Tag Archives: Joshua Tree

The New National Park No One Is Talking About & More!

 

There are lots more other changes to the National Park System included in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which has now been officially signed into law.

Among the many remaining changes that jump out to me is that Death Valley National Park is expanded by 35,292 acres, further expanding the largest national park in the contiguous 48 states.  Although this is a small addition to Death Valley’s existing 3.4 million acres, the expansion is larger than seven other national parks.  If this were a stand-alone addition to the National Park System, we might well be celebrating the addition of a 62nd national park.  In fact,  the additional lands are about the size of Bryce Canyon National Park’s 35, 835 acres.  So in some ways, this addition to Death Valley National Park is the new national park that no one is talking about.  If land of this size had been set aside as a new national park with a new name, it would certainly be headline news.  As it is, its a bit of a footnote, but is still worth celebrating.

A bit over 6,000 acres of this addition come from adding an area known as “the Crater” to the Park.  If you look closely at a map of Death Valley National Park, The Crater appears as a “doughnut hole” of Bureau of Land Management Land in the northeast corner of the Park.  That hole will now be filled in. The remaining 29,000 acres come from expanding the Park southwards to include the land between the current boundaries and the Fort Irwin National Training Center operated by the U.S. military.

Fort Moultrie, outside of Charleston South Carolina, tells a nearly complete history of US harbor defenses, and is now formally included in the newly-renamed Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. Photo from 2011.

Although the expansion of Death Valley is far and away the largest expansion of the National Park System under the Dingell Act, there are a number of other changes to existing units that should not be overlooked:

  • Acadia National Park benefits by Congress confirming the 2015 addition of land on the Schoodic Peninsula to the Park;
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado, which preserves absolutely spectacular 35 million year old fossils, gets a small expansion from 6,000 acres to 6,300 acres
  • Fort Frederica National Monument in Georgia, where the British solidified their hold on their southern colonies, is expanded by 22%, with the addition of 55 additional acres;
  • Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas, which preserves a Fort that played an important role in the “Bleeding Kansas” conflicts of the antebellum years before the Civil War gets a small boundary expansion;
  • Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park not only gets a new name, but gets formal recognition of the inclusion of Fort Moultrie and the Charleston Lifesaving Station within the boundaries of the park after 60 years of being unofficially included in the park;
  • Harry S Truman National Historic Site in Independence, Missouri gets authorized to acquire additional land in Independence for a new or expanded visitor center;
  • Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York gets expanded by approximately 10% as 89 additional acres are added along the scenic Hudson River;
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia, the site of an important battle on General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the Civil War, gets a small addition of 8 acres around the  Wallis House and Hairston Hill;
  • Joshua Tree National Park  gets a modest expansion of 4,518 acres, plus the authority to establish a new visitor center in the unincorporated town of Joshua Tree, California;
  • Mojave National Preserve in California gets a small expansion of 25 additional acres;
  • A small sub-unit of National Capital Parks in Washington, DC containing a statue of Irish independence hero Robert Emmert gets redesignated as Robert Emmert Park;
  • Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Georgia, in addition to getting a new name, is tripled in size from its present 702 acres to some 2,100 acres;
  • Reconstruction Era National Historical Park gets a new name, and also the authority to acquire additional properties beyond the original monument designation;
  • Shiloh National Military Park, site of the overall bloodiest battle in the Civil War, is expanded by adding three new areas:
    • the Davis Bridge Battlefield in Tennessee, which is currently already a Parks Passport cancellation location by virtue of being part of a shared National Historic Landmark designation with the national military park itself,
    • additional acres around the Fallen Timbers Battlefield site in Tennessee, and
    • the Russel House Battlefield site on the Tennessee-Mississippi border;
  • Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota benefits by allowing the Department of the Interior to transfer 49 acres within the current Park boundaries that are currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management to National Park Service management, and also authorizes the possibility of up to several dozen additional acres to be donated to the National Park Service by the State of Minnesota;
Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site in Illinois, where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark sought recruits for the Corps of Discovery in November 1803 will now benefit from the recognition of the eastward extension of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Photo from 2009.

Beyond the additions to the National Park System, the Dingell Act will also make a major change to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, extending it from its current starting point near St. Louis, Missouri eastward to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In 2004, during the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, Congress directed the National Park Service to conduct a “Special Resource Study” on extending the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail eastward to include routes related to activities occurring both before and after the main 1804-1806 expedition already commemorated by the existing Trail.  The National Park Service looked at some 25 different route segments as part of its study, eventually determining that only the routes from Pittsburgh to St. Louis along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers met the criteria for historical significance to be added to the National Historic Trails System.

