In a rarity, there are relatively few new stamps this month from National Heritage Areas and National Historic Trails, but instead the new stamps are mostly from full-fledged national park units. Here they are:
Boston National Historical Park | USS Cassin Young
City of Rocks National Reserve | Almo, ID
Mojave National Preserve | Mojave River Valley Museum
Women’s Rights National Historical Park | Wesleyan Chapel
Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area | Historic Grass Lawn
The highlight of the new additions is an updated stamp for City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho. The City of Rocks are unusual rock formations in southern Idaho that were so-named by emigrants on the California Trail to the gold fields of California.
For true Passport enthusiasts, this new stamp is an interesting case study. City of Rocks National Reserve was added to the National Park System in 1988, two years after the Passport Program began in 1986. Its first cancellation as similar to this one, reading “Almo, ID” on the bottom of the stamp, and was available through 1996. When that stamp was replaced, however, it was replaced with a variation of that stamp, reading “Oregon Trail – Almo, ID” on the bottom.
This stamp, however, had a significant problem. The Oregon and California Trails both begin in Independence, Missouri and from there, they essentially parallel each other for some 1,200 miles across the whole of Nebraska and Wyoming and into Idaho. Then, in central Idaho, at a place called the Raft River Crossing, the two trails part their separate ways. The Oregon Trail heads to the north and west towards Oregon; the California Trail heads to the south and west towards Nevada and California. City of Rocks, it turns out, is actually located to the south and to the west, along the California Trail. This means that City of Rocks is actually not located on the Oregon Trail at all – despite the fact that for some time, the only Passport Cancellation for this Park read “Oregon Trail” on it!
This awkward situation was finally corrected in the mid-2000’s when that stamp reading “Oregon Trail – Almo, ID” on the bottom was replaced with a new stamp reading “CA Trail – Almo, ID” on the bottom. In 2012, a second stamp was added at this park, a California National Historic Trail stamp reading “City of Rocks NR, ID” on the bottom. Unfortunately, when the year expired on the “CA Trail – Almo, ID” stamp in 2014, that California National Historic Trail stamp became the only Passport Cancellation with an active year wheel available at the Park! So this month’s new addition finally clears things up, and gives City of Rocks National Reserve two Passport Cancellations, one of the Park itself, and one for the California National Historic Trail.
At Boston National Historical Park, the USS Cassin Young is a World War II-era Fletcher-class destroyer. It is docked as a museum ship at the Charlestown Navy Yard Unit of Boston National Historical Park, near the USS Constitution. Although 175 Fletcher-class Destroyers were built at the Charlestown Navy Yard, the USS Cassin Young was built in California and served in the Pacfic Theater. On July 30, 1945 twenty-one members of its crew were killed in a kamikaze attack near Okinawa. In 1952, it did receive a major overhaul at Charlestown Navy Yard, one of several visits it made there, before being decommissioned in 1960.
The Mojave River Valley Museum is located in the gateway community of Barstow, California. Barstow is home to the Mojave National Preserve Park Headquarters, and is located at the intersection of Interstates 15 and 40, making it a convenient gateway to the Park. Interstates 15 and 40 also form the northern and southern boundaries of the Preserve about 60 miles to the west. The Mojave River Valley Museum back in Barstow is free to the public, and interprets the scientific, historical, and cultural heritage of the area. A visit to the Museum is a great way to learn about the desert before heading out into the Preserve itself.
At the top of this month’s post, I include a picture of the ruins of the former Soda Springs Resort at Zzyzx, which is now part of the Mojave National Preserve, as an example of the cultural history of the Mojave Desert area. The name, Zzyzx is pronounced to rhyme with “Isaac’s.” The name was chosen by the resort’s founder, Curtis Springer, who wanted the name to be the “last word in the English language,” in keeping with his resort’s slogan of Zzyzx being the “last word in health.” Springer was eventually evicted from Zzyzx for not having legitimate claim to the public land in the Mojave Desert and for making false medicinal claims. Nevertheless, the resort had one lasting positive legacy; Springer stocked his pond (shown above) with a little fish called the Mojave tui chub. Now endangered, the “Lake Tundae” pond is one of the last refuges of this species. The site is now run by the California State University consortium as the Desert Studies Center. The site doesn’t have a Passport cancellation stamp (yet) – but with a name like “Zzyzx,” Parkasaurus is certainly really hoping that it happens someday, right?
