While crossing the country Paul and I stopped at some of the country’s best National and State Parks and Monuments. We were in awe at how beautiful and pristine these historical landmarks are. Every new place we went to blew our minds. They seemed untouched. The employees and the Park Service do an amazing job at educating the public and maintaining these massive natural areas. You get to travel back in time and witness the wonders that brought explorers and other travelers to these special places.
Zion National Park. May 2017
One of the many beautiful parks is Zion National Park in Utah. Named after Mormon pioneers for it's massive cliffs and enormous canyon. No photo does justice to the immense scale of these walls created by a million years of flowing water that cut through the red and white beds of Navajo sandstone. The Virgin River runs through the deep and narrow canyon to the desert. The park was established in 1919, but how were the parks even created you may ask?
Majestic Squirrel in Zion National Park. May 2017
Let’s jump back to 1870 when a group of explorers and artists visited Yellowstone and realized it should be protected. They sent their impeccable drawings and photography to the United States Congress. This led to the Act of March 1, 1872, signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, that established Yellowstone National Park (famous for geysers and hot springs). The act stated Yellowstone, “as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” and placed it “under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior.” This set the foundation for the national park movement.
Sacrifices, however were made as the park system grew. Many natives and U.S. settlers were displaced, which sucks. On the other hand, it was beneficial to the environment to restore and conserve it for future generations. At the beginning, the parks were slightly mistreated and seen more as a zoo than a reserve. Certain predators were murdered to “protect” prey and animals annoying hotel guests were shot.
Rough Green Snake (nonvenomous). Torreya State Park. April 2017
Threatened White-top Pitcher Plants (Carnivorous) Yellow River Preserve State Park, FL.
Let’s not dwell on the negative aspect though because amazing discoveries and research have allowed us to better understand how to be good stewards towards the environment. New species are found nearly every day! There are even more efforts towards educating visitors and creating more connections between humans and other organisms. For example, when Paul and I went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park this summer we could witness a yearly migration of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis). Thousands of these bats visit the caverns every spring until fall. At dusk they swarm out of the cave like a black cloud. It was truly a site to see!
Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Deep in the cave. April 2017
Blurry Bat Photo. Florida Caverns State Park. April 2017
Another amazing place is California's oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. It was established in 1902 and is home to some of the oldest and largest Coastal Redwoods that predate the Roman Empire. Some of these trees are 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty! We spent half the day hiking through these magnificent beings and taking in the grand height, history and beauty that these trees offer.
Coastal Redwoods. Big Basin Redwoods State Park. May 2017
Protecting these areas means that humans all over the globe can travel and experience the mysteries of the Earth. They can discover places they’ve never been or could tangibly imagine. In addition, knowing these places are conserved and their children will be able to enjoy the same treasures. I didn't get to address all of the parks we visited so stay connected to my future blogs to find out!
P.S. Now, is the time to go out and explore for yourself. Visit and support the parks near and far!
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks". -John Muir
Garden of Eden Trail. Florida, April 2017
A few great places to visit...
Myakka River State Park
This is one of the oldest parks in Florida. There are a ton of activities available to guests, as well as a canopy walkway to get a better view from above the hammock. Try to plan your next camp out here!
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Rookery Bay Reserve is 110,000 acres of pure, coastal beauty. A great location for learning about estuarine habitats, wildlife, and a fun place to sail.
Check out the education center and events at https://rookerybay.org/
Big Cypress National Preserve
Definitely one of the best places to visit! We were so welcomed by the Clyde Butcher Art Gallery staff and learned a lot about native orchids, alligators and other flora and fauna.
Check out Clyde Butcher's classic black and white photography at https://clydebutcher.com/. Taking a trip there was unforgettable as the staff gave us and awesome swamp tour and let us camp outside the art gallery!
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Also, known as, “the Amazon of North America”, this park is full of diversity and houses a high level of rare and endangered tropical plant species. It’s a great place to see panthers, Florida Black Bears, and other wildlife.
Plan a hike in this "Amazon" https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fakahatchee-Strand
Shark Valley is in the center of the “True Everglades”. We road our bikes 15 miles to get to a tower that overlooks a great vast of the river of grass. There are also trams available for those who aren't able to bike the whole way. It was so dry that alligators were found in the last standing puddles. It is also a great place for birding!
Check it out at https://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/svdirections.htm