Statue of Liberty National Monument | Ellis Island Immigration Station
California National Historic Trail | Alexander Majors House, MO
Oregon National Historic Trail | Alexander Majors House, MO
Pony Express National Historic Trail | Alexander Majors House, MO
Old Spanish National Historic Trail |
Moab Field Office, UT
Fish Lake Lodge, UT
The highlight of this month’s listings are three new stamps for the Alexander Majors House, just south of Kansas City. This site previously had a stamp for the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, and now adds stamps for three others. The Oregon and California National Historic Trails all follow the same route as the Santa Fe Trail from the city of Independence just east of Kansas City, around the southern end of the city, and into the Great Plains. The city of Independence owes its origins to being the westernmost point on the Missouri River accessible by steamships. The nearby city of Kansas City would later overtake it, first due to its position at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, and later due to the locating of a major railroad bridge across the Missouri River at Kansas City. The stories of Independence and Kansas City remind a bit of the stories of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota. St. Paul is the northernmost navigable point on the Mississippi River, and so was a major shipping center. Minneapolis, however, is located on St. Anthony Falls, which powered the milling industry.
The addition of the Pony Express National Historic Trail cancellation is a bit more interesting than the first two trails, as the Pony Express trail begins more than 60 miles to the north in the city of St. Joseph, Missouri. The explanation for this stamp being located an hour’s drive away from the trail that it commemorates is explained by Alexander Majors himself – as he was one of three Kansas City businessmen who founded the Pony Express. Majors made his initial fortune hauling freight on the Santa Fe Trail and proposed the Pony Express to more than halve the then-25 day time for mail deliveries to California by conestoga wagon along the southerly Butterfield Overland Mail Route. The Pony Express would follow a new northerly route through Salt Lake City to Sacramento and San Francisco, and of course, make innovative use of relay teams of ponies. Unfortunately for Majors, within just a couple years, the development telegraph and the railroad spelled the doom not only of the Pony Express, but of Majors’ Santa Fe Trail operations as well. Majors ultimately died penniless – but not before helping launch the career of Buffalo Bill Cody, an assistant on his Santa Fe Trail operations who went on to become one of his most famous Pony Express riders
Alexander Majors’ House is now preserved as a historic site on the southern side of Kansas City and is run by a non-profit foundation that also operates the John Wornall House from the same era.
Finally, the Statue of Liberty National Monument has updated its cancellation for the historic Ellis Island Immigration Station. The majestic statue itself is, of course, the symbol of America’s welcome to overseas immigrants. The old Ellis Island Immigration Station is also part of this national park, and now hosts the fantastic Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which tells the story of all US immigrant people, but primarily those who arrived through the Ellis Island Immigration Station in the early 20th Century.
Since I’ve started tracking the monthly releases of new stamps for this blog last year in September, this may be the single biggest month yet. Indeed, the last few months may be the single-greatest expansion of the stamp program in a three month period, or at the very least, the largest expansion since the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area added 60+ new stamps in a single month back in the winter of 2008.
With such a long list, I am going to break the listings into two parts, starting with the new passport stamp additions for parks that are counted among the 408 units of the U.S. National Park System.
Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park |
RI / MA
Bryce Canyon National Park | Bryce, UT
Death Valley National Park | Devils Hole
Fort Pulaski National Monument | Sutler Store
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area | St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam
There were also two special event stamps discovered this month:
Andersonville National Historic Site | Funeral for 13,000
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens | Lotus & Water Lilly Festival
Most notable among these new stamps are the three new ones for the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park. This is one of the new national parks that was established in last December’s Defense Authorization Act. In fact, this national park is still so new, that the National Park Service doesn’t even have a website up and running for it, although once the website is ready, it looks like you’ll be able to find it at www.nps.gov/blac*. Pawtucket, Rhode Island is the home of the Slater Mill, which is arguably the centerpiece of the new national historical park, and has a claim to be one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Ashton, Rhode Island is the home of Blackstone River State Park, which features a canal towpath and riverwalk, as well as the Captain Wilber Kelly House Museum.
Fort Pulaski National Monument is the local national park in Savannah, Georgia, and is one of several “coastal fortification” sites in the National Park System. The Sutler Store is the park bookstore, located inside the fort, and previously housed a second copy of the stamps found in the visitor center at the entrace to the fort. It looks like it will now have a stamp of its own.