In July, Women’s Rights National Historical Park announced that the the Stanton House in Seneca Falls and the M’Clintock House in nearby Waterloo have been recently outfitted with period furniture and reopened to the public. The Stanton House was the home of the famed women’s rights leader, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, for 15 years. The M’Clintock House is where the attendees drafted the famous “Declaration of Sentiments” that was later adopted by Convention attendees meeting in the Wesleyan Chapel The M’Clintock House has had a cancellation since 2010. The Stanton House does not yet have a cancellation, but would be a logical candidate to receive one in the future.
There is actually a fifth location that comprises Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the Hunt House, also in Seneca Falls. It was at a meeting in the Hunt House that the plans for a women’s rights convention were conceived. The National Park Service acquired the Hunt House in 2000, but it is not yet open to the public, and so no cancellation just yet.
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | C&O Canal NHP HQ
Reconstruction Era National Monument |
St. Helena Island
San Juan Island NHP | Friday Harbor, WA
California National Historic Trail | Martin’s Cove, WY
Oregon National Historic Trail | Martin’s Cove, WY
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | NM Public Lands Info Ctr.
Santa Fe National Historic Trail | NM Public Lands Info Ctr.
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail | Roving Ranger
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail | Historic Nauvoo
Old Spanish National Historic Trail | Kelso Depot
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Trail of Tears Assoc., OK
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |
Great Falls, MD
Sandy Point State Park, MD
The highlight of this month’s new stamps come from the newly designated Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina. The initial stamp for this new national park was released just a couple months ago in April 2017. That first stamp was for historic Beaufort, South Carolina, which was captured by Union forces in the early days of the Civil War in 1861, and so was one of the places where the process of reconstruction in the south began. Beaufort was also the birthplace of Robert Smalls, who was born into slavery in 1839. During the Civil War, in 1862, Smalls made a daring escape from nearby Charleston, taking the helm of the confederate ship CSS Planter, slipping it past the guns of Fort Sumter, and taking it out to sea where he could surrender to Union forces. In an amazing and ironic historic twist, Robert Smalls would later use the prize money he was awarded for the capture of the Confederate ship to later purchase a home in Beaufort that had actually been owned by the very family that had once owned him.
Port Royal is located just to the south of Beaufort proper. Port Royal was the site of Camp Saxton, where Union forces recruited the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Regiment from among the enslaved black population of the area.
Also in the same year of Robert Smalls’ daring escape in 1862, even as the Civil War was still crescendoing to its full peak, two women from Pennsylvania arrived in the area to begin providing an education to the freed blacks. They soon moved their school into an old brick church on St. Helena Island, just to the east of Beaufort proper, which is the third passport location for this park.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has added a 19th visitor center and passport location this month, with the addition of the Doughton Park Visitor Center. Located at milepost 241, it fills a gap between the Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213 and the Cone Memorial Park Visitor Center at milepost 294. Interestingly, there was previously a cancellation for the Cumberland Knob Visitor Center at milepost 219, but that location is now closed with the opening of the nearby Blue Ridge Music Center in 2006, and that cancellation is now in the history books.
According to a report in the Wautauga (NC) Democrat, this location was previously operated by a concessionaire as Bluff’s Lodge and Coffee Shop, but has been closed since 2010. A partnership effort was organized, seeded by an anonymous donation to restore the property, which had deteriorated. This year it is reopening as the Doughton Park Visitor Center and will be managed by Eastern National, which also runs the Parks Passport Program. Interestingly, the visitor center is only Phase 1 of the restoration of the project. Phase 2 will include restoring the Coffee Shop – which will be welcome news for many travelers. Restoration of the lodging is also in the plans as well.
The new stamp for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail located at the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Hagerstown, Maryland is simply an updated replacement for previous stamps at this location. Although the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail runs along the entire length of the C&O Canal towpath, the park Headquarters Building is located in Hagerstown proper, so Passport enthusiasts will have to make a brief detour from the Trail to get this cancellation.
