Boston that is perhaps most famous today for its 17th Century “witch trials.”  However, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the town of Salem was famous for its maritime trading network that stretched literally around the world.  Today, the National Park Service site encompasses the historic wharves and approximately 10 historic buildings.

On July 14, 2006, Eastern National celebrated the grand opening a new bookstore and gift shop for the Park, which they branded as “Waite & Peirce” after one of the most-prominent trading partnerships from the port’s heyday.  Aaron Waite (1742-1830) appears to have formed his partnership with Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827) in 1778, at the height of the American Revolutionary War with Great Britain.  Records indicate that they jointly owned the two-gun schooner, Greyhound, and they likely used it in privateering ventures – i.e. attempts to capture British merchant vessels.  After the war, Waite & Peirce built a successful mercantile enterprise that lasted until Peirce’s death in 1827.  Among their merchant vessels was the Friendship.  A fully sea-worthy replica of that boat, the Friendship of Salem, is now part of the park.

The Custom House is one of the centerpieces of the park, and the largest of the park’s historical buildings.   The Custom House is where  government officials worked who were responsible for overseeing the trade in the port of Salem and imposing the appropriate custom duties on cargo shipments.  One of those government officials was Nathaniel Hawthorne whose House with Seven Gables is not official part of the national park, but is also one of the most-significant historical sites in Salem.

The Derby House formerly belonged to the Derby family, one of Salem’s most-successful merchant families.  The Friendship of Salem is docked on Derby Wharf, which is part of the park, and the Derby Light lighthouse, which dates back to 1871, is located at the end of the Derby Wharf.   Finally, the Narbonne House is set back a little bit from Salem’s waterfront and is more typical of the residences for Salem’s working class and small business owner families.

The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park was established just a few months before Honouliuli National Monument, in December 2014.   It received its first set of three stamps in September 2015.  The new stamps for Hopedale, MA; Whitinsville, MA; and Slatersville, RI represent the three historic districts that were included in this park by its authorizing legislation.  Interestingly, each of those stamps will be located at public libraries within those historic districts.  The National Park Service has posted some very short videos on the significance of each of the historic districts.

The other two sites are both located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  The historic Slater Mill is perhaps the signature attraction of this national park, with claims to being the birthplace of the industrial revolution in the United States in 1793.  The Captain Wilbur Kelly House Museum is part of the Blackstone River State Park, which encompasses a linear band of 12 miles of the Blackstone River.  Captain Kelly was a successful sea trader who went on to found a textile mill in the early 19th Century, as part of the advance of the Industrial Revolution.

Hikers along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Shenandoah National Park can also enjoy some of the spectacular scenery.
Hikers along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Shenandoah National Park can also enjoy some of the spectacular scenery.  The trail is in the foreground of this photo.  Photo from 2010.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail  stretches some 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia.  This stamp marks the 101 miles that lie within Shenandoah National Park.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, on the other hand, stretches nearly 3,000 miles all the way from Canada to Mexico along the crest of the Rocky Mountains – although unlike the Appalachian Trail, this trail is not yet complete, and some parts of the designated route remain on private land.  Also, since the lead agency for the Continental Divide Trail is the US Forest Service, this trail is not considered to be its own unit of the National Park System.  The Continental Divide Trail does pass through four units of the National Park System.  Both Rocky Mountain National Park  in Colorado and El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico have self-made stamps, whereas there are still no Continental Divide NST stamps available at either Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks.   These seven new stamps will all be located at various rest stops and information centers along the Trail.

In addition those stamps, I’ve also updated my master list of stamp locations to include five dated unofficial stamps featuring the trail logo  offered by the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in Montana and Idaho.   The Nez Perce Trail marks the route the Nez Perce Indians and their leader, Chief Joseph, took in 1877 as they fled the U.S. Army.

I’ve also updated my list to include three unofficial dated stamps released by the Arizona National Scenic Trail, one for each of the National Park Service units that trail passes through: Coronado National Memorial, Saguaro National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park.

Visitors to Chama, New Mexico can check out not only this National Historic Landmark (mislabeled as a National Historic Site), but also a new cancellation for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
Visitors to Chama, New Mexico can check out not only this National Historic Landmark (mislabeled as a National Historic Site), but also a new cancellation for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

The Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership has been slowly adding stamps, with previous releases in October 2014 and August 2015.   The Lake George Historical Association Museum interprets the story of the resort town located on the lake of the same name in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.  The Pember Museum of Natural History is located about an hour’s drive to the east in Granville, New York.

Crown Point State Historic Site is located on the southern end of Lake Champlain, and preserves Revolutionary War-era fortifications.  Although this month it gets a stamp for the North Country National Scenic Trail, it would be a logical location for a future Champlain Valley National Heritage Patnership stamp as well.  The other North Country NST stamp this month is for the Trail Association’s headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.

A view of the Friendship of Salem taken from the top of the historic Custom House, which is also one of the new cancellation locations at Salem Maritime NHS.
A view of the Friendship of Salem taken from the top of the historic Custom House, which is also one of the new cancellation locations at Salem Maritime NHS.

 

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Winter Wonderland Pictures from the Grand Canyon

Parkasaurus caught this snapshot of snow on the Grand Canyon in December 2009.

Much of the country is caught in a cold snap right now to kick off 2015.   Rather famously there were freezing temperatures at the Rose Bowl Parade, and even a few rare flakes in Las Vegas.  The Washington Post, meanwhile, has highlighted some stunning pictures of snow blanketing the Grand Canyon.