Interestingly, in researching this post, I discovered that the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail had already certified 12 of these “Eastern Legacy” sites as Trail locations, despite not being located along the then-authorized trail route.  The extension of the Lewis & Clark Trail to Pittsburgh will incorporate about half of these sites, but five certified sites will remain outside of the new, extended National Historic Trail:

  • Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello, in Virginia (currently a Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area cancellation location) where Meriwether Lewis met with Thomas Jefferson to plan the Corps of Discovery expedition;
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia where Lewis procured armaments for the expedition and tested plans for a collapsable boat (which ultimately failed);
  • the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Lewis received training in the natural sciences from Benjamin Rush, and other Society Members, in preparation for the expedition;
  • the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Meriwether Lewis received Medical Training from Benjamin Rush and others; and finally,
  • the Lewis and Clark Herbarium at the Academy of Natural Resources where most of the plant specimens collected by the Corps of Discovery continue to be housed today.
Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield in Tennessee Is the Newest Affiliated Area of the National Park System. Photo from 2018, courtesy Brian Bailey.

The Dingell Act will also be adding one new Affiliated Area to the National Park System.  The Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield in Tennessee, which already has a passport cancellation and an Eastern National-operated bookstore gets elevated to recognition as an Affiliated Area of the National Park System.  The 368 acre battlefield is managed by the non-profit American Battlefield Trust, and preserves the site of a Civil War engagement that took place on New Year’s Eve, approximately three and a half months prior to the Battle of Shiloh.

The President James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee is one of several areas that will now be studied for potential inclusion in the National Park System. Photo from 2010 by Polk Association Photographer. [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
Finally, the Dingell Act authorizes a number of special resource studies for future additions to the National Park System.  A special resource study is where the National Park Service formally studies and gathers public input on the national significance, suitability, and feasibility of a proposed addition to the National Park System.  As mentioned earlier, it can be a long time between the authorization of a special resource study and a change to the National Park System – 15 years in the case of the eastward extension of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.  Here are the studies authorized by the Dingell Act:

  • the President James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee, which would be the first National Park System Unit other than Gateway Arch National Park interpreting the Presidency of James K. Polk;
  • the Thurgood Marshall School in Baltimore, Maryland, better-known as Public School 103, which the first African-American Supreme Court Justice attended as a youth;
  • President Street Station, which played a role in the Underground railroad,  Baltimore’s Civil War riots, the growth of the railroad industry, and early 20th century immigration (and which also currently has an Eastern National Bookstore and its own Parks Passport cancellation already);
  • Camp Amache Internment Camp in Granada, Colorado, which would be the fourth Japanese internment camp added to the National Park System;
  • the  George W. Bush childhood home in Midland Texas;
  • the Ocmulgee River Corridor in Macon, Georgia; and
  • the route of the explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike (of Pike’s Peak fame) for consideration as a national historic trail.

These special resource studies will join a slew of studies already underway by the National Park Service, including a study of Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York that was authorized by a piece of stand-alone legislation in October 2018.

The authorizations of  special resource studies for the President Street Station and for Thurgood Marshall’s Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland are particularly notable because Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland first introduced legislation requesting this study in October of 2011.  It took more than 7 years to get the legislation enacted, just for a study!   The proposal for the study of a Pike National Historic Trail goes all the way back to 2010!  That really illustrates how much effort goes into establishing just one new unit of the National Park System – even a small one!  Moreover, many of these special resource studies will of course conclude that the proposed addition is either not suitable, not feasible, or even not nationally significant and recommend against inclusion in the National Park System.  Although Congress can always make its own decision, an unfavorable recommendation in the special resource study often effectively ends efforts to designate a particular area a national park.

This article is Part III of a three-part series on changes to the National Park System in early 2019.  Check out Part I and Part II.

Update: This post was updated after publication to make it clearer that the “new” national park will still be known as Death Valley National Park. 

Final Shot: A new dawn rising on Death Valley National Park. Photo from 2009.

 

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August Stories Behind the Stamps – Reserves & Roadhouses

Fort Casey State Park in Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve is one of this week's new cancellation locations. Photo Credit NPS.gov
Fort Casey State Park in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve is one of this week’s new cancellation locations. Photo Credit NPS.gov

Here are the additions for the month of August:

Dry Tortugas National Park | Garden Key

Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve | Fort Casey State Park

Joshua Tree National Park | Oasis of Mara

Yellowstone National Park | Snake River Ranger Station

Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve | Slaven’s Roadhouse

Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway |

      • Canal Fulton
      • Cleveland History Center / University Circle
      • Hale Farm & Village
      • High Point of the Canal
      • Historic Zoar Village
      • Richard Howe House

California National Historic Trail | Salt Lake City, UT

Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park almost literally spills over the edges of Garden Key. A small sand bar connects Garden Key to nearby Bush Key, and then to nearby Long Key beyond that.
Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park almost literally spills over the edges of Garden Key. A small sand bar connects Garden Key to nearby Bush Key, and then to nearby Long Key beyond that.  Photo credit NPS.gov.

