Tag Archives: Yosemite

Kate Mullany NHS Gets Its First Cancellation, And more!

The List for August 2019

Channel Islands National Park – Santa Rosa Island

Yosemite National Park |
– Happy Isles Art and Nature Center
– Mariposa Grove

Gulf Islands National Seashore |
– Rosamond Johnson Beach
– Ship Island
– William M. Colmer Visitor Center

Kate Mullany National History Site | Troy, NY

California National Historic Trail | National Frontier Trails Museum, MO
Oregon National Historic Trail | National Frontier Trails Museum, MO

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail |
– Historic Locust Grove, KY
– Nebraska City, NE
– St. Charles, MO
– Steubenville, OH
– Trail of Tears State Park, MO

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail |
– Natchez Trace PKWY – Meriwether Lewis Site, TN
– Natchez Trace PKWY – Mount Locust, TN
– Natchez Trace PKWY – Ridgeland, MS
– Natchez Trace PKWY – Tupelo, MS
– Tennessee Aquarium – Chattanooga, TN

Stories Behind the Stamps

An abandoned ranch on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. Nearby Santa Rosa Island is a new addition to the Passport Program this month. Photo from 2007.

Leading off this month’s list is a sixth stamp for Channel Islands National Park. Channel Islands National Park consists of five of the eight major islands located off the coast of Los Angeles in Southern California. The park includes all four of the northern islands, as well as small Santa Barbara Island to the south. Santa Rosa is the last of the five islands in the national park to get its own passport cancellation. The sixth cancellation for the Park is located at the mainland visitor center in Ventura, California.

Access to Santa Rosa Island is either by charter flight, or by a 2+hour each way concessionaire boat trip, which according to the Park website currently runs a couple times a week from April through early November. If you are planning your first trip to Channel Islands National Park, you may want to consider a trip to a trip to Anacapa Island or Santa Cruz Island, which are each only about a one hour’s boat ride.

For Yosemite National Park, the Happy Isles Nature Center in Yosemite Valley has been renamed the Happy Isles Art and Nature Center. The new name reflects that the Yosemite Conservancy, which operates the site, offers not just nature programs, but also art programs for kids and adults alike. The Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees is located in the southern end of the park. The Mariposa Grove reopened to the public in 2018 after a three year restoration .

The beach in the Santa Rosa Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore, which has three new or updated cancellations this month. Photo Credit: NPS

Gulf Islands National Seashore has a total of ten cancellations, and all three on this month’s list are replacements for existing cancellations. On the Mississippi side of the park you can visit the William M. Colmer Visitor Center in the town of Ocean Springs, as well as the nearby Davis Bayou picnic area, which has its own cancellation. Ocean Springs is also the departure point for ferries to Ship Island where you can enjoy white sand beaches and explore historic Fort Massachusetts.

Gulf Islands National Seashore is unusual in that it has units in both Mississippi and Florida, but does not have any land in Alabama. Cancellations for Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt can be found at the Fort Barrancas Visitor Center on the grounds of the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Another cancellation for the Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center can be found in the nearby town of Gulf Breeze, Florida, located just across Pensacola Bay from the city of Pensacola itself. Then there are cancellations for the each of the remaining beaches on the Florida barrier islands, including the Santa Rosa Area on Opal Beach, the Fort Pickens Area on Pensacola Beach, and the Rosamond Johnson Beach on Perdido Key.

The Kate Mullany National Historic Site in Troy, New York received its first cancellation this month. Photo Credit: Brian Bailey, 2011

Kate Mullany National Historic Site in Troy, New York, a suburb of Albany, is one of 23 Affiliated Areas of the U.S. National Park System. Affiliated Areas are recognized by Congress for being nationally-significant, but are not directly managed by the National Park Service. As such, Affiliated Areas don’t count towards the total of 400+ Units of the National Park System (currently 419 as of this writing), but do receive technical assistance from the National Park Service on managing their significant resources – as well as additional recognition.

Kate Mullany immigrated to the United States from Ireland at a young age with the rest of her family. After the death of her father, she took a job in a laundry to support the rest of her family, including her mother, who was in ill health. Conditions in the laundry were difficult, demanding 12+ hour days for only $3 a week in wages. In February of 1864, Kate Mullany successfully organized around 300 laundry workers across several businesses to form the first labor union in the United States primarily for female workers. Shortly after organizing, they launched a six day strike and were successful in winning a 25% pay increase. Her home in Troy, New York was designated a National Historic Site in 2005 and is also home to the American Labor Studies Center. The website for the Center has a great short biography of Kate Mullany that is well worth reading.