Be sure to click through to the article for additional spectacular photos of a full blanket of snow on the Grand Canyon. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Grand Canyon National Park twice in my life, and ironically, both visits were impacted by snow.  As a child, I remember getting out of the car briefly to look over the edge as the snow came down sideways in a heavy wind during a late spring snowstorm.   The photo above is from a more recent visit in December 2009.   Although my visit didn’t have the spectacular blanket of snow that’s there now, the light layer of snow still provided a nice accent to the always-beautiful scenery at this park.   This view is from near the Desert View Observation Tower on the south rim at the east end of the park.

Overall, this past month has been particularly spectacular for photography at Grand Canyon National Park.   Back in early December, an eerily-beautiful cloud inversion hit the Grand Canyon.  This is a rare weather phenomenon that appeared to literally “fill” the Grand Canyon with clouds – like water in a bath tub.   Although it would surely be a disappointment to anyone making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon to not be able to gaze at its spectacular depths, the natural phenomenon was absolutely spectacular for those who were able to witness it, as these inversions are apparently not predictable and only happen every couple years..


Here’s hoping that if your 2015 takes you to Grand Canyon National Park that it leaves you with memories as spectacular as these photographs.

Happy New Year!

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Congratulations to Poverty Point National Monument

Poverty Point is an amazing site that also requires a bit of imagination.
Poverty Point is an amazing site that also requires a bit of imagination.

 

I’m a little late in getting to this news, but congratulations are in order for Poverty Point National Monument which was recently designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This is quite an honor.  I like to think of the list of U.S. national parks as the 400-or-so most significant natural, historical, and cultural places in the United States (although there are some notable exceptions).  To be inscribed on the list UNESCO World Heritage Site, however, a place must be judged to be of “outstanding universal value” to all of humanity.  Although Poverty Point today may not be jaw-dropping to look at it, it is nevertheless the place of a remarkable story –  the location of the largest complex of preshistoric earthworks from its era in North America.

There are currently just over one thousand  sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list (1,007 to be exact), although more are added  each year.  Of those, Poverty Point is just the 22nd site from the United States to be included.   Of those 22, its not surprising that 13 of them are outright national parks.  This includes two of the first twelve World Heritage Sites designated in 1978, Yellowstone National Park and Mesa Verde National Park.   Others on the list include Grand Canyon National Park, Olympic National Park in Washington State, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Five more on the list, including Poverty Point, are also part of the National Park System as a national monument or national historical park.

An unusual case is Papahanaumokuokea (try pronouncing it as Papa-hana-umo-kuo-kea) Marine National Monument in Hawaii.   This area consists of the unpopulated northwest Hawaiian Islands and the surrounding ocean areas all the way out to Midway Island in the central Pacific Ocean.  Instead of being managed by the National Park Service, it is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

That leaves three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States  that aren’t operated as Federal sites at all.    One such site is Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.   Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, is operated by a non-profit foundation, and the University of Virginia, of course, is operated by the State of Virginia.   The second such site is Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, a remarkable American Indian community that has been continuously inhabited for 1,000 years.   The last such site is Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois – which preserves the remains of the largest known American Indian city in the present day United States.   At its height, Cahokia covered six square miles and had between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

Although the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is by all accounts doing a good job of preserving this extraordinary site for future generations, there nevertheless just seems to be something incongruous about a site simultaneous being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also part of a state parks system, rather than the U.S. National Park System.   No question thatbeing a state historic site, rather than a national historic site in the National Park System gives Cahokia a lower national profile than you might otherwise expect, and so there is in fact a local campaign underway to try and make it a national park.

Interestingly, Cahokia’s situation  bears an uncanny similarity to Poverty Point in this respect as well.   It turns out that although Poverty Point is designated as a national monument, it is still operated as State Historic Site by the Louisiana State Park Service.  This is due to a quirk of history and legislation.  Normally, when Congress wishes to declare a site a new national park it normally first authorizes creation of the park, and then specifies that the park will be effectively created once the Federal government is able to acquire the land for the park.  In this case, however, the Poverty Point National Monument Act of 1986 first established the park, and then authorized the National Park Service to acquire the land for the park either by donation or from willing sellers.   Apparently, at the time the Louisiana Congressional Delegation thought that a deal had been worked out whereby the State of Louisiana would donate the Poverty Point Site to the National Park Service for management as a national park.   Its not clear what happened then, but somehow there was a miscommunication, and the State of Louisiana decided that  they wanted to continue to manage this important site themselves.   Thus, today Poverty Point National Monument is a real anomaly in the National Park System – a national park where you won’t find any sign of the National Park Service.

Now that Poverty Point has taken its rightful place as a World Heritage Site, there’s certainly no question that it merits the national significance to be included in the U.S. National Park System.  In fact, as part of the dedication ceremonies this month, the State of Louisiana has officially renamed it from Poverty Point State Historic Site to Poverty Point Point World Heritage Site, in a ceremony that included National Park Service director John Jarvis.   Despite the unusual status, in my mind, the National Park System is a better place with Poverty Point included than without it.  Still, it would be nice to see an agreement worked out where Poverty Point could take its place as a full-fledged national park, with the consistent management provided by the National Park Service.

In the meantime, a trip to Poverty Point is truly a trip back in time.  Its a rarity in the United States to visit a place where the story is told in thousand-year time scales.   For example, at nearly 3,000 years old, the settlements at Poverty Point predate the famous Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado by some two thousand years!   Three thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks were developing their alphabet, David and Solomon are kings in ancient Israel, the ancient Chinese are developing mathematics ink painting, and at Poverty Point in Louisiana, American Indians are building a major center – a place whose purpose remains a mystery to this day, but which still speaks to those who came before us in this place.

A walking trail has been constructed over the remains of the major mounds at Poverty Point.

A walking trail has been constructed over the remains of the major mounds at Poverty Point.

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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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