Similarly, the new addition for San Juan Island National Historical Park is for the Park Headquarters in the resort town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Visitors to the Park can also collect cancellations at the American Camp and the English Camp on either end of the island. The American Camp marks where US soldiers established themselves in 1859 and began a face-off with a British warship, as a dispute about a pig uprooting a garden nearly escalated a simple border dispute into an international war. The English Camp marks where British soldiers landed and encamped in 1860 as part of a temporary settlement for “joint occupation” of the island until a permanent settlement could be reached – something that would not occur until nearly a decade later, when arbitrators appointed by the German kaiser awarded San Juan Island to the United States.
The Mormon Handcart Site in Martin’s Cove, WY is operated by the Church of Latter-day Saints. It marks the site where a party of Mormon emigrants pulling hand carts and departing late in the season in 1859 became stranded for several days due to an early blizzard. The site provides interpretation of the events at the site, as well as the rigors of pulling hand carts on the migration west. The site previously has had cancellations for the Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express National Historic Trails. The route used by the Mormon emigrants was the same route also used by settlers and gold rushers travelling on the Oregon and California National Historic Trails, respectively. So this site now has a full compliment of four cancellations for the four Emigrant Trails across the west.
The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail does get one new cancellation this month, this one for the starting point of the trail in Nauvoo, Illinois. This new stamp is located at the Historic Nauvoo Visitor Center, which is also operated by the LDS Church. This new stamp is somewhat paired with the new stamp for Nauvoo, Illinois under the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area that was released in January 2017. That stamp has been located at the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo, which preserves a historic home of the man who was the founder of the LDS Church and also the former mayor of Nauvoo for two years up until his murder by an angry mob in nearby Carthage, Illinois in 1844. The Joseph Smith Historic Site is operated by the Community of Christ, which was formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and which split from the larger LDS Church in 1860. The Nauvoo Historic District represented by this month’s new cancellation includes many other historic structures in Nauvoo, including the former home of Brigham Young who was the second President of the LDS Church, and who led the journey west to Utah.
The New Mexico Public Lands Information Center, operated by the Bureau of Land Management in Santa Fe, New Mexico has already had cancellations for the Old Spanish, Santa Fe, and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trails. The new stamps for the last two trails are simply subbing out previous stamps that read “Santa Fe, NM” on the bottom with stamps that now read “NM Public Lands Info Ctr.” on the bottom. The Old Spanish Trail had actually made a similar switch back in 2012. Interestingly, I can’t help but note that the street address for the New Mexico Public Lands Information Center is 301 Dinosaur Trail in Santa Fe!
The new stamp for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail is actually the third iteration of a stamp at the historic Kelso Depot in Mojave National Preserve. Previous iterations read “Kelso, CA” and “Mojave National Preserve, CA” on the bottom.
Finally, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail continues its rapid expansion of Passport cancellations this month. The six new additions this month give it a grand total of 41 Passport cancellations. That total is good for 5th place in the National Park System, behind only the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area with a whopping 71, the Old Spanish National Historic Trail with 50, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail with 47, and the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail with 44. Each of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake cancellation locations appears to come with a wayside exhibit, providing interpretive about John Smith’s voyages of exploration from the Jamestowne Colony up through the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the early 1600’s.
The two new locations in Virginia include the Rappahannock River National Wildlife Refuge near Warsaw, Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay community of Gloucester on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, between the Rappahannock and York Rivers. In 2003, archeologists working near Gloucester discovered the site of Werowocomoco, which was the capital of the Powhatan Confederacy of some thirty Indian tribes in the area, and which traded and interacted with Captain John Smith and the Jamestowne Colony.
In Maryland, the new locations include Great Falls Park, which is managed by the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Great Falls of the Potomac River formed a natural barrier to Captain John Smith’s upstream explorations of the Potomac River. Other locations include Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Maryland and the Sultana Education Foundation in Chestertown, Maryland on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The Sultana Education Fuondation operates a replica of an 18th Century vessel, the Sultana, that was used for collecting tea taxes in the Chesapeake Bay. It also conducts a number of environmental education programs for children, and promotes the newly-developed water trail on the Chester River.
