Recently in National Parks Category

National Parks: Test Your Knowledge

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

collageII.JPGWhat's the oldest national park? The most visited? Where can you find active volcanoes, crocodiles, America's driest desert or the world's biggest trees? Find out, in this puzzle!

To solve the puzzle, fill in the boxes with the answers to the clues below. When you're done, check the green column to discover the most visited national park in the country!

National Parks.jpg1. This swamp in southern Florida is home to flamingoes, alligators and the only population of wild crocodiles in the USA.
2. Situated on Montana's US-Canada border, this park is named for the icy deposits on its mountains.
3. You can find the biggest trees in the world in this California park.
4. This park features Utah's most iconic rock formation.
5. Devil's ____ is a rock outcropping in southeast Wyoming; Native Americans believed the spot was holy.
6. You can climb mountains of sand in this Colorado National Monument.
7. Most visitors snorkel or scuba-dive around the coral reef in this Florida park.
8. This very big Kentucky cave shares its name with an extinct relative of the elephant.
9. This northern California park preserves the tallest trees in the world.
10. This gorge-ous canyon, near Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, is truly fit for a -- royal?
11. The first national park in the USA, geysers, bison and hot springs dominate the landscape.
12. This deep Arizona gorge, carved by the Colorado River, is the second-most visited park in the country.
13. This park in southwest Colorado contains the ancient stone dwellings of the Anasazi Native Americans.
14. This Colorado park shares its name with the ____ Mountains it's situated in.
15. This Nebraska landmark (Scott's ____) greeted settlers on the Oregon Trail.
16. An active volcano in Oregon, Mt. St. _____ last blew its top in 2008.
17. This California park encompasses the hottest, driest desert in the US.
18. This preserve sits on Maine's northern coast; it shares its name with a former French-Canadian colony.
19. Naturalist John Muir and his friend President Teddy Roosevelt saved this park, home to Half Dome and El Capitan.
20. Hawaii _______ still spew lava, so watch out if you visit this park!
21. Paleontologists search for the fossils of these extinct reptiles in this Colorado national monument.

When you're done, you can check your answers below (no cheating!)...

National Parks answers.jpg

Happy Birthday, LBJ!

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Lyndon and Lady Bird.jpgTo sustain an environment suitable for man, we must fight on a thousand battlegrounds. Despite all of our wealth and knowledge, we cannot create a redwood forest, a wild river, or a gleaming seashore. But we can keep those we have.                                                                                                               -- Lyndon Baines Johnson


Lyndon.jpgLauded for his contributions to civil rights and maligned for his role in the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson is seldom hailed as a great environmentalist. His sweeping domestic program, the Great Society, is usually thought of as an economic agenda. Of course, he was deeply committed to putting "an end to poverty and racial injustice," as he explained in May 1964 to the graduating class of the University of Michigan. "But," he continued, "that is just the beginning." Listing his goals, he declared that it was vitally important to ensure that everyone had access to "a place where man can renew contact with nature."

LBJ also understood that many people, especially the poor, were isolated from natural beauty. Places like Yellowstone and Yosemite were great, but they were also very remote. Lyndon's job was fusing the traditional conservation movement with the changing realities of America's increasingly urban society. "We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities," he explained. Urging local governments to beautify towns and create city parks and greenways, Lyndon pledged to create new parks and recreation areas within driving distance of major cities.

In February 1965, he spoke to Congress about conservation: "Association with beauty can enlarge man's imagination and revive his spirit. Ugliness can demean the people who live among it. What a citizen sees every day is his America. If it is attractive it adds to the quality of his life. If it is ugly it can degrade his existence."

