With more than 200 National Parks now closed to the public, many sites are beginning to do livestream events, bringing their parks to the public during this period of of social separation. I’m going to try and keep track of a running list of these events here and encourage the use of the hashtag #NPSLive to spread the word! All times Eastern.
April 17, 2020
11am – Lowell National Historical Park – Poet Lucy Larcom (Facebook)
11am – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – Frodg Sounds (Facebook)
1pm – Grand Canyon National Park – Ask a Ranger (Facebook)
1pm – Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS (Facebook)
3pm – Santa Monica Mountains NRA – Great Horned Owls (Facebook) (3:30pm Instagram)
Prince William Forest Park | Washington-Rochambeau NHT
Crossroads of the Revolution National Heritage Area |
Abraham Staats House c. 1740 SBB, NJ
Battle of Bound Brook Reenactment
Ilinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area |
Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area |
Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum
Historic DeSoto County Courthouse
Historic Lafayette County Courthouse
Ida B. Wells Barnett Museum
L.Q.C. Lamar House Museum
Tennessee Williams Home
Tupelo Hardware Store
Union County Heritage Museum
University of Mississippi Lyceum
William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak
(Stephen D.) Lee Home Museum
Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area |
African American Museum of Iowa
Calkins Nature Area
Center Grove Orchard
Hardin County Farm Museum
Hurstville Interpretive Center
Ice House Museum
Jasper County Historical Museum
Maier Rural Heritage Center
Mathias Ham House
National Farm Toy Museum
U of I Natural History Museum
Headlining this month’s new stamps is a new stamp for the recently-designated Gateway Arch National Park. The famous St. Louis Arch had previous been in the National Park System under the name of the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. ” St. Louis is located at the confluence of the Missouri River with the Mississippi River, and so served as the “gateway to the west” from the time of Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase onward, including to the completion of the arch in 1967. The name “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial” was always one of the most-awkward names in the National Park System, and referenced the role of Thomas Jefferson in arranging for the Louisiana Purchase that brought much of the lands west of the Mississippi River into the United States. Few people probably ever heard that name, outside of National Park junkies and those with a real attention to detail. The new name of Gateway Arch National Park will certainly roll of the tongue much more easily, and will no doubt increase the visibility of the site itself, as well as increase the visibility of the fact that it is part of the National Park System.
Some purists have objected that the title of “national park” aught to be reserved for natural landscapes managed by the National Park Service. However, this name is such a clear improvement over the old name, I find it hard to support that objection. Many years ago, when I embarked on my first cross-country road trip to report for an assignment with the National Park Service in Colorado, the one detour that I made time for on my trip was a stop at the Gateway Arch. It is truly one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of the National Park System, so why not go ahead and call it Gateway Arch National Park? In fact, I’d even argue for using it as a precedent for increasing the visibility of another iconic landmark in the National Park System. How about combining Statue of Liberty National Monument and Castle Clinton National Monument into a new Liberty National Park? The Statue of Liberty National Monument includes not just the iconic statute on Liberty Island, but also the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Castle Clinton is an early 19th-century fortification located in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was used as an immigration processing facility in the decades before Ellis Island opens, and nowadays serves as one of the main ferry departure points for visitors to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Its a radical proposal, but for Parkasaurus, Liberty National Park certainly has a nice ring to it. So here’s a hearty welcome to Gateway Arch National Park to the list of national parks, and here’s hoping that it even inspires more.
Fort Pulaski National Monument is located near Savannah, Georgia and was the site of major bombardment in the Civil War. The successful seige of the Fort heralded the end of the era of masonry coastal fortifications, which were now obsolete against rifled artillery. The two cancellations this month are updates to existing cancellations reflecting Fort Pulaski’s participation in the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom Partnership Program and in the Gullah-Geechee National Heritage Area. Once Fort Pulaski was captured by Union forces in April 1862, they emancipated the slaves there, and the area became a magnet for slaves escaping from the surrounding areas and seeking freedom. The Park also interprets the history of the free people of African ancestry who developed the unique Gullah culture in the coastal lowlands of Georgia and South Carolina.