The final new stamp will be located at the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center in Columbia, Pennsylvania, where US Route 30 crosses the Susquehanna River. Captain John Smith never made it this far north on his voyages, as he was stopped by the great falls of the Susquehanna further south in Maryland. However, the Susquehannock American Indians in this area used the Susquehanna River as part of a trading route network that stretched as far as New York State. Thus, Congress has included the full length of the Susquehanna River as part of this National Historic Trail, in part for its historic significance to the American Indians, but also to use the National Historic Trail program to spread awareness of the extensive watershed for the Chesapeake Bay.
With this month’s new additions, the total number of active cancellations in the Passport Program is now 1,179. Happy stamping!
After some time away, I’m at least returning to blogging. To catch up, I’ve decided to go ahead and write the monthly new stamps post for the months I missed. Here are the new stamps for the month of September 2016:
Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument | Penobscot County, ME
Natchez National Historical Park | Fort Rosalie
Nez Perce National Historical Park | Bear Paw Battlefield
Redwood National Park | Prairie Creek Redwoods SP
Redwood National Park | Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP
Rainbow Bridge National Monument |
Lees Ferry, AZ
Big Water, UT
California National Historic Trail | Fairway, KS
Oregon National Historic Trail | Fairway, KS
El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail | Mission Dolores State Historic Site
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail | Pismo Beach, CA
Old Spanish National Historic Trail | Arizona/Utah
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | St. Clements Island SP, MD
Congress established Natchez National Historical Park in 1988 to encompass the historic district of Natchez, Mississippi, and to include three National Park Service-managed properties, the Melrose Plantation, the William Johnson House, and the archaeological site of Fort Rosalie. Fort Rosalie was a French trading post, established in 1716, and was the seed that eventually grew into the present-day town of Natchez. The original authorizing legislation required the National Park Service to first study the archaeological significance of Fort Rosalie before adding it to the park.
The Nez Perce National Historic Park includes 38 sites across the Pacific Northwest. The Bear Paw Battlefield site in Montana is where in 1877 Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce ended his attempts to flee US troops, just 40 miles short of safety across the Canadian Border. The new stamp replaces an earlier version and will be kept at the Blaine County Museum in nearby Chinook, Montana.
Redwood National Park operates as a mix of federal and state lands along the Pacific Coast of northernmost California. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park are two of the partners with this effort, and are managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. There are now 5 cancellation locations for Redwood National Park, three for the National Park Service visitor centers in Orick, Hiouichi, and Crescent City, and two for these two California State Parks. As an interesting historical footnote, one of these stamps was originally mis-printed as Jedediah Redwoods SP and was used for a short time before being replaced by a correctly-worded stamp. Additionally, no stamp at all has been issued for the third California State Park in this partnerships, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. This is presumably because as near as I can tell, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park lacks a proper visitor center as a location to place the stamp.
The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail stamp will presumably be found at the historic Price Historical Park in the town of Prismo Beach. Although the ranch was founded decades after the 18th-Century Anza Expedition, Anza and his companions passed through what is now called Price Canyon on the journey north to San Francisco Bay in 1775.
Two of the new stamps for the North Country National Scenic Trail will be at the Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids, Minnesota. Itasca State Park is, of course, famously home to the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, making it one of the most-notable additions to the Passport Program this month. The significance of Itasca State Park has long made it one of the most-famous State Parks in the country, and now it is also part of the national Passport to Your National Parks program. The third stamp will be at the Douglas County Forestry Department in Solon Springs, Wisconsin.
I missed posting last month due to some big news. The Parkasaurus family is now officially at 5 with the birth of our third child! Mother and baby are doing great – although everyone is working on getting more sleep. At the suggestion of our now-5-year-old, the Toothy T-Rex, this will be “Baby Brachiosaurus” in future Parksaurus posts. We’re delighted to have a new addition to our family!
The other big news from last month is that the Passport program is that this month’s additions mean that there are now more than 2,000 active stamps. Counting the total number of the stamps is partly art and partly science, since whether or not two Passport stamps are “the same” can be in the eye of the beholder. However, based on the best information we have on which stamps are made regularly available for different locations within the national parks and the National Park Service’s partners, that is the current total. Congratulations to the Passport program on this milestone!