The National Fronter Trails Museum is a certified site for five National Historic Trails. Photo from 2016.

Independence, Missouri is famously the traditional starting point of the Oregon Trail, as well as the home of Harry S Truman National Historic Site. The National Frontier Trails Museum is a little gem of a museum that provides exhibits on the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, Santa Fe, and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trails – the great trails of western settlement and exploration. The exhibits use excerpts from diary and journal entries to really bring the experience of the journey westward undertaken by these explorers and pioneers to life. The new cancellations for the Oregon and California National Historic Trails replace existing “generic” cancellations that listed all the states for each trail.

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail already had a place-specific stamp at the National Frontier Trails Musem. It adds five new cancellations, three of which are related to the recent eastward extension of the trail from St. Louis, Missouri back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The reconstructed 18th-Century Historic Fort Steuben in Steubenville, Ohio is open from May to October. The original fort was already abandoned by the time of the expedition, but Meriwether Lewis passed through the area on his journey eastward to assemble to the Corps of Discovery in St. Charles, Missouri. The Lewis and Clark Boathouse in St. Charles includes a replica keelboat and two replica pirogues, all of which are seaworthy and are occasionally used in reenactments.

The Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska includes a replica of the explorers’ keelboat, as well as a replica Plains Indian earth lodge. Missouri’s Trail of Tears State Park is located near the city of Cape Girardeau, about an hour’s drive north of the confluence between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Meriwether Lewis would have passed by this area on his preparatory journey, and both Lewis and Clark would have passed by here on their return home. Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky was the estate of William Clark’s sister and husband. Lewis and Clark stopped here in 1806 and celebrated the return of the expedition with Clark’s family.

Finally, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail adds four locations along the Natchez Trace Parkway this month, including the site where Meriwether Lewis died, most likely by suicide. Mount Locust Plantation, Ridgeland, and Tupelo are all locations of other Visitor Centers along the Parkway. The famous Tennessee Aquarium may seem like an unlikely location for a Trail of Tears passport cancellation, but the aquarium shares its location with the Chattanooga History Center – which does provide interpretation of Chattanooga’s role in the 19th Century removal of American Indians to present-day Oklahoma.

Final Shot: The Meriwether Lewis Site on the Natchez Trace Parkway, where Lewis met his untimely demise. Photo from 2008.
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30 for 300 – Part I

I’m going to take a brief break from my usual postings on this blog to engage in a little self-indulgence.   Careful readers may have noticed in my recent Trip Report that my trip to Petersburg National Battlefield marked my milestone 300th national park visited.  To mark this occasion, I’ve decided to put together a brief retrospective on 30 of my favorite moments from the visits to my first 300 national parks.   These are not necessarily my 30 favorite national parks, but rather they are 30 of my favorite moments from visiting national parks – in fact, some national parks that have had more than one special moment in my travels to them may even appear more than once.   For simplicity, I’ve limited the choices here to parks that I visited after 1998, when I first discovered the Passport Program and first started to conceive of the possibility of visiting all the national parks, and all the way up to my trip to Petersburg just a couple months ago.    To make this more readable, I’ll break this up into three posts of 10 favorite memories each.  So without further ado, here are #’s 21-30 of my “30 for 300” in the national parks.

#30) Yosemite National Park in the Snow – March 2006
I figured that I should start this off this series with a  national park that would rank as many people’s favorite.   Back in 2006, I met up with a friend of mine from college who was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, and we headed out to Yosemite National Park for the weekend.  After our first night in the Curry Village, we woke up to find that our spring day in Yosemite had been turned into a Winter Wonderland.   The snow cover made the iconic Yosemite Falls especially spectacular.

Yosemite Falls in the snow made this national park visit especially memorable.
Yosemite Falls in the snow made this national park visit especially memorable.

#29) Discovering George Rogers Clark National Historical Park – May 2003
When you set out to visit all of the national parks in the United States, one of the many rewards is the discovery of the unexpected places that you never even knew existed before the journey began.   Perhaps no place symbolizes that “discovery of the unexpected” for me more than George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in tiny Vincennes, Indiana.  Most Americans have never heard of George Rogers Clark, although most have probably heard of his “little brother,” William Clark, of the famous Lewis & Clark expedition.