Lyndon Johnson passed more National Park Service-related legislation than any other president, creating a staggering 52 parks, recreation areas, national historic sites, wildernesses, monuments, seashores, lakeshores and memorials! He even set aside working farms and created a national park dedicated to the performing arts (Wolf Trap National Park, in Virginia). Moreover, he created the National Parks Foundation, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Trails System. Among the diverse group of historic sites and national landmarks set aside during the Johnson Administration are:

Lady Bird wildflower.jpg•    Biscayne National Park, Florida
•    North Cascades National Park and San Juan Island National Historic Park, Washington
•    Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
•    Arches National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, Utah
•    Redwoods National Park and John Muir National Historic Site, California
•    Eisenhower National Historic Site, Pennsylvania
•    Agate Fossil Beds National Park, Nebraska
•    Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland-Virginia
•    Herbert Hoover National Park, Iowa
•    Roger Williams National Historic Park, Rhode Island
•    Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Maine-Canada
•    Ellis Island National Monument and Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, New York
•    Padre Island National Seashore and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
•    John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Massachusetts

(Fittingly, LBJ's ranch is now a national park in its own right.)

At the urging of his wife, Lady Bird, he championed the Highway Beautification Act. This law tore down billboards and removed "beauty-destroying junkyards and auto graveyards," planting flowers and trees in their place. As Lyndon said, "The roads themselves must reflect, in location and design, increased respect for the natural and social integrity and unity of the landscape and communities through which they pass."

With the help of the Democratic Congress, he passed dozens of bills designed to limit pollution, preserve rare habitats and protect endangered species, like the Air and Water Quality Acts, the Pesticides Control Act, the Wetlands Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

And now... Test your environmental knowledge with this word search! When you're done, copy the unused letters into the blanks to discover a little-known fact about LBJ...

Lyndon wordsearch.jpg

Here are the answers (no peeking!)


Lyndon wordsearch answers.jpg
LBJ house.jpg

Putting the GOP on Cruz Control

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
cruzlemming.jpgSpending two weeks without national parks, or any sort of government for that matter, tends to make you think. Here are some of my musings on the subject:

Night of a fateful September 31st. Crickets chirping. I am tucking my quilts around me, and my mother stands in the lighted doorway.

"Goodnight," she says.

"Goodnight, Mom," I reply. "Goodnight, Mikaela." And then, as an afterthought, I add: "Goodnight, government."

You really don't know what you've got till it's gone, I guess. It certainly took Uncle Sam to call in sick before I realized just how much I didn't know about our democracy. (Yep, this has been a useful "Know Your Government" lesson - and an impromptu dramatization of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall.")

For starters, this has awakened my interest in our case law. Who knew that anarchy is a "substantive evil that Congress has the right to prevent practice?" (Congressionally authorized alteration to 249 US at 47 (1919)) Or that the maintenance of our government's account books is not a "business affected with the public interest" that Supreme Court Justice Devanter wrote of preserving?

My ignorance is truly astounding.

-

On a more learned note, if I had been called upon to provide a means of negotiation between the two parties, I would have locked the congresspeople into the Capitol and not let them out until they'd reopened our government. Of course, this weasel-in-a-barrel situation would have led to countless personal exigencies for our "public servants," such as missing the premiere of American Idol, carefully rationing the remaining half of a life-sustaining Twix bar, or asking a bombastically rightist colleague in a hushed whisper: "Hey Rep, whoodya think is going to win the Super Bowl?"

Oh, and I can just see Senator McCain running out of cell phone charge while beguiling the weary hours with another internet poker game. What a pity too - he'd just gotten a full House!

And then, as one by one they snuck off to the bathroom, ruefully searched a greasy brown paper lunch bag for remaining crumbs, cast about the Neoclassical chamber for an electric outlet, or finally got bored of playing all-nighter sleepover games, they would begin to wonder whose brainwave this whole thing was.

-

And so finally, after these two harrowing weeks, the Republicans gave in, locked themselves into the cellar, and waved their white flag. I guess they finally realized they were Cruz-ing for a bruising. Now that they've shushed Ted Texan up, they're sitting around singing a mournful rendition of "The Conquered Banner" and assuring themselves of their uncompromised integrity, all while surreptitiously whispering to their comrades: "You better hurry it up quick, or else we're all gonna miss tomorrow night's game!"