So with those two announcements out of the way, here’s to a double-dose of “stories behind the stamps” for March and April.
First, the new cancellations for March that took us to 2,000:
Boston African American National Historic Site | African American Trail
Castle Mountains National Monument | Nipton, CA
Gateway National Recreation Area | Jacob Riis Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Kilauea Visitor Center
Panau Coastal Contact Station
Cane River National Heritage Area | Grand Ecore Visitor Center
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network | Washington’s Birthplace, VA
Underground Railroad Freedom Network | Washington’s Birthplace, VA
Oregon National Historic Trail | Oregon City, OR
Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area |
Tupelo – Birthplace of Elvis Presley
Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area |
Grammy Museum of Mississippi
The highlight of this set of new stamps are those for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located on the big island of Hawaii. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and world-famous as easily the best place on Earth to witness a volcanic eruption in action. This year, the park celebrates its centennial, along with the National Park Service as a whole. The special centennial logo includes both of the park’s main volcanic features, the actively erupting crater of Kilauea is in the center, and the occasionally snow-capped Mauna Loa volcano is in the background. Also included in the logo are the park’s pristine night sky, the endangered nene goose, a Hawaiian petroglyph, and the flower of the ‘ōhi‘a tree. This flower is considered sacred to Pele, the native Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, and whom was believed to live in the Halema‘uma‘u Crater of Kilauea.
Since the beginning of the Passport program in 1986, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has had a single cancellation, labeled as “Hawaii National Park, Hawaii;” available at each of the park’s visitor contact locations. This label was a perhaps unintentional tribute to the fact that the park was originally established as Hawaii National Park in 1916, and at that time, the park also included what is now known as Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. The two parks were separated in 1961. Now the park will have separate cancellations at each of its main visitor contact points, including the Kilauea Visitor Center and the Jaggar Museum. The Kilauea Visitor Center is located at the park entrance, very near the rim of Kilauea Crater. The Thomas A. Jagger museum is devoted to the history of volcanology, or the study of volcanoes. Located 3 miles from the Kilauea Visitor Center on the Crater Rim Road, it has a spectacular overlook for viewing the ongoing eruption, right on the edge of the crater itself. The park has a short online tour of the Crater Rim Road for those of us who can’t make it out to Hawaii any time soon!
The Panau Coastal Contact Station is located at the end of the Chain of Craters Road, the park’s 19 mile (one way) tour road into the heart of the park. It too has a short online tour available. This contact station is a mobile facility, allowing it to be moved out of harms way in response to changing volcanic activity. A few years ago, it was possible to see a lava flow meeting the ocean at the end of the road, but as of this writing in 2016, there has not been volcanic activity in the area for several years. Still a trip to the end of the Chain of Craters Road will take you to the Hōlei Sea Arch. Also near the end of the Chain of Craters Road is the parking area for a short 0.7 miles (one way) trail to the Pu’u Loa petroglyph site with some 23,00 petroglyphs – so the road is still well worth taking on your visit.
The Gateway National Recreation Area provides urban recreation opportunities in and around New York City. The Jacob Riis Park, on the south side of Jamaica Bay, is a popular beach destination for New Yorkers in the summer. This cancellation will be located at the rennovated historic bathhouse in the park.
Finally, the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Virginia marks the location of the colonial plantation on Popes Creek where George Washington was born. There is a reconstruction of a period-appropriate plantation house on the site, but more-recent archaeological work indicates that the Augustine Washington Plantation house would actually have looked much different than the reconstruction. George Washington would live here until he was four, before moving to Ferry Farm near present-day Fredericksburg, Virginia (which like the Birthplace National Monument is also part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.) Like almost all Virginia plantations of this time period, Augustine Washington’s Popes Creek plantation would have relied upon slaves, estimated to be about 20-25 slaves in this case. The replicas of the places where the slaves lived and worked here places this park in the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom.
Apart from the replica colonial plantation at this site, many visitors may overlook that this park includes a one mile hiking trail through a marsh bordering Popes Creek, as well as a section of beach along the Potomac River. The Potomac River site is where a young George Washington may have watched tobacco being ferried out to waiting ships in the Potomac River.