Prince William Forest Park is located just outside the famed Quantico Marine Corps Base along Interstate 95 in Virginia. The new cancellation commemorates the route taken by George Washington and French General Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau on their way from New England to the final battle at Yorktown in 1781 during the closing days of the Revolutionary War.
The new stamps for the Crossroads of the Revolution National Heritage Area supplement the additions for Union County that were featured in October 2017. The Abraham Staats House is a historic home dating to circa 1740 in South Bound Brook, New Jersey. The Battle of Bound Brook was a Revolutionary War engagement that occurred in 1777. The reenactment occurs in April each year.
For the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Area the two new stamps this month, are actually reissues of earlier cancellations. The stamp for Chicago, Illinois was previously at the Chicago Historical Society Museum, but they ended their participation in the Passport Program back in 2006. The new stamp reading “Chicago, IL” will be located at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. The old stamp for Lockport, Illinois was located in the historic Gaylord Building. but which now has a stamp reading “Gaylord Building.” The new Lockport, Illinois stamp is located at the Will County Historical Museum.
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area in northeast Mississippi has doubled its total number of cancellations this month from 12 to 24. The headliners are the Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum in the city of Tupelo and the Tennessee Williams Home in the city of Columbus. “The King” of rock’n’roll needs no introduction. Tennessee Williams is the famed playwright who wrote A Streetcar Named Desire, Orpheus Descending, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.His home is now a visitor welcome center in Columbus, and this stamp likely replaces an existing stamp simply reading “Columbus, MS.” Back in Tupelo there is also the Tupelo Hardware Store, where Gladys Presley famously bought her son, Elvis, his first guitar. Additionally, also located in Columbus is the home of former Civil War General Stephen D. Lee, which now houses a museum of Civil War artifacts that is primarily open by appointment, with limited regular hours.
The University of Mississippi is located in Oxford, Mississippi. The Lyceum is the oldest building remaining on campus and remains the primary administration building; it is named for the garden in Athens where Aristotle taught philosophy. Rowan Oak is located adjacent to the University of Mississippi campus, and was the home of William Faulkner for 40 years. In addition to winning two Pulitzer Prizes, Faulker is one of just 16 Americans to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is also, I believe, only the second of those 16 Americans to be associated with a site with a Passport cancellation, the other being the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site in the East Bay Area of California, which is a full-fledged unit of the National Park System.
The L.Q.C. Lamar House is also located in Oxford. Lamar was a Congressman from Mississippi both before the Civil War and then again after Reconstruction ended in 1873. He actually drafted Mississippi’s secession documents, and then went on to become an Ambassador for the Confederate States of America. After his return to Congress, went on to become a Senator, a Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland, and then a Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Cleveland.) The town of Oxford also includes the Historic Lafayette County Courthouse.
Ida B. Wells is perhaps somewhat less famous that the above cultural figures, but no less remarkable. Born in Mississippi in the middle of the Civil War, she would lose both her parents to disease at the age of 16. Nevertheless, she went on to become a journalist as an African-American woman, with a particular focus on documenting lynchings in the South. She was also a civil rights activist. Some 70 years before Rosa Parks, she refused to give up her seat in a segregated train car, only to be forcibly removed. The year before, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the 1875 Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in public accommodations as unconstitutional. That decision that would take nearly 80 years to fully overturn, with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1864. The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum is open by appointment only in her hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi. Rust College is also located in Holly Springs, and is the historically black college where Ms. Wells earned her bachelor’s degree.
Finally, the new additions this month also include the Union County Heritage Museum in the town of New Albany. The Historic DeSoto County Courthouse in Hernando includes a number of murals depicting the explorations of Hernando DeSoto. The famed explorer Hernando De Soto arrived near present-day Bradenton, Florida in 1539 where there is a National Memorial as a full-fledged Unit of the National Park System dedicated to him. DeSoto explored all the way to the Mississippi River before he died in either present-day Louisiana or Arkansas in 1542. This stamp joins a previous stamp for the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area simply reading “DeSoto County,” as well as a stamp in the same location for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area – a relatively rare example of two National Heritage Areas overlapping with each other.