The signature landmark in Dry Tortugas National Park is Fort Jefferson, which is located on Garden Key – about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida.  About two years ago, Dry Tortugas National Park added a second cancellation for the Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center on Key West.  This new cancellation may simply be a replacement for the long-standing stamp reading “Dry Tortugas, FL” on the bottom; Garden Key being one of the largest of the Dry Tortugas and the primary visitor destination in the park.

Fort Jefferson was constructed in the years leading up to the Civil War.  All of the islands in the Dry Tortugas, including Garden Key, are “dry,” meaning they lack fresh water, However, they occupy a strategic location for any ships travelling through the Florida Strait between the United States and Cuba, effectively controlling the approach to the U.S. Gulf Coast and the all-important Port of New Orleans. Nevertheless, the fort was never fully completed.  It never saw action in the Civil War, and then was quickly rendered obsolete by the rapid evolution of naval technology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Joshua Tree National Park in southern California includes beautiful desert landscapes as well as many stands of the iconic joshua trees.   One of the first settlers in the region, used a natural oasis to plant twenty-nine palm trees.  That eventually led to the growth of the town of Twenty-Nine Palms, California.  In turn, the town of Twenty-Nine Palms donated the original oasis to the National Park Service for use as the Park Headquarters and main Visitor Center.  This stamp likely replaces the existing “Twenty-Nine Palms, CA” stamp found at the Park’s Oasis Visitor Center.

The Snake River at sunrise in the near vicinity of the Snake River Ranger Station. Photo from 2006.
The Snake River at sunrise in the near vicinity of the Snake River Ranger Station. Photo from 2006.

The Snake River Ranger Station is located at the southern end of Yellowstone National Park and serves as the primary contact point for visitors arriving from Grand Teton National Park along the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.  This is also a replacement for an existing stamp.

Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve is a partnership that preserves the agricultural landscapes of Whidbey Island, located north of Seattle in Puget Sound, and the history of European settlement in the Pacific Northwest.  Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island is one of the Reserve’s partners.  Fort Casey was built right around the turn of the 20th Century, and was designed to control the strategic entrance to Puget Sound and the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia.

Slaven's Roadhouse has been retored and once again serves wearly travelers in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Photo credit: NPS.gov
Slaven’s Roadhouse has been retored and once again serves wearly travelers in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Photo credit: NPS.gov

The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in Alaska is one of nine national parks (including five that “count twice,” for a total of fourteen) in that state that are not accessible by road.   Slaven’s Roadhouse is located some 45 miles down the Yukon River from the nearest road, at the junction of Coal Creek with the Yukon River.  Roadhouses are an institution in Alaska, providing service to passing travelers across Alaska’s massive distances and remote wilderness.  Slaven’s Roadhouse was established in the early 20th Century by Frank Slaven during the Klondike Gold Rush.  The National Park Service restored the roadhouse in the early 1990’s, and ever since it has continued to serve its original purpose of providing shelter to travelers on the Yukon River.  The National Park Service has a nice one-minute video about Slaven’s Roadhouse on its website.   The new stamp for Slaven’s Roadhouse supplements the existing stamp for Coal Creek.

The California National Historic Trail marks the route of an earlier gold rush, the one to California in 1849.   The new stamp for Salt Lake City, UT will be at the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region Trails Office in Salt Lake City, which administers many of the western trails.

The Ohio & Erie Canal towpath and an old lock, near the town of Peninsula in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The Ohio & Erie Canal towpath and an old lock, near the town of Peninsula in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Photo from 2011.

Finally, for the Ohio & Erie Canalway, since I’ve been behind on these posts for a couple months, I’ve combined the new stamps for this Heritage Area from both July and September into this post.   The original Ohio & Erie Canal was naturally inspired by the success of the Erie Canal, and stretched some 308 miles across central Ohio to the town of Portsmouth, where the Scioto River meets the Ohio River.   Today, the Congressionally-designated National Heritage Area only includes the first 110 miles or-so of the Canal and surrounding areas in northeast Ohio, stretching from Cleveland, through Akron and Canton, to the town of New Philadelphia.  The National Park Service has a comprehensive listing of Ohio & Erie Canalway sites on its website.