And that would surely be an unprecedented emergency to our national welfare.

-

So it's over at last - and I learned a lot: 1) the Tea Party really is presided over by Mad Hatters, and 2) as political adviser Tommy Corcoran once sang, "The GOP, it ain't what it used to be."

And now I'll be happy to go take a hike and leave Washington alone.

Smoky Mountain Salamanders

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Salclss 2.JPGAn iconic attribute of the Great Smoky Mountains is its salamanders - over thirty species live in the national park alone, from the elusive, twenty-nine inch "Hellbender" to the four-inch Jordan's red-cheeked salamander, which is endemic to the park. We joined in "Slimy Salamanders," a ranger-guided program in which the object was to catch these creatures, and subsequently we glimpsed the fast reflexes that these species must have; salamanders are small, fast, and well camouflaged, for the most part. The ranger instructed us to place them in a water-filled plastic bag once we had successfully captured them, so that they could breathe, the oils on our hands would not harm them, and so the other participants could see them as well.

Salamanders are typically thought of as aquatic creatures, but some are actually terrestrial, and we discovered the largest number of species living on land. In fact, the word "salamander" comes from the ancient Greek phrase meaning "fire animal," for they could be seen crawling out of burning logs and it was therefore believed they were born from fire. (Actually, they were just escaping the flames, since they tend to live under fallen vegetation or stones).

They belong to the order Caudata, along with newts, and they are carnivorous and mostly eat invertebrates, such as earthworms, grubs, and beetles. Some species of terrestrial salamandersSalhand.jpg are unique in that they do not have gills or lungs, but breathe through their skin instead. Most American salamanders le underground in the winter and during the daytime to avoid being eaten by predators and to stay cool and moist. In common with some lizards, they can shed their tails if attacked.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a great place to see salamanders because they are diverse and commonly spotted. They are easily found under almost any rocks, logs, or just in shaded pools. According to the National Park Service, on any given day in the Smokies, the majority of vertebrates there, humans included, are salamanders!

Crocodile Crossword

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
croccross.jpg
CrocCrossClues.jpg
If you need help figuring out the clues, you can try consulting any of these websites:

American Crocodile Facts, Defenders of Wildlife
American Crocodiles, National Geographic
American Crocodile, Wikipedia
Crocodile, Wikipedia
Saurian (definition), Dictionary.com

After you finish solving the puzzle, check your answers below (no peeking!):

crocodileanswers.jpg

California Condors: 9-foot Thunderbirds

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
cndr.jpgCalifornia condors are remarkable birds. They have a nine-foot wingspan, the largest of any North American bird! They are so large that they are more often mistaken for airplanes than other birds. Due to their size, Native Americans called them "thunderbirds," because the sound of their wings flapping purportedly made thunder. They are mostly black, with white patches under the wings. Another myth, from the Chumash tribe, tells that condors once had white feathers, but were burned when they got too close to a fire.

The critically endangered condors are in the same family as vultures, and many vultures are scavengers, meaning that they eat the remnants of dead animals. Unlike some vultures, however, condors do not have a particularly good sense of smell, instead using their sharp eyes to find food. They do not have talons and cannot carry prey, so they eat 2-3 pounds of food at a sitting and then sit for a day to recover! They are so big that they intimidate most would-be competitors for food. Even bears ignore them, and golden eagles are the only species that will fight them. Dominant, older birds eat before the younger ones.

Condors mate for life. When a male spots a potential mate, his head turns bright red and he walks towards her with his wings spread. If she lowers her head, it means she accepts. Although no actual nest is built, they lay their eggs in hard-to-access caves in rocky cliffs. Incubation takes two months, with the parents taking turns sitting on the egg.