The Charit Creek Lodge is one of a handful of unique, backcountry lodges located in the National Park System. A hiking trip out to this lodge is another good reason for a trip out to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Meanwhile, the new stamps at Bryce Canyon National Park and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area appear at first glance to simply re-issues of stamps for existing stamp locations. The St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam, for example, are located directly behind the Mill City Museum which is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Minneapolis, regardless of whether you are visiting the national parks or collecting the passport stamps. The Mill City Museum does a really fantastic job telling the story of the Twin Cities, and the history of milling industry in the area.
At Andersonville National Historic Site, the “Funeral for 13,000” is a special event held this September to commemorate the burying at the end of the Civil War of the numerous Union soldiers who died there. According to the park’s website, this will be a very limited-edition cancellation, only available in September – which will surely be frustrating to the “passport completists” out there. On the other hand, the Lotus and Water Lilly Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC is an annual event held each July – so enthusiasts will have another opportunity to collect that stamp next summer.
Perhaps the most striking of the new stamps, however, is the new stamp for Devil’s Hole at Death Valley National Park. Devil’s Hole is home to what most scientists consider to be the world’s rarest fish. The tiny, inch-long, Devil’s Hole pupfish lives nowhere else on earth but this small desert pond of only about 500 square feet in surface area – a space that’s smaller than some master bedrooms that are built these days.
I first learned about Devils Hole when it was mentioned in one of the most memorable and formative stories that I read while growing up. I suppose it says a lot about me, with no further commentary needed, that I was reading Natural History magazine on a monthly basis as a teenager. Make of that what you will, but the January 1993 issue had a haunting article entitled “Species in a Bucket” – the memory of which has still stuck with me. The subject of this story was a close relative of the Devil’s Hole pupfish, this one called the Owens pupfish. The story relates an incident from 1969 in which the author, a wildlife biologist, found himself carrying the entire surviving population of Owens pupfish in two buckets in order to save the species from near-certain extinction due to declining water levels in its native habitat. Fortunately, restoration efforts for this species have led to four established populations, leaving it slightly less-endangered than the Devils Hole pupfish. Nonetheless, this article is worth reading, and Natural History magazine has made it available for free online, so I encourage you to check it out and see if it impacts you as much as it did my younger self.
Finally, a number of National Park Service partners also received stamps this month. Due to limitations of space and time, I’ll simply list them without extensive commentary this month:
Coal National Heritage Area | Princeton Railroad Museum
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area is located in northeast Missouri. These eight stamps join two existing stamps for a total of ten. The awkwardly named National Coal Heritage Area is located in southern West Virginia, and now has nine active passport stamp locations.
California National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY
Oregon National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY
Pony Express National Historic Trail | Fort Bridger, WY
Pony Express National Historic Trail | St. Joseph, MO
Its worth noting that Fort Bridger is a Wyoming State Historic Site, and was a notable trading outpost on the western trails. St. Joseph, Missouri is the famous starting point of the short-lived overland mail route.
Santa Fe National Historic Trail | El Rancho de los Golondrias, NM
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | New Mexico History Museum, NM
North Country National Sceni Trail | Carlton, MN
Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |
Havre de Grace, MD
Oxon Hill, MD
Fort Washington, MD
Smallwood State Park, MD
Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum
Historic St. Mary’s City, MD
Point Lookout State Park, MD
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail |
Montana Natural History Center
National Bison Range
Dry Falls State Park
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
This is the second stamp for El Rancho de los Golondrias, which already had a stamp for the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail. The town of Santa Fe, New Mexico was a hub of trading activity first for Spanish Mexico, and then for independent Mexico after 1821. The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is literally the “Royal Road to the Interior” and connected the colonial capital of Aguascalientes, located in the center of present-day Mexico, to the trading post of Santa Fe. Following Mexican independence in 1821, trade was opened with the United States, and the Santa Fe Trail was a trading route from Missouri to Santa Fe. El Rancho de los Golondrias, literally, “Ranch of the Swallows,” is located about a days’ walk to the south and west of Santa Fe, and so was a popular “last stop” for traders arriving on the camino real for the south. Its a little surprising to see this location receive a stamp for the Santa Fe NHT, as it does not appear to be located on the trail route itself, located as it is just to the west of Santa Fe. However, today the site operates as a living history museum, and its possible that they have added some educational exhibits on the Santa Fe Trail, given the site’s proximity to Santa Fe.