During the heart of the American Revolutionary War, however, it was older brother George who would stake first claim to the history books.   In the dead winter of mid-February 1779, George Rogers Clark would lead 170 volunteers out of Fort Kaskasia in Illinois on a daring sneak attack.  Together they would march across 180 miles of flooded prairie, sometimes wading through icy water that rose to their shoulders, to surprise the British garrison at present-day Vincennes.  Their arrival caught the British completely by surprise – understandably given the extraordinary conditions – and he was able to force their surrender.  This victory helped cement American control of the whole territory from Ohio to Illinois.  This control would then be formally recognized four years later in the Treaties of Paris that ended the American Revolution, making this territory part of the fledgling United States, rather than part of Canada .  Younger brother William would make his own way into the history books some 14 years later, but this extraordinary effort under incredibly harsh conditions demonstrated that there was more than one Clark brother with “Undaunted Courage.”

Today, Vincennes, IN is a location that is truly “off-the-beaten-path,” but the impressive memorial to George Rogers Clark commemorates his story – a story that I would likely never have learned had this national park not existed.

The George Rogers Clark NHP in Vincennes, Indiana memorializes a forgotten hero. Photo Credit: National Park Service
The George Rogers Clark NHP in Vincennes, Indiana memorializes a forgotten hero. Photo Credit: National Park Service

#28) Playing in the Surf at Cape Hatteras National Seashore – July 2002
Sometimes we visit a National Park to pursue solititude, and sometimes national parks are best visited with a friend.  In the summer of 2002, my best friend from college and I took a road trip through all three of the national seashores in the middle of the Atlantic Coast.   At Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina, we particularly enjoyed playing in the surf, tossing a football to each other, with the waves crashing around us.   Approriately enough, we named this particular game “Hatteras,” in honor of how much we enjoyed the pristine sandy beaches at this park.

#27) Counting Alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve – May 2014
The spring of 2014 found me travelling across south Florida from Miami to Naples with my family on the Tamiani Trail.  Along the way, Big Cypress National Preserve proved to be the perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch.  Right outside the picnic area, there is a boardwalk running alongside a canal that was also the perfect place to look for alligators with my then three-year old son.   I can still hear him saying, “Dad, there’s another one!”

You don't have to look hard to find alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve.
You don’t have to look hard to find alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve.  There are at least six in this photograph.

#26) Cajun Culture at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve – May 2004

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve in southeast Louisiana is something of a grab-bag of a national park, covering New Orleans’ French Quarter, the Barataria Nature Preserve just west of New Orleans,  the Chalmette Battlefield from the War of 1812 just east of New Orleans, and then three Acadian Cultural Centers in the nearby cities of Eunice, Lafayette, and Thibodaux.  Back in 2004, I was heading out to the Prairie Acadian Culture Center in Eunice, some 2.5 hours west of New Orleans, to try and catch a scheduled demonstration of cajun music.  Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, I was running late getting out there, and ended up missing it.  As it turned out, though, I had no worries.  The Ranger on duty that day said that she was in a cajun music band herself, and that her band was playing a gig that evening at a nearby restaurant called Bubba Frey’s.  Arriving there, the special that evening was “boulet” – a dish that reminded me of a hush puppy, only with seafood mixed in.  Acadian Cultural experiences rarely get more authentic than that!

#25) Looking Up at the World’s Biggest Trees in Redwood National Park – March 2001
In 2001, I was only two years out of college and making my first trip to the State of California.  While visiting two of my friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, we decided, almost son the spur of the moment, to make the long day trip up the Pacific Coast Highway to Redwood National Park.  This was my first encounter with the Pacific Coast Rainforest and with the giant trees.  There’s a reason why these giants have inspired generations of conservationists.  Standing under some of the tallest living things anywhere on the face of the Earth is always awe-inspiring.

Its hard for a photograph to do justice to the towering heights of some of the world's tallest trees, which are found in Redwood National Park.
Its hard for a photograph to do justice to the towering heights of some of the world’s tallest trees, which are found in Redwood National Park.