At one point, there were thousands of condors in the wild. Ten thousand years ago, they lived on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, from British Columbia to Baja California and from New York to Florida. However, they were endangered by many factors. They were hunted (particularly for museums) and poisoned by DDT. They got lead poisoning by scavenging dead animals killed by hunters who used lead bullets. Their habitat was also destroyed, and, as more people moved in, condor collisions with power lines increased. Additionally, people collected the condors' eggs. In the Gold Rush, condors were even turned into pets. The entire California condor population was reduced to 22 birds.

condorbaby3.jpgCaptive breeding programs saved the condors. In the wild, condors are slow breeders, but they "double-clutch," or lay a second egg if the first one is lost or taken. So scientists took the condors' first eggs, allowing the pairs to raise the second eggs. The first eggs were put in an incubator until they hatched, when the chicks were fed with condor puppets and recordings of condor sounds were played to them. In twenty years, the population grew to 200 birds.

Today there are 369 condors in the world, and 190 of these are wild. However, they are not safe. Some of them have been killed by coyotes or eagles. Some still flew into power lines, but now before new birds are released they "undergo a power pole aversion training program which uses mock power poles that deliver a small electric shock to the birds when they try to land on them," according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. This has effectively stopped the collisions. They are also accidentally hunted, or are poisoned by chemicals. Lead poisoning from scavenged meat is still one of the biggest threats. Since reintroduction, 15 condors have died from lead poisoning. (Nine of the cases were proven, and six were recorded as very likely.) Recently, lead ammunition has been banned within the condors' range. Although some people refuse to comply with this law, it has reduced the risk. They have been reintroduced to parts of California, Arizona, and Utah. They are still very rare, but their populations are increasing. Captive breeding and careful conservation seem to have saved this magnificent raptor.

Zion National Park's Top Hikelights

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

riversideblog.jpgRiverside Walk Trail

deerzion.jpgWe went on a two mile hike, Riverside Walk.It starts by going down a paved stairway into a canyon. We saw an "amateur arch," an arch which hadn't yet been fully formed. It was part of a hanging garden, which was surprisingly lush for the desert. We also saw a family of deer. They were eating and weepwallzion.jpglicking a rock for the salt. Later on the family came out and walked alongside the trail for a while, then went back to the woods. There are nice views of the Virgin River alongside the walk, and some towering rocks leading to the walls of this canyon. The trail ends where the river takes up the whole of the canyon floor, but you can still go on to a place called The Narrows. This is a less populated hike, as there is barely a trail, but it is still one of Zion's top attractions.

Weeping Wall, Zion Nat'l Park    

    Weeping Wall (or Weeping Rock) is a short, paved hike, only 0.5 miles roundtrip. It goes up to a wall where water drips down. The water is 2000-4000 years old, as it has to seep down through sedimentary layers of shale. The water still drips quickly, despite that. We chose people where our water came from (Mikaela was the Egyptian pharaoh, Khufu, and I was Julius Caesar [I said he splashed Augustus with it].)

Emerald Pools

The Emerald Pools are very nice if you go in the fall. The trail is filled with ruts and small waterfalls trickle quietly across the trails, but the leaves on the trees are filled with fall color, making the hike to the bright blue-green lake waters very pretty.

Who's hiding in the fall foliage?


Viewpoints and Scenic Drives


The Zion-Mt Carmel Highway's famous 

Checkerboard Mesa is a stop recommended 

by several travel websites and magazines, but its eroded chessboard pattern is not as remarkable 

patriarch1.jpg

as many travel episodes show it to be. However, it is a nice stop (and don't forget to bring some checkers: they make a good picture).


Another good stop is the "three patriarchs," Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob. However, Mt Isaac's name cannot be fully attributed to the Biblical character: the man who gave these three mountains their names happened to be called Isaac, too. A clever way to name something after yourself without bluntly stating it?


Less Fog Means Withering Redwoods?

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
rdwd1.jpgBesides the obvious issues that global warming introduces, like the melting of the polar icecaps or the rising ocean levels, issues affecting smaller areas are still disastrous. They are determining the future of our everyday lives and the land set aside permanently as national parks. According to a recent National Geographic news article, redwood trees, the world's tallest living things, may go extinct. We might have seen them just in time.

