America's crown jewelsIn this month's issue of the Wet Noodle Posse e-zine, online now, I wrote a travel article about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a truly beautiful area straddling the Appalachian mountain chain in Tennessee and North Carolina. It's the most visited park in the nation, seeing as how it's within a day's drive of a huge part of the population. People are familiar with Great Smoky Mountains as well as other large parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. But did you know that the National Park Service manages nearly 400 units? Not all are national parks. In fact, only between 50 and 60 are designated national parks. The rest of the units are national monuments, historical parks, national memorials, historic trails, outdoor recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, lakeshores, seashores and battlefields. The sites vary in size from the huge Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska which encompasses more than 13 million acres to tiny Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania at .02 acre.
Whenever I travel, I make a point of visiting any national park units that are nearby. Entire vacations have been planned around visits to parks such as Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho; and Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia. I've seen prairie dogs play in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota's Badlands, elk battle it out in Yellowstone during the fall rut, the gorgeous wildflowers beside snow at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington, important sites along the Oregon Trail such as Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming, the undeveloped beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida, and the site where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site in Washington, D.C.
To date, I've visited 48 National Park Service units and plan to visit many more, as many as I can. I love the natural beauty and slice of history they offer, and the NPS does a great job of presenting these to the public while protecting the resources.
Since it's summer, the height of vacation season, why not plan a visit to a national park? At the NPS Web site, you can search for units by name, by geographic area or by topic of interest such as Civil War, human rights, wildflowers, snow skiing, auto touring, westward expansion and many other areas.
~Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
~Elk in Yellowstone National Park
~Mt. Rainier National Park