#24) Sailing to Dry Tortugas National Park – December 2002
Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the harder-to-reach places in the U.S. National Park System.  Its location says it all – 70 miles west of Key West.  The centerpiece of the park is historic Fort Jefferson, which straddles the tiny island of Garden Key like a behemoth – so much so that its walls seemingly stretch right over the edges of the key and plunge into the ocean.   The Fort was built in the early 19th Century to protect the shipping passage around the Florida Keys into New Orleans, and was later used as an Alcatraz-style prison. Today, on a day trip out of Key West, not only do you get to tour this impressive historic fort, but the boat operators also provide snorkeling gear to discover the coral reef that has grown up around the walls in the ocean below.  To top it all off, nearby Long Key, which is frequently connected to Garden Key by a sandbar, is a major seabird rookery.  From my vantage point standing on the walls of Fort Jefferson, Long Key looked like it was a scene out of Jurassic Park, surrounded as it was by a virtual cloud of nesting seabirds.

For those prone to seasickenss, Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park can also be visited by seaplane. Long Key can be seen in the far back of this image. Photo Credit: National Park Service
For those prone to seasickenss, Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park can also be visited by seaplane. Long Key can be seen in the far back of this image. Photo Credit: National Park Service

#23) Discovering Petroglyphs at Arches National Park – July 1999
I could probably fill a whole blog post with my stories from Arches National Park, a true gem of the National Park System.  On this trip, I was travelling by myself, on my way to Salt Lake City, and was camping on Bureau of Land Management Land along the Colorado River, just outside of the National Park.  While there, I ran into a young woman who was also travelling solo.  We agreed that it would be fun to go hiking together in the Park.   It turns out that she had heard that there was a “secret” petroglyph panel in Arches National Park.  Its “secret” because there is no marked trail to the panel, and the Park Rangers will not provide directions to it. This is due to the relatively small number of petroglyphs in the Park and the very high number of visitors that this “destination park” receives every year.  Nevertheless, her directions were good, and when we arrived at the location, we found this simple sign from the National Park Service, “You’ve Found Something Unique – Please Preserve It.”  Really – that sign could be placed almost anywhere in the National Park System, but it was particularly poignant here.  This was the very first time I had ever encountered petroglyphs, and I was enthralled.  Moreover, more than 15 years later, in an age when almost all information is available on the Internet, it seems amazing that a place with unpublished directions like this can still exist.  You can see some good photos of the Dark Angel Petroglyphs, including that sign, here.

#22) The World is Big and Small at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve – September 2008
Since Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is one of those odd national parks that “counts twice,” I’m going to cheat a little bit and include two moments from this trip.

The main visitor center for this Park, located in Copper Center, AK, is set up somewhat unusually. The theatre with the park movie is actually located in a separate out-building from the rest of the visitor center.  So after planning my hike in the main building, I went out to watch the move.  I was so floored by the stunning aerial photography in this film that I just had to go back into the main building and ask the Rangers about how the photography was done, and hopefully purchase a take-home copy – something I had never done before (or since!).  That ended up being a most-fortuitous decision.  While I was talking to the Rangers back in the main building, the phone rang.  A nearby flight-seeing operation had someone who was interested in going up for a tour, but they needed someone else to split the cost of the plane.  The Rangers said that this had never happened before all summer – so clearly this was “meant to be.”  The following hour spent flying above the glaciers in the Wrangell Mountains was one of the most memorable hours of my life.

Few experiences can compare to seeing the rugged peaks of the Wrangell Mountains up close from a flight-seeing tour.
Few experiences can compare to seeing the rugged peaks of the Wrangell Mountains up close from a flight-seeing tour.

Shortly after the flight-seeing tour ended, I proceeded to drive the rest of the way towards my planned hike.  Along the way, I stopped at an overlook like this one, with the aspens in full fall colors.   I checked my phone at one of these stops, and I had a text message with a picture of my new nephew, Aiden, who had been born just an hour or two earlier more than 3,800 miles away, on the other side of the continent, in Florida.  This day had shown that the world was both larger and smaller than I had imagined.

Even in the middle of the wilderness, modern technology meant that news of a birth on the side of the continent could still reach you.