For the North Country National Scenic Trail, Carlton, Minnesota is located just outside of Duluth, on the southwest tip of Lake Superior. It is located adjacent to Jay Cooke State Park, which has long had a passport stamp reading “Minnesota” on it, and so this is probably its first place-specific passport stamp.
Finally, perhaps the highlight of this month’s stamps are the first seven stamps for the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. Imagine a lake larger than the State of Delaware and more than twice as deep as Lake Superior suddenly letting loose in a massive flood, sending all that water racing at once across hundreds of miles towards the ocean. The force an power of these floods would surely alter the shape of the landscape for thousands of years to come! Geologists tell us that that is exactly what happened approximately 12,000 years ago on the plains of western Montana and easter Washington.
In fact, geologists tell us that similar events happened several times during the previous 5,000 years. The sources of these floods were water and ice from the melting glaciers of the last ice age. Periodically, ice would form a natural dam in a valley, causing a large lake to form. When the ice dam would melt or break, the lake would drain – sometimes violently.
The largest of the floods, which I described above, was also one of the last such floods. Geologists call the source of this flood Glacial Lake Missoula, and when the ice gave way, it let loose at speeds up to 45 miles an hour. At its peak, the flood may have released a torrent of water at the rate of 400 million cubic feet of water per second. As a comparison, the Amazon River only flows at 6 million cubic feet per second.
Its not known if any human had yet arrived in the area to witness this cataclysmic event. Archeologists date the first arrival of humans in the United States right around 12,000 years ago as well. If any early settlers were in the area, the sheer noise of this event must have been as terrifying as the scouring of the landscape.
Congress established the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail in 2009, and this is the first trail to bear the designation “National Geologic Trail.” Its obviously been quite an effort to get this first National Geologic Trail up and running – but the release of these seven passport stamps is perhaps the first indication that this program is open and ready for discovery.
With this month’s additions there are now 1,981 active passport cancellations to collect. Excluding anniversary and special-event stamps, there are 1,883 passport stamps.
Source: Weis, Paul and William L. Newman. The Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington: The Geologic Story of the Spokane Flood 2nd Edition. U.S. Department of the Interior and Eastern Washington University Press. 1999.
Update (September 2016): The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park now has its own website, separate from the National Heritage Corridor. It can be found at http://www.nps.gov/blrv
Eastern National has released its list of new cancellations for the month of May, and the list is quite a doozy! A total of 25 new stamps are listed, although many of them are replacements for already-existant stamps. Let’s take a look….
Sequoia National Park | 125th Anniversary 1890 – 2015
Kings Canyon National Park | 75th Anniversary 1940 – 2015
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015
Its starting to look like Parks Passsport enthusiasts may well remember 2015 as being the “Year of the Anniversary Stamps.” At least one new anniversary stamp has been issued each month in 2015, and the trend shows no sign of letting up. I’m still not sure that it makes sense to be making Passport Stamps with adjustable dates that are good for seven years with a single year permanently etched in the bottom text of the circle, but they seem to be popular for the moment!
Its interesting to note the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park share more than just a a new Passport stamp this month. The two parks share a common superintendent, have a single joint brochure for both of them, and even share the same website (just click the links if you don’t believe me!) In fact, it sometimes appears that the only think keeping Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park from being listed as a single Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park that counts twice is the force of tradition. Still, until these stamps were issued, I’m not sure if I had ever realized that these two national parks were created 50 years apart, almost to the day. Sequoia National Park was established on September 25, 1890 and Kings Canyon National Park was established fifty years and six days later on October 1, 1940. If you are in to anniversary celebrations, it sounds like a trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks the last week of September could be a lot of fun!
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area wouldn’t come along until 1965, and so celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Delaware Water Gap NRA preserves a particularly beautiful section of the Delaware River as it flows past the Pocono Mountains on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The “water gap” refers to the southern end of this park where the river literally cuts through one of the mountains, creating a “gap” in the mountain. Today, this park is within an easy day’s drive of both the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas, making it a great place for residents of those urban areas to get out into the parks.
Stamps for New National Parks
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument | Nevada
Pullman National Monument
Historic Pullman Foundation
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
National Pullman Porter Museum
First State National Historical Park
Beaver Valley – Woodlawn Tract
Fort Christina – Wilmington
Old Swede’s Church – Wilmington
The Green – Dover
John Dickinson Plantation
Ryves Holt House – Lewes
Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument was one of four new parks established by Congress in December 2014. Located outside of Las Vegas, NV it preserves the desert landscape as well as fossils of mammoths and other creatures from the last ice age. Right now it doesn’t have any visitor facilities, so its passport stamp is being kept at the Alan Bible Visitor Center for Lake Mead National Recreation Area in nearby Boulder City, Nevada, just to the south of Las Vegas.