Among partnership sites this month, the Cane River National Heritage Area commemorates the unique Creole culture of northwest Louisiana. The center of the Heritage Area, the town of Natchitoches, has the distinction of being the oldest town in the former Louisiana Purchase, having been founded in 1714, some four years before New Orleans. It was founded on the banks of the Red River as an outpost for the fur trade with the Spanish in nearby present-day Texas. The Grand Ecore Visitor Center is a US Army Corps of Engineers facility that interprets the Corps’ management of the Red River, as well as nearby Confederate earthworks from the Civil War. “Ecore” is the French word for “bluffs,” and refers to the bluffs of the Red River on which it is located.
The town of Oregon City, Oregon is located on the southeastern edge of the Portland metro area in Oregon, and is home to the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Why does the Oregon Trail end in Oregon City, you may ask? The town of Oregon City was founded as a fur trading outpost and a lumber mill at the confluence of the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers. At the height of travel on the Oregon Trail, Oregon City was the largest town in the area, and in 1844 it became the administrative capital of the newly-formed Oregon Territory. It would not be until near the end of the 19th Century that Portland, with its deepwater port, would overtake Oregon City in size. In addition to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Oregon City is also home to the McLoughlin House Unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. John McLoughlin founded Oregon City while he was with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1829, and he returned to Oregon City to build this house after leaving the Company in 1846.
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area are located in in northeast and northwest Mississippi, respectively. The town of Cleveland, MS is in Bolivar County (which has its own Mississippi Delta NHA cancellation) and is home to the Grammy Museum Mississippi. This extension of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opened March 5, 2016. The town of Iuka, Mississippi, meanwhile, is located in Tishomingo County (which has its own Mississippi Hills NHA cancellation). According to its Wikipedia Page, spring water from here won first prize at the St. Louis World’s Fair – so there is that.
Tupelo, Mississippi is the center of the Mississippi Hills NHA. In addition to hosting the flagship Visitor Center for the Natchez Trace Parkway and the tiny Tupelo National Battlefield, it is also home to the privately-held Birthplace of Elvis Presley. There’s no denying Presley’s enormous impact on American popular culture, but given that most historic sites associated with his life are privately held, the inclusion of a site like this through a National Heritage Area is likely the closest the National Park System will come to including a site devoted to “The King.”
With the new cancellations from March and April added in, there are now 2,006 active cancellations available. If you exclude the anniversary and special event cancellations, there are still 1,910 active cancellations available. Always more to explore!
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.
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.
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.
Writing about the World War II Memorial has gotten me to thinking about what makes a national memorial a national park. According to the National Park Service, there are 30 national memorials in the U.S. National Park System. However, as with so many things in counting national parks it isn’t quite as simple as that. Under Federal Law, only Congress has the exclusive right to designate a national memorial. This means that there is no provision like an Antiquities Act for designating national memorials the way that there is for the President to designate national monuments. Moreover, similar to national monuments, not all national memorials have been assiged to the National Park Service for inclusion in the U.S. National Park System – in fact with there being 64 national memorials that I have been able to identify, the National Park Service is only directly responsible for around half of them.
NPS National Memorials in Washington, DC
Let’s take a closer look at national memorials by starting with the 12 national memorials listed by the National Park Service that are in or around the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.:
There are also two more memorials in the above category that are planned for future construction. The Eisenhower Memorial(*) has recently received final design approval, and is hoping to complete construction in the next few years. The Adams Memorial(*), a tribute to the remarkable family that produced the second and sixth Presidents of the United States, is still in the design and fundraising stages.
So overall, this first set of memorials are dedicated either to “great Americans” – primarily former Presidents of the United States, or else to those who served, and in many cases, gave their lives, in one of the major wars of the 20th Century.
However, there is still the small matter of those asterisks above. What becomes a little tricky here is that five of these twelve memorials (as well as the two under development) have actually not been specifically designated as national memorials by Congress – as national memorial is a rather specific legal honor and title that can only be conferred by Congress. However, each of those memorials is of a sufficent size and distinction that the National Park Service has determined that each of them should count separately as individual national parks in the National Park System. As such, in listing all of the different units in the National Park System, the National Park Service goes ahead and lists all of the above as national memorials.