#21) “She Said ‘Yes!'” at Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park – October 2007
As things were getting serious with my then-girlfriend, it only seemed natural given my second love for the national parks that I should ask the big question in a national park.  I was lucky to pick a beautiful fall colors day in West Virginia.  We began the day with a quiet picnic lunch away from the crowds on Bolivar Heights in the western end of the Park.  Then we headed to the historic downtown, where we discovered that the recently-rennovated Historic St. Peter’s Chapel was open for the first time that I had seen in my several years of having visited this Park.  Since we are both Catholics, that ended up being the perfect place to combine faith, hope, and love and to ask her to spend the rest of our lives together. I’ve felt a special connection to this national park ever since.

The author and the future Mrs. Parkasaurus capped off their big day by happily celebrating at the top of Maryland Heights in Harper’s Ferry National HIstorical Park.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, if you’d like to keep reading, here are links to Part II with #’s 11-20,  Part III with #’s 1-10, and the Honorable Mentions.

Stamp Collage 1-001

 

Edit: This post was updated after original publication to add the stamp collage image at the end.Share this Parkasaurus post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
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January Stamps: A Yosemite Anniversary & More

Yosemite National Park is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2015.  This photo is from Parkasaurus' visit in Winter 2006.
Yosemite National Park is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2015. This photo is from Parkasaurus’ visit in Winter 2006.

 

I’m a little late again this month, but Eastern National has released its new Passport stamps for the month of January, and the list contains four brand-new stamps and five sort-of-new stamps.

First the brand new ones:

  • Yosemite National Park | 125th Annivesary 1890-2015
  • Lake Mead NRA | The Boulevard
  • Lake Mead NRA | Lakeshore
  • Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm NHA | Girdwood, AK

At Parkasaurus, we’re not really fans of single-year anniversary stamps, like this one for Yosemite National Park.  The typical Passport Stamp has an adjustable year that is good for 5-7 years, so it doesn’t seem to make sense to produce one that is specific to a single anniversary year.  Instead,  I’d much rather see the parks use their creative juices to create special stamps for their anniversaries, such as this particularly beautiful one for the recently-completed 75th Anniversary of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Natchez Trace

Meanwhile, its worth noting that until this past July, the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, was one of only a handful of National Heritage Areas without any Passport stamps at all.    It then added three of them in conjunction with the National Park Travelers Club’s annual convention this past summer.  This one, to be located at the Alyeska Resort’s Roundhouse Museum, will be its fourth stamp.   The other three are located at the Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward; the Chugach National Forest Visitor Center in Portage; and the Hope & Sunrise HIstorical & Mining Museum in the town of Hope.  The last one is particularly interesting, since it means that there are now Passport stamps located in both the towns of Hope, Alaska and Hope, Arkansas.

The last two new stamps are for Lake Mead National Recreation Area.   Lake Mead is the reservoir created by Hoover Dam, just to the south and west of Las Vegas, Nevada.   It apears that these two new stamps will be used to provide unique, place-specific stamps for two of this national park’s entrance stations, one located on Lake Mead Boulevard heading west out of Las Vegas from the north, and the other on Lakeshore Drive heading west out of Las Vegas from the south.  These two new additions will give Lake Mead NRA a total of at least 10 Passport Stamps, one at each of the park’s Visitor Centers, Ranger Stations, and Entrance Stations, along with a generic passport stamp without any specific location on it.

Finally, the Eastern National list also announced five “new” stamps for Olympic National Park:  Kalaloch Ranger Station, Mora Ranger Station, Quinault Ranger Station, Storm King Ranger Station, and Port Angeles Visitor Center.  I put new in quotes there, because each of these five locations has already had a slightly-different passport stamp.   What constitutes a “new” passport stamp is always in the eye of the beholder, of course, but for purposes of Parkasaurus, these stamps won’t add to the national stamp total.

Thus, based on the four new additions above, we now have a total of 1,954 Passport Stamps available out there to collect!Share this Parkasaurus post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
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When Is a National Park Not a National Park?

The National Colonial Farm in Piscataway Park is part of a national park that isn't a national park.  Photo from 2010.
The National Colonial Farm in Piscataway Park is part of a national park that isn’t a national park. Photo from 2010.

This is Part 3 in a series on Counting the Parks, click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

One of the more unusual oddities about the 401 U.S. National Parks  is that some of them are national parks without being national parks.   What do I mean?