When we were staying in CA, sometimes we would be driving in at night. We lived about 45 minutes away from the beach, so the fog would drift in over the road and make it nearly impossible to see. We would cross over Golden Gate Bridge and look down at the gently rolling mists. While they made it harder to drive, they were also essential to the survival of these botanical giants.

The clouds kept the conifers moist, at exactly the climate they required. A hundred years ago, there was no threat from global warming. A university study said that there has been a 33 percent reduction in the amount of coastal fog produced today when compared to the data from a century ago.

The redwoods only live in the humid areas near the coast, where the fog keeps them watered. Because they have adapted to this ecosystem, they cannot live long in a drought by shutting down their systems to conserve water, as other desert plants do. This means that if there is nothing that can be done, the redwoods may dry out and wither. Some other species of tree, however, can adjust to living with less fog by not growing as quickly as they do in years when water is plentiful.

We went to Humboldt State Park on a mostly overcast, cold day. Logging had thinned many of the forests; the largest existing piece of hewn redwood, made into one person's RV, is on display at the park's visitor center. Early environmentalists had preserved large groves, which have been turned into state parks. To this day, the groves bear names like "Founders Grove," or "Rockefeller's Grove," after these early conservationists.

The tallest tree blew over in a storm a few years before and became a "nurse log." Nurse logs are decaying trees that provide the necessary nutrients for other plants to grow. Saplings, fungi, ferns, and lichen are common plants that sprout from the reddish-brown bark. Insects, like beetles and ants, live in the log's crevices. In places humid enough, these are also home to banana slugs and snails.

As well as being an impressive species themselves, these trees are essential to many other kinds of life. The terrible fact that they are in danger means that if they do not live, their ecosystem will be seriously disrupted. This issue is another reminder that the choices we make in our everyday lives do have consequences and therefore we need to decide to do everything in a manner that will not harm the planet. The fate of these giants is uncertain, the fate even of our planet is uncertain, and it's our actions that will determine it.

Grand Canyon National Park: Hiking The North Rim

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
A two-hour-long drive from Zion National Park, the forested North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a shady alternative to the rocky South Rim. In summer, the national parks of the Southwest get unbearably hot, so we went in early November. Depending on how much snow falls, the North Rim sometimes closes in October, but the visitor center was open when we went. It was cold enough in the evenings that we were obliged to wear our winter jackets, but in the afternoon we hiked in T-shirts. (It gets hot in the day - bring lots of water!) Another advantage of visiting the North Rim instead of the South Rim is that, because only ten percent of all tourists traveling to the Grand Canyon visit the North Rim, it is not crowded. The campground was closed during our visit; consequently, we camped at the much warmer Zion. The following trails we hiked in a day, so none are very long or strenuous - no one wanted to hike 21 miles to the South Rim!

Bright Angel Point
Even though Mikaela hates heights (she is terrified of Ferris wheels, although they are Katrianna's favorite amusement park rides), this hike allowed for good photo-taking opportunities. The view is best when seen in the morning because air pollution worsens in the afternoon, making it harder to see. The paved, often narrow trail climbs though switchbacks, using fences in some spots and only shrubs in others to block the steep cliffs, to the viewpoint. The Colorado River can be seen from the overlook, still carving away at the canyon it formed. Coconino Overlook is more scenic and GC cconno2.jpgless scary but Bright Angel Point is more dramatic. Of course, nothing is as terrifying as the cracked Angel's Window, but this hike will not be enjoyed by people with acrophobia.

Coconino Overlook

People who hike from rim to rim pass this pretty panorama on their way up or down. We only went 1.5 miles round trip along the North Kaibab trail, which leads through switchbacks into the canyon. It is very easy on the way down and, although the return trip is uphill, it is not very difficult even coming out. The unpaved trail goes through a forest and over a fallen log slanting across the trail. For a short part of the walk, you travel under overhanging boulders (which look scary but assuredly will not fall on your head). Katrianna found it fun to yell things into the canyon and listen to the echoes. The view of the river was Mikaela's favorite scene of the canyon because it was shady and forested. Best of all, she was not scared.