Given that recognition, its hard to be pedantic about the the specific legal distinctions. Take for example, the case of the World War II Memorial. The fundraising drivde by the American Battle Monuments Commission to build this memorial was explicitly called the National World War II Memorial Cammpaign. The non-profit partners of the memorial calls themselves “Friends of the National World War II Memorial.” Regardless of the technical legal status, almost all Americans, including, I would imagine, almost all Members of Congress, consider it to be the National World War II Memorial. So in the interests of simplicity and clarity, I’m going to conside each of the above memorials to also be a national memorial, if for no other reason than by popular acclamation and by the de facto designation as such by the National Park Service.
So those twelve constitue the first entries on the list of national memorials. Let’s look at a few more:
In addition to these twelve, seven other national memorials in the greater Washington, DC area are included as part of other, larger units of the U.S. National Park System:
the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial is also part of Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site in downtown Washington, DC – but it is one of only two of these sseven sites without its own Passport stamp;
This second group is a bit more of a mixed bag than the first group. The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence is straight-forward enough, and in keeping with the theme from the first group of honoring the “Founding Fathers” of the Nation. The Nation’s desire to honor the Preisdent who saved the Union is evident by there being two designations relating to Abraham Lincoln, in addition, of course, to the Lincoln Memorial itself in the first group. Four others are dedicated to specific groups of people who served, or more accurately, to specific types of service. The mixed-nature of this list is perhaps most-highlighted by the absence of the Air Force Memorial from this list, which has apparently not been formally designated a national memorial, and resides on Department of Defense land at the Pentagon, and so is outside the National Park System as well. With neither official recognition by Congress as a national memorial, nor listing by the National Park Service as a national memorial, there just was no way to include it on the list. Even though, with all due respect to the service of the many U.S. Navy Seabees over the years, it seems inconsistent to have the Seabees Memorial on this list, but not the Air Force Memorial.
Indeed, there are many other memorials in the National Park System which are also not on that list, and in some cases, it almost seems to be simply a paperwork oversight that they have not been designated as national memorials, while many similar memorials have been. For more on them, check out Sidebar#1.
NPS National Memorials Outside Washington
Outside of Washington, DC, however, the National Park System includes 18 other national memorials that are also individual national parks. All of these were designated by Congress as a national memorial in their very name, however, so their inclusion on the list is straightforward. The 18 are:
Port Chicago National Memorial – marks the site of a tragic explosion on the American Home Front in the East Bay of San Francisco during the Second World War, in which the victims were largely African-Americans;
Once again, this set of national memorials also appears to be quite the mixed bag, although some themes definitely emerge. Many of the sites are associated with the earliest days of America’s exploration and settlement – although San Diego’s Cabrillo National Monumentis notably absent from this list as it is a national monument rather than a national memorial. Several of the others, such as Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Lincoln Boyhood are on the list because they primarily rely upon reconstructions, rather than actually-preserved historic resources – or in the case of Hamilton Grange, have been moved from their original location. Three others are the site of major tragedies, with significant loss of life. Others, like Mount Rushmore, are truly memorials in the traditional sense.
For some more related facts to national memorials that count as national parks, you can again check out Sidebar #2.
There are also three other memorials that are part of larger national parks outside of the Washington, DC area:
White Cross World War I Memorial is a white cross that was erected in 1934 in California’s Mojave Desert, and is now located on private land within Mojave National Preserve in order to settle an “establishment of religion” claim against the memorial;
U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial is also in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and is also part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. (Note: the U.S.S. Utah Memorial is also located in Pearl Harbor, but it does not appear to have been designated a national memorial by Congress. ) The U.S.S. Missouri Memorial, which is the ship that hosted the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, is also located in Pearl Harbor. Although it is not part of the National Monument, it too has its own Passport stamp.
At the risk of getting too far into the weeds, the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial was previously a stand-alone unit of the National Park System. As such, the National Park Service listed it as a national memorial, for the reasons I described above for the WorldWar II Memorial and others. In 2008, however, President George W. Bush designated it as part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and so the National Park Service now lists it as a national monument, rather than a national memorial. However, since there was clearly no intention to de-designate the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial as a national memorial, I’m going to continue to include it on this list. You can read about four other national parks that arguably could be included on this list, despite not having the word “memorial” in their name in Sidebar #3.