Just take a look at the names of the of the following parks, all of which count towards the total of 401 U.S. National Parks:

You may notice that all of these parks are missing the word national.   They are simply parks, not national parks, even though all of them are run by the National Park Service.   All of the above are within day-trip distance of Washington, DC – and so all seem to owe their designation in some way to the special history and relationship of our Federal government to the Nation’s Capital.   Here’s a bit more-detailed run-down of each of these six.  I will have to do a follow-up post on two other parks that also included in this group:

Catoctin Mountain Park is easily the most-scenic out of these six.  Located on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, it protects from development the area immediately surrounding the Camp David Presidential Retreat.   Recreational opportunities include several hiking trails and campgrounds, including several cabins and lodges.

Chimney Rock is one of several scenic spots in Catoctin Mountain Park.  Credit: Alicia Lafever, nps.gov
Chimney Rock is one of several scenic spots in Catoctin Mountain Park. Credit: Alicia Lafever, nps.gov

Fort Washington Park is perhaps surprisingly included in this category, rather than being designated a national monument or a national historic site.   This is one of at least a half-dozen national park sites that preserves the story of coastal defenses in the United States during the 19th Century (coastal defense forts were built to last – so they tend to make good historic sites.)   Fort Washington is located in Maryland, just downstream of Washington, DC on the Potomac River.   Today in addition to historical programs, it is a very popular picnic site for the local community.

Greenbelt Park is located in the planned community and Washington, DC suburb of Greenbelt, MD.   Greenbelt is one of three planned communities that arose out of the Great Depression, the others being Greenhils, OH near Cincinnati and Greendale, WI near Milwaukee.  I’ve often thought that it would be interesting for Greenbelt Park to develop a visitor center and exhibits dedicated to the history of urban planning in this country – but for now it is primarily a recreational park of mostly local interest.   If you are planning to visit the Nation’s Capital and would prefer to camp, rather than get a hotel room, then Greenbelt Park is the place to go – as it is a very short drive from the Greenbelt Metro Station.

Piscataway Park is located not that far from Fort Washington Park in southern Maryland.   It was originally set aside to preserve the natural view from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate, on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  (Interestingly, Mount Vernon would rank near the top of any list of “most famous places in the U.S. that are not national parks” – but that’s a topic for anotherpost.)   In addition to preserving the sightlines for moder-day visitors to Mount Vernon, Piscataway Park also hosts the National Colonial Farm – a living history park of Colonial Farming practices.   This makes it one of at least three living history colonial farms in the National Park System, along with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Northern Virginia and the farm at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana.

Prince Wiliam Forest Park is very similar to Greenbelt Park in primarily a recreational park primarily of local interest near Quanitco Marine Corps Base,  a little more than an hour south of Washington, DC in northern Virginia.  There are several hiking trails in the park,  including the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, as well as a large campground, and the park loop road is very popular with joggers and bicyclists.  There are also a number of interpretive displays here on the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps in building this park during the Great Depression.   This park also has more than a few hidden gems, including a historic pyrite mine and a tree stump from a petrified forest.

DSC03393
This petrified tree stump is one of the surprising hidden gems to be found at Prince William Forest Park.

 

Finally, Rock Creek Park is located right within Washington, DC itself.   Its interesting to note that it was established by Congress all the way back in 1890, four days before Yosemite National Park was established – making it one of the oldest parks in the U.S. National Park System.  Although it is more than twice as large as New York’s Central Park – it is largely managed as wild area, rather than as manicured landscape.  Among the recreational highlights of the park are a Planitarium at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, as well as horse stables.

All told, none of these six parks would be at the top of one’s list if you were visiting the United States from another country, or even if you were visiting the east coast from the other side of the country.   With that being said, all of them have their highlights and interesting bits of history to investigate, particularly if you are attempting to be a “park completist.”Share this Parkasaurus post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
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Just What Is a National Park Anyways? And How Do You Get 401 of Them?

Whenever I tell people that I’m trying to visit all of the U.S. National Parks at least once, one of the first questions that inevitably follows is: “How many national parks are there?”

When I answer that “there’s 401 of them,” their eyes often grow big, as many people have no idea there’s so many.  That reaction is then often followed by something along the lines of “Oh, so you mean that you are trying to visit not just national parks, but also all the national monuments, and national historic sites, right?”