Pullman National Monument is an even newer national park than Tule Springs Fossil Beds, having been established by Presidential proclamation in February 2015. I’ve written about Pullman twice already, here and here. Similar to the way in which Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument / National Historical Park in Maryland was established by relying upon other preservation parterns in the area, it appears that Pullman National Monument is following a similar model Pullman NM actually already had its first Passport stamp, reading Chicago, IL on the bottom available at its dedication ceremony, in which President Obama signed his proclamation establishing the new national park right on site. That cancellation is available at the Historic Pullman Foundation’s Visitor Center, which will surely now also have the stamp recognizing the role the Foundation is continuing to play in preserving and interpreting this site. The Foundation is curently offering tours of the site on the first Sunday of the month, and will continue to own and manage some of the historic buildings on the site, including the Market Hall. Likewise, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will also continue to own and manage some of the historic properties at this site, including the architecturally-significant (and beautiful) Hotel Florence. Finally, until the National Park Service is able to open its own visitor center at the site, one of the best ways to learn about the history of the Pullman company town, which is now a national monument, will be a visit to the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, which is also located on-site.
First State National Monument was originally proclaimed by President Obama in March 2013 with three sub-units, Dover Green in the State Capitol, the old New Castle Courthouse in New Castle, and the Brandywine Preserve in Wilmington. In December 2014, Congress renamed this parkFirst State National Historical Park, and also authorized expanding its boundaries to include a few additional sites. In February 2015, new stamps were issued for the original three sites with the new name, First State National Historical Park, as well as for two of the new sites. This month, it appears that new stamps have been issued with new bottom text for four of those first five sites (only the New Castle Courthouse site is not listed), as well as for two new sites, both in Wilmington. One is for the Old Swedes Church, which claims to be the oldest continuously-used house of worship as originally built in the United States, with a history stretching back to 1698. The other is for nearby Fort Christina, the site of the colony of New Sweden way back in 1638. The story of Swedish settlement in the United States is not one that is often told, so these should be very interesting additions to the National Park System.
Stamps for Existing National Parks
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area | Helenwood, TN
Gateway National Recreation Area | Ryan VC – Floyd Bennett Field
Yellowstone National Park | Wyoming
St. Croix National Scenic River
St. Croix River
St. Croix Visitor Center
Namekagon Visitor Center
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky has recently been adding Passport cancellations for visitor facilities in its gateway communities. In addition to the long-standing three stamps for the Park’s three visitor contact stations at Oneida, TN; Stearns, KY; and Blue Heron (a historic coal mininng community near Stearns, KY) the Park added stamps for Crossville, TN and Historic Rugby, TN in August 2014. Helenwood, TN is also a gateway community, and is the latest addition to this program. You can check out a Parkasuaurs Trip Report from this Park here.
Gateway National Recreation Area includes a number sites in the immediate vicinity of New York City in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and northern New Jersey. Floyd Bennett Field was New York City’s first municipal airport, and now provides urban recreational opportunities, including campaing. The Ryan Visitor Center is the National Park Service’s main visitor facility there, and this stamp replaces a previously-existant stamp.
Its not clear what to make of a new stamp for Yellowstone National Park that simply says “Wyoming” on the bottom. Yellowstone currently offers 13 different Passport cancellations throughout the Park, and it appears that this would be the 14th.
The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway includes the St. Croix River and its main tributary, the Namekagon River. Its hard to tell what to make of the stamp that simply reads “St. Croix River,” but the “St. Croix Visitor Center” will likely replace the existing stamp at the visitor center in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border; and the the “Namekagon Visitor Center” stamp will likely replace the existing stamp at the visitor center in Trego, Wisconsin in the northern part of the state. This park also includes older stamps for the “Marshland District” and for “Minnesota-Wisconsin” that are kept under the counter at the Namekagon Visitor Center. There is also one other stamp at Prescott, WI at the Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center in Prescott, Wisconsin where the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway meets the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.
Stamps for Park Partners
Old Spanish National Historic Trail | Canyons of the Ancients NM
With these new additions, Parkasaurus now counts 1,900 active Passport cancellations currently available, or 1,818 stamps excluding anniversary stamps and other special event or special program stamps.