The Rest of the National Memorials
In addition to all of the above, four other national memorials are officially considered to be Affiliated Areas of the National Park System, along with two others that have unofficially had that status. Status as an Affiliated Area makes the site eligible for additional technical assistance on preservation from National Park Service staff, as well as for inclusion in the Passport to Your National Parks program:
In addition, the (5) AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco California and the (6) David Berger Memorial (an American-Israeli dual-citizen who was killed as a member of the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics) in suburban Cleveland, Ohio both have been incorrectly listed as Affiliated Areas by some sources in the past. As such, both have previously been part of the Passport Program, but no longer receive official Passport stamps from Eastern National. In any event, both appear to continue to benefit from National Park Service technical assistance from Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, respectively.
Finally, the following 18 national memorials have no connection with the U.S. National Park System, but round out the complete list of national memorials:
National Civil Defense Monument – also located in Emmitsburg, Maryland;
U.S.S. Indianapolis Memorial – located in its namesake city and commemorates the last ship in the U.S. Navy to sink during the Second World War;
World War Memorial in Guam – marks the site where Japanese sodliers raped and massacared Guamanian civilians at the Fana Caves during the closing days of World War II.
There is a distinctly military theme, not surprisingly, to many of the memorials on this list. It is amazing, however, to think that Riverside, California, of all places, is tied with New York City for the most national memorials of any place in the country outside of Washington, DC. It is also interesting to note the three memorials on the above list that are dedicated to American civilians outside of public service. Albert Einstein is such a towering figure in the history of science, that a national memorial to him is completely unsurprising. The Bosque Redondo Memorial is in keeping with the list of National Park System national memorials that commemorate tragedies in our Nation’s history – although it is worth noting that this event gets a national memorial, whereas the removal of the Cherokee from the eastern United States gets the Trail of Tears of National Historic Trail commemorating the full route. Finally, the most unusual entry on this list is Robert L. Kohnstamm, whom I’m not sure many readers of this past will have previously been familiar with. For example, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry! He apparently played a role in preserving the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and in opening Mt. Hood to recreational skiing. A full article about him can be read here.
So, after this exhaustive summary of national memorials here is a summary of the results:
12 national memorials recognized by the National Park Service as stand-alone national parks in Washington, DC;
7 other national memorials in Washington, DC that are managed by the National Park Service;
18 other national memorials that are also stand-alone national parks, outside of Washington, DC;
3 other national memorials located inside the boundaries of national parks outside of Washington, DC;
6 national memorials that are either formally or informally affiliated with the National Park System;
18 national memorials that are located outside the National Park System entirely.
That makes a total of 64 national memorials!
Out of these 64, 26 of them are dedicated to wars, military victories, military service, or public service (I’m including the Astronauts Memorial and Civil Defense Memorial here.)
19 more national memorials are dedicated to U.S. Presidents (incluing four to Abraham Lincoln alone), other U.S. Founding Fathers (I’m including Federal Hall in this group ), or to Robert E. Lee.
Eight more national memorials are dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the United States.
Seven of the national memorials are dedicated to the memory of national tragedies.
Finally, four of the national memorials are dedicated to civilians primarily for civilian accomplishments in the areas of science, conservation, or civil rights.
By no means do any of the above seem to be complete lists. The closest might be the memorials to the Founding Fathers, although if Kosciuszko is on the list of national memorials, the the absence of Lafayette, Rochambeau, and von Steuben are conspicuous by their absences. The list of explorers with national memorials, however, seems far too short, and almost random in its selection. While hardly anyone could object to a national memorial to the scientific achievements of Albert Einstein or the Wright Brothers, that area of achievement can only be described as under-recognized. As with many things in the National Park System – there will no doubt be more to come in the future. In the meantime, the list of 64 national memorials provides an interesting starting point for those looking to remember our Nation’s past and history, going even beyond just those sites managed by the National Park Service.
Bonus Fact: Congress has actually passed a resolution calling for the final resting of place of the RMS Titanic to be designated as an international maritime memorial to the men, women, and children who perished aboard her. Of course, the Titanic sank in international waters, so its not at all clear who would have the jurisdiction to carry this out, but it is fun to think about.