The Calkins Nature Area is a county nature preserve located about an hour west of the city of Waterloo. Close by the Calkins Nature Area is the Hardin County Farm Museum, whose website delightfully describes its location as “1 mile north of the stoplight in Eldora.” The stamp for the Hartman Reserve is a replacement for an existing stamp at a Nature Center just outside Waterloo in Cedar Falls. The Ice House Museum is also located in Cedar Falls, and tells the story of ice harvesting from the Cedar River. Downtown Waterloo has a stamp for the Grout Museum District, which includes two historic homes, a science center, a natural history museum, and a museum dedicated to the Sullivan Brothers. The Sullivan Brothers died while serving together in World War II, sparking a policy change that led to the events portrayed in the movie Saving Private Ryan. The new stamp reading Waterloo, IA is expected to be kept at the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area Headquarters in downtown Waterloo.
East of Waterloo can be found the Wapsipinicon Mill in the town of Independence, Iowa. The mill is run by the Buchanan County Historical Society and is an impressive six story structure.
Center Grove Orchard is a family fun farm in Cambridge, Iowa, about a half hour’s drive north of the State Capital in Des Moines. This stamp joins an existing one for Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa just outside of Des Moines to the west. Living History Farms includes the re-created frontier town of Walnut Hill, and three re-created frontier farms from 1700 (American Indian), 1850 (Pioneer Era), and 1900 (Horse-Powered.) The Museum of the Jasper County Historical Society is located about a half hour’s drive east of Des Moines in Newton, Iowa. In Des Moines itself is the existing stamp for the Iowa State History Museum.
The Hurstville Interpretive Center is the Nature Center for Jackson County, about mid-way between Dubuque and Davenport in the eastern end of the state. The House of Mathias Ham is a historic 19th century mansion on the north side of Dubuque. In downtown Dubuque is an existing stamp for the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. On the south side of Dubuque is an existing stamp for the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. This natural area is notable for its monument to Julien Dubuque, who settled this area in the late 1700’s under the authority of the Spanish Governor in New Orleans, back when the Mississippi River Basin was a Spanish colony.
The Maier Rural Heritage Center is a museum to rural farm life in the town of Elkader in northern Iowa. Also in Elkader is the Motor Mill, a 19th century flour mill that is now a historic site. There are four other existing cancellations across norther Iowa, including the Gilbertson Park Nature Center in Elgin, Iowa. The Fossil and Prairie Center in remote Rockford, Iowa allows amateur fossil hunting among their collection of 365 million year old marine fossils from the Devonian Period. The Iowa Dairy Center is an educational dairy farm operated by Northeast Iowa Community College in the town of Calmar, Iowa. Finally, the Vesterhein Norwegian-American Museum can be found in the town of Decorah, Iowa.
West of Dubuque is the town of Dyersville, where you can find the National Farm Toy Museum. Dyersville is also, of course, famously the home of the Field of Dreams movie site, from the famous Kevin Costner movie. Alas, the Field of Dreams movie site is not yet an official Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area partner, so there’s no passport cancellation there – but Parkasaurus certainly thinks that we almost need to find a way to make that happen!
The Sawmill Museum is located a bit more than hour’s drive south of Dubuque, along the Mississippi River in Clinton, Iowa. This museum tells the story of Iowa’s timber industry – an industry we don’t often associate with Iowa in the present day. South of Clinton is an existing stamp for The Putnam Museum of science and history in Davenport, Iowa. Just west of Davenport in Iowa City is the University of Iowa Natural History Museum. Between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids is the existing stamp for the Amana Heritage Museum, in the town of Amana, Iowa. The Amana were a Protestant Religious Sect founded in Europe, but which came to America in the 19th Century seeking religious freedom.