Cliff Springs Trail
Driving along the paved road to Cape Royal, you will see a pullout with a hard-to-spot sign reading, "Cliff Springs." If you park there and cross the road, you will see a flight of pine-needle covered steps leading down into the forest. We hiked this trail at dusk, when it is mysteriously shadowy and very nice (even though it gets cold after sunset). A few steps down the trail, we came to an ancient Puebloan granary. The old walls had partly crumbled, revealing the inside chambers. Continuing down the trail, we hiked though a subalpine forest of aspen, pine and fir trees, a habitat we had not expected to find in Arizona. But the actual "spring" was the best part. To access it, we had to walk under a rock ledge that in parts was dripping water - and growing mold - across damp, sandy patches and through a small stream (which Dad found slippery, and proved it by almost falling in). The sunset was making the rocky hills on the other side of the valley glow with a soft pink light. It was definitely a worthwhile trail.

GC angl'swndow2.jpgCape Royal and Angels Window
Those with a fear of heights should not attempt to walk out on Angels Window. Cape Royal Overlook was also scary - in Mikaela's perspective - but is tolerable to acrophobics and will not leave them with quaking knees. We went a few steps out onto the window (which in national parks does not refer to a software program, instead meaning a narrow rock formation with a hole in the center). From our viewpoint you could not see straight down but on either side was a sheer drop with a frightening panorama. When we had returned to the first view of the window and were looking back at it, we were startled to see the crack that had been directly under our feet. The window is prettiest at sunset, when it is softly pink with the fading light. Cape Royal was another overlook and is easily confused with Bright Angel. The view from the point, however, is worth the short walk.

Gc brghy2.gifTo Keep Passengers Entertained On Long Drives
Get a copy of Brighty of the Grand Canyon, by Marguerite Henry. It's a short (224 pages long) novel based on the life of a real burro named Brighty. In the book, Brighty has many adventures. In one chapter, the burro accompanies Theodore Roosevelt on a mountain lion hunt and in another he is the first to walk across a bridge spanning the Grand Canyon. His owner, a prospector named Old Timer, was killed by a miner who wanted the valuable minerals on Old Timer's property. In the end, Brighty and his new owner, Uncle Jim, take the miner into court for a trial. The story is especially interesting to visitors to the Grand Canyon. WARNING: This book is extremely hard to put down and will inevitably be the cause of quarreling between readers in the backseat, who turn to questionable means to get the book (including hiding it between the folds of a jacket or snatching it from another reader's lap when they were not holding it). Nevertheless, it is still worth getting.

The Colossal Explosion: Yellowstone's Massive Volcano

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
sprvlcnyllwstnntnlprksy.png
       When Wyoming was still a territory, Lieutenant Gustavus Doane, head of an exploring expedition, noticed something strange when looking out from the top of a mountain. He noticed that there was a giant volcano. But the Lieutenant, even though he made a good guess, thought wrong: in his mind, the ancient crater was extinct.

    ldfthflgysr.jpgTwenty craters have been in existence since mighty sheets of ice covered Yellowstone National Park. The volcano is known to be the cause of all the geysers, mud pots, terraces, and hot springs in the park.

When we went to Yellowstone, we liked seeing the mud pots (even though they smelled like rotten eggs) and we saw Old Faithful erupt three times. Then we went to Morning Glory Pool (a multicolored hot springs.) But, while we were there, we didn't see any symptoms that the supervolcano's blast was going to happen soon.

    Earthquakes have been happening recently (which is a sign that the park could explode soon). However, scientists say the eruption could happen anytime from next week to the next millennium. The future is anybody's guess!

   

For More Information:
USGS Volcano Facts
Discovery's Yellowstone Insights   
National Geographic's "Under Yellowstone"


About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the National Parks category.

Mammals is the previous category.

Nature is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.