Well, yes and no.   There are indeed only 59 places with the designation national park,  which are places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon, which most people think of when they hear the term national park.  However, there’s nothing simple or straightforward about what are the other kinds of designations that make up the U.S. National Park System.  Its pretty much the case that there’s a list, and you just simply have to know what’s on the list.  I’ll try and give a brief overview of what I mean here, and from time to time I’m planning to come back to this topic to explain more of the details.

So, without further ado, her are the designations that make up the National Park System:

National Parks – You can’t go wrong with this one.  There are 59 of these, and not surprisingly, all 59 count towards the list of national park sites.

National Historic Sites & National Historical Parks – There are 125 of these – the most of any type.  In theory, a national historical park is simply a larger, or more-expansive, national historic site.  In practice, I find there isn’t often a clear line of distinction between the two, (as with so many things!)  In any event, the vast majority of these areas count towards the list of national park sites, but there are a few exceptions, which I’ll discuss in a future post.  The 125 sites also includes one International Historic Site.

National Monuments – Just to make things confusing, would you believe thate the Washington Monument is notnational monument? There are 75 of these.  For the most part, a national monument is an outstanding natural area or historical/archaeological area that was protected by a Presidential proclamation – although there are exceptions to that too.  A great many national monuments are national parks, but a great many are not as well.  In fact,  there are no fewer than six different Federal agencies that manage national monuments.

National Memorials – Most of these are national park sites, and many of the 29 of those that are national park sites are in Washington, D.C.   The Lincoln Memorial is one, as is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and so is the Washington Monument.

National Battlefields & National Military Parks – Quick, think of the name of a famous Civil War or Revolutionary War Battlefield.  Odds are, the place you thought of is a national park site.  There are 25 of these.

National Recreation Areas – Just like national monuments, many of these are national park sites and many of them are not.  There are 18 of these that are national park sites, and they generally come in two varieties: many of them are reservoirs created by hydroelectric dams for water-based recreation, the others are scattered areas of urban parklands that were created to “bring the national park experience to the people.”

National Seashores & Lakeshores – There are 14 of these, and they are pretty much what the name says they are.   As near as I can tell, all of them are national park sites.

Parkways – The are actually four road-based national parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway probably being the most-famous (and also being one of my favorite national parks.)   The National Park Service actually operates several other parkways – but there’s only four that count as stand-alone national park sites.

National Scenic Trails – There are eleven long-distance national scenic trails out there, but only 3 of these that are national park sites, the most-famous of which is surely the Appalachian Trail.

National Rivers – If you thought this list was inconsistent up until now, the rivers in the National Park System only add to the confusion. This category includes some places designated as wild & scenic rivers, some as scenic & recreational rivers, some as wild rivers, and some as just plain national rivers.  Whatever their designations, all are considered part of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System to protect their wild & scenic nature, or outstanding recreational opportunities.   Many of them are managed by the National Park Service, while many others are not.   Out of those managed by the NPS,  15 have risen to the status of being full-fledged national park sites.

National Preserves & National Reserves – Most of these, but not quite all, are national park sites, a total of 20 to be exact.  These are protected areas that generally allow a greater amount of human activity, such as hunting and trapping, that generally are not allowed in other national park sites.  Perhaps most-confusing is the fact that 9 out of the 20 of these are actually part of a bigger “national park & preserve” – which is a large national park that effectively “counts twice” towards the total of 401 national parks.

Odds & Ends – Finally, there are 11 national park sites that don’t fit into any of the above categories.  Some of them are just plain unique sites.  For example, did you know the White House is managed by the National Park Service?  Many of the others are parklands around the Greater Washington, DC Metropolitan Area that just happen to be managed by the National Park Service for historical reasons.

So there you have it!  That’s how you get to 401 national parks.

Thus, if you say that you are going to try and visit all 401 national parks, you can say that you will be visiting all the national parks,  as well as all the national seashores & lakeshores, and all the national battlefields & national military parks.  You can also say that you will be visiting most of the national historic sites & national historical parks, as well as most of the national memorials, and most of the national preserves  national reserves.   Beyond that, you can say that you will also be visiting many national monuments and many national memorials, as well as many other places that don’t fit nice and easy classifications.

What you can say, however, is that almost every visit to one of the 401 national park sites in this country will be special, and will reflect that National Park Service’s special commitment to visitation and interpretation of America’s most-important treasures.

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