Finally, there was one stamp removed from the list this month.
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site | Tailor Shop
The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in eastern Tennessee preserves Andrew Johnson’s tailor shop inside the visitor center itself. There was really no need for it to have a separate cancellation, when it was located inside the visitor center itself, and so the National Park Service has apparently decided to discontinue it.
Its amazing to think that less than one year ago, there were not any national parks specifically dedicated to mammoth fossils – and now there are two! The first is the Tule Springs Fossil Beds near Las Vegas, Nevada, which was established by Congress in December 2014. The second is the newest unit of the National Park System, the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which was established by Presidential Proclamation under the Antiquities Act on July 10, 2015. Prior to 2014 there were six national parks specifically dedicated to fossils in the name of the park, but all of them from eras predating the age of the mammoths:
By contrast, mammoths lived in North America during the Pleistocene time period, from about 2 million years ago to around 10,000 years ago. Specifically, the mammoths at Tule Springs died approximately 250,000 years ago and the mammoths at Waco died approximately 68,000 years ago. The mammoths at both sites are considered to be Columbian Mammoths, a species of mammoth that is related to the smaller, but more-famous, Wooly Mammoths that lived in Siberia and northern North America. Likewise, both sites would predate the arrival of the first humans to the Americas, which different theories date as occuring anywhere between 12,000 years ago to as much as 40,000 years ago.
In addition to the age of their respective mammoth fossils being hundreds of thousands of years apart, two other things distinguish Waco Mammoth National Monument from Tule Springs National Monument and make them each unique in their own way. First, Tule Springs is currently almost completely undeveloped. It has no visitor center, and no displays of exposed fossils, whether in situ (still in the ground) or anywhere else. Visiting it requires some hiking and some imagination. The second is that the Waco site preserves a nursery herd of mammoths – the only known such fossils of its kind in the United States. This makes the fossils here especially valuable, as they tell us a great deal about how mammoths reproduced, raised their young, and how they lived with others.
Although these are the first two national parks specifically dedicated to mammoth fossils, it turns out that mammoth fossils can be found as a secondary feature at a few other national parks. Among the most notable is Channel Islands National Park. Although most visitors to Channel Islands National Park, located off the cost of Los Angeles, California, either go for the scenery, or perhaps for activities like sea kayaking, hiking, or whale watching, 40,000 years ago the Channel Islands were home to the Pygmy Mammoth, a species found nowhere else in the world.
There are also two other national parks that are dedicated to the archeology of the peoples who hunted mammoths. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is in one of the remotest corners of western Alaska, and preserves the archeological legacy of the first American settlers who likely followed herds of wooly mammoths across the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last ice age. The second is Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in the panhandle of north Texas, where some of the earliest Americans obtained flint for their spearheads with which to hunt the Columbian Mammoths found at Waco and at Tule Springs. Naturally, the presence of humans at both sites indicates that they are much more recent than the two new national monuments dedicated to mammoths.
Likewise, it should be mentioned that perhaps the most-famous mammoth fossil site in the United States is not part of the U.S. National Park System. Mammoth fossils have been found at the La Brea tar pits near Los Angeles, California which is now part of the Page Museum. The fossils there also date from relatively recent history, from between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Nevertheless, very few visitors to these Parks would have come away with any deeper appreciation for the way in which mammoth fossils are found, or for the ways in which mammoths lived and thrived in this country, literally for millions of years. Waco Mammoth National Monument in particular will provide an outstanding opportunity for education about these wonderful creatures.
Its fascintating to think about how sites like Waco Mammoth connect to our present-day world. Although these were not the Wooly Mammoths of Siberia, its still amazing to think of these giant beasts living in places like central Texas, Las Vegas, and southern California. In fact, these giant beasts roamed here “only” a few tens of thousands of years, which really puts into context the tens of millions of years that separate us from the other fossil-focused national parks in the National Park System.