The stamp for the Cleveland History Center in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood was added to the list in July.  Cleveland’s University Circle is named for the presence of Case Western Reserve University, which happens to be the Parkasaurus Blog’s alma maters.  University Circle includes almost all of Cleveland’s premier cultural institutions, including the Cleveland Museum of Art and Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra. The Cleveland History Center is the museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society, which tells the story of the settlement and development of Cleveland and northeast Ohio.  The name Western Reserve dates back to the days when the State of Connecticut actually laid claim to the lands that are now northeast Ohio, calling them its “Western Reserve.”

The Richard Howe House was formerly the home of the Ohio & Erie Canalway’s resident engineer.  Today, it has been restored for use as a Canalway Visitor Center and moved from its original location to a location adjacent to the towpath.

Canal Fulton is one of the many historic towns located along the towpath.   The Canalway Center located in town also includes canalboat rides on the replica vessel St. Helena III.   Another unique historic town along the Canalway is Historic Zoar Village, which was founded by German separatists seeking religious freedom.

The high point of the Ohio & Erie Canalway is located near Summit Lake in downtown Akron, OH.

Finally, the Hale Farm & Village is also operated by the Western Reserve Historical Society, and had a new stamp listed in September.  It is a living history farm, and is actually located within the larger boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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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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October New Stamps: Acadia, Yellowstone, and Hudson River

The brand-new Schoodic Woods campground at Acadia National Park will let you wake up close to spectacular scenery like this in the Schoodic Peninsula area of the park.
The brand-new Schoodic Woods campground at Acadia National Park will let you wake up close to spectacular scenery like this in the Schoodic Peninsula area of the park.

Compared to previous months, the list of new stamps this month is much shorter:

Acadia National Park | Schoodic Woods

Yellowstone National Park | Tower Falls Area

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area |

  • Jacob Blauvelt House
  • Rosen House at Caramoor
  • Senate House & Museum
  • Albany Institute of History & Art

Acadia National Park is somewhat unusual in offering place-specific Passport cancellations for each of the campgrounds within the park.  In fact,  based on my research only around a half-dozen parks can really be described as offering place-specific campground stamps.  Of those, only two others are truly systematic, as Acadia is, in having a place-specific stamp for each campground in the park: Joshua Tree National Park in California and Gateway National Recreation Area in and around New York City.

To me at least, this makes sense.  Although campgrounds, out of necessity almost always have a Ranger Station in some form or another where a Passport stamp could be located – creating place-specific stamps for campgrounds raises the philosophical question of whether its ethical to collect a passport stamp for a campground without actually spending the night there.   On one hand, that would seem to make sense.  On the other hand, on many trips it would be logistically impractical to spend a night at each campground that has a stamp – particularly if the campground itself does not represent a distinct portion of the park to explore, even without an overnight stay.

In this case, though, since Acadia National Park already had stamps for its Blackwoods Campground, located just south of the tourist destination of Bar Harbor, and also for its Seawall Campground, located on the less-visited western half of Mount Desert Island, it only made sense to order a stamp for its brand-new Schoodic Woods campground.   The Schoodic Woods campground just opened in September 2015,  The Schoodic Peninsula, located to the east across Frenchman’s Bay from Mount Desert Island, was originally added to the boundaries of Acadia National Park to help preserve the natural beauty and scenic views from Mount Desert Island.  On the Peninsula, the U.S. Navy continued to operate a small base until 2002, when it was turned over to the National Park Service and has now become an environmental educational center.  The addition of the Schoodic Woods campground will provide another place for visitors to stay while enjoying one of the quietest and least-crowded places in the park.

At Yellowstone National Park the new stamp for the Tower Falls Area is also a very logical addition.   This stamp will presumably be located at the Tower-Roosevelt Ranger Station at the northeast corner of the park’s Great Loop Road.  For at least two decades, this Ranger Station has been the only one of the park’s major ranger stations to not have its own passport stamp.  So this addition now completes the set of a total of 15 passport locations located throughout Yellowstone National Park.

Finally, each of the four official listings for Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area this month represent replacements for existing stamps in the passport program.  For example, the Jacob Blauvelt House is the location of the Rockland County Historical Society, and presumably replaces that stamp.  With 71 passport locations, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area stands far and away above any other National Park Service designation with easily more passport stamps than any other.

With this month’s additions, there are now 1,973 active passport stamps, or 1,875 excluding stamps for special programs and events.

Tower Falls in Yellowstone National Park highlights this month's stamp additions. Photo Credit: Jim Peaco, National Park Service, August 2004
Tower Falls in Yellowstone National Park highlights this month’s stamp additions.
Photo Credit: Jim Peaco, National Park Service, August 2004
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