— Theodore Roosevelt
A very important birthday is coming up this summer. The National Park Service (NPS) traces its origin to August 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act. Today the NPS has 20,000 employees who manage and safeguard 59 national parks, plus 352 monuments, historical sites, seashores and recreation areas. Our pioneering conservation has inspired almost 100 countries to establish similar systems. And our parks are hugely popular; in 2015 they hosted a record 307 million visitors.
I suppose we all have favorites. The most fascinating park I’ve visited is Death Valley, for three reasons — the sheer beauty; the extremes, both in temperature and elevation; and the human stories, from the borax mines to Scotty’s Castle.
The June-July 2016 issue of Nature Conservancy magazine spotlights five parks in particular.
— Acadia NP in Maine became the first national park east of the Mississippi River in 1919, as well as the first park organized from land donations of private citizens.
— Rocky Mountain NP in Colorado includes the headwaters of the Colorado River and is bisected by the Continental Divide. Its visitors center is the highest in the system at almost 12,000 feet.
— Bryce Canyon NP in Utah has some of the most unique geological formations, ranging from five feet tall to about 100 feet. (Utah is especially blessed, with five spectacular parks — Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Arches — within about 300 miles of each other.)
— Biscayne NP in Florida has been called “Miami’s backyard” with boating, swimming, paddling, snorkeling and diving.
— Sequoia NP California (pictured) boasts the famous giant trees with trunks that can grow to more than 100 feet around. Their immense size can’t be fully appreciated until you show your friends your vacation pictures and they ask why you’re standing in front of an orange wall.
The one major park I haven’t seen is Yellowstone, but I’m determined to get there someday.
The complete article about these five, as well as other park information, can be found on the Nature Conservancy website at http://www.nature.org/magazine/archives/worlds-of-wonder.xml