Exploring the Parks

Exploring The Parks: Musings From The Needles District In Canyonlands National Park

It’s hot here. Welcome to the beginning of summer in the Southwest. Two days ago it was raining and near freezing and I was complaining about it at Mesa Verde and now it’s sweat time. But those rains have turned the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park into a veritable flower garden. Everywhere I look there are blooms.

Exploring The Parks: Fontana Lake At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Video

Fontana Lake, which ebbs along the southern border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, is a watery aspect to the park that might get lost among the forests and mountains. But it offers a rich recreational side to the park, as this video shows.

Exploring The Parks: Musings From Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde is an old friend. I’ve been here many times. But I still have lots more to see. It’s one of those places where you could spend a lifetime and still miss some of it.

Exploring The Parks: Musings From Chaco Culture National Historical Park

It’s a long, rough and dusty road from anywhere to Chaco Culture National Historical Park. But, boy, is it worth the trip! The fact that it’s such a rough trip may have a lot to do with determining the kind of people who come to visit this place carved out of the high desert of northwestern New Mexico. Unlike visitors to so many other parks, these folks have a certain quality about them that hit me right off the bat.

Exploring The Parks: Floating Nebraska’s Niobrara National Scenic River

The Niobrara River flows eastward 535 miles from the high plains of Wyoming to its confluence with the Missouri River in northeastern Nebraska. Over its course the river cuts through nearly the entire width of northern Nebraska, much of which is in the state’s scenic Sandhills region. Unlike most rivers that are fed by rainwater runoff, nearly three-quarters of the Niobrara’s flow is the result of groundwater from the vast Ogallala Aquifer.

Exploring The Parks: Musings From El Morro National Monument

El Morro National Monument is one of the little gems in the crown jewels of our national parks, and even though it may not be as noticeable as its bigger cousins, it is precious just the same.

Exploring The Parks: Return To Shiloh

Over the years the two of us have visited numerous Civil War battlefields, memorials, monuments, and museums (sometimes referred to as “the cannonball circuit”), but none better than Shiloh National Military Park. Shiloh is a world apart from better-known and much busier Gettysburg. It is a superb place to walk, bike, and simply linger during an exploration of the site of this important battle during the early part of America’s Civil War.

Exploring The Parks: Fort Pickens At Gulf Islands National Seashore

Fort Pickens in GUIS
Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore is an oasis of history and nature in a sea of Florida development. It's also one end of the Florida National Scenic Trail, a flat but challenging walk.

Exploring The Parks: A Day At Buck Island Reef National Monument

From the top of the observation tower
Buck Island Reef National Monument, off the coast of Christiansted in St. Croix, the US Virgin Island is an island paradise. Snorkel, hike,watch birds and drink rum punch.

Exploring The Parks: Salt River Bay National Historical Park In St. Croix, Virgin Islands

SARI beach
Salt River Bay National Historical Park in St. Croix stirs up the imagination. It's the only known place where Christopher Columbus landed in the United States. Walk the beach, kayak and swim in the bay and check out the bioluminescent organisms in the water.

Exploring The Parks: The Forts Of San Juan National Historic Site

SAJU San Cristobal
San Juan National Historic Site, located in Old San Juan, is the highlight of any visit to Puerto Rico. Go up and down circular stairs and ramps, enter secret tunnels, look out on the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and take a tour with enthusiastic, lively rangers.

Exploring The Parks: Hungary's Aggtelek National Park

Aggtelek National Park in Hungary is truly a unique park, with a sprawling and surprising cave system, an equestrian center, and miles of hiking and biking trails. Dan Swartz, a marketing assistant for the park, provided the following overview for Traveler readers.

Exploring The Parks: Gates Of The Arctic National Park And Preserve

Visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park is not easily done, but if you make the effort, the payoff is outstanding.

Exploring The Parks: Laughing Bird Caye National Park Along The Belize Barrier Reef

In less than a minute I had crossed Laughing Bird Caye National Park, a tiny sliver of sand, coconut palm trees and a tangle of mangrove along the Belize Barrier Reef in the Caribbean Sea.

Exploring The Parks: Christiansted National Historic Site

Christiansted fort
Here at the Traveler we recently asked you to comment on Which Is The Most Overlooked, Or Under Appreciated, Unit Of The National Park System? Well, after my trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I can answer with great conviction that the three intriguing parks in St. Croix -- Christiansted National Historic Site, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Salt River Bay National Historical Park -- qualify for both overlooked and under-appreciated.

Exploring The Parks: Big Bend National Park In December

Happy Holidays, everybody! It’s almost the end of the year and after digging up some extra vacation days from beneath the couch cushions, I decided to take a mid-December road trip to Big Bend National Park

Exploring the Parks: Up And In The Mounds In Ocmulgee National Monument

OCMU - funeral mound
Ocmulgee National Monument, in Macon, Georgia, protects earth mounds from the Mississippian Period. The Earth Lodge Mound still has the original floor from more than a thousand years ago. The surrounding grounds offer a relaxing, easy, place to walk while you're exploring the monument.

Exploring The Parks: Andersonville National Historic Site--A Sad History

ANDE commemorative wall
Andersonville National Historic Site is a sad reminder of the Civil War. It's so well interpreted, it's been called the South's Holocaust Museum.

After 125 Years, Pinnacles National Monument Becomes The Nation’s Newest 'National Park'

Pinnacles National Park took 125 years to become the nation’s newest designated parkland. But it took immensely longer for the mountains to arrive at the present location 40 miles southeast of Salinas, California.

Exploring The Parks: Tracing LBJ's Footsteps

A visit to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park allows a person to understand why our 36th U.S. president chose to return and spend the remainder of his life in the Hill Country of Texas following his five-year term in the White House.

Exploring The Parks: George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

On a warm, early fall day with brilliant sunshine and the Wabash River glistening as it flowed past the large limestone and granite building that locals affectionately call “The Memorial,” I stopped to visit George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

Exploring The Parks: Seeing Zion National Park From A Different Perspective

Nearly 3 million visitors explored Zion National Park last year...but they saw only a fraction of it.

Musings From Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

I’m sitting on the shore of Lake Superior just looking across the water from the mainland of northern Wisconsin toward Madeline Island, one of 22 islands that comprise the Apostle Islands. A parade of sailboats works upwind across the water and I’m breathing air so fresh it still has labels attached. I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. With regrets.

The Underground Railroad In Eastern North Carolina

Dismal Swamp canal
Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites appear in most unlikely places. Here are four in eastern North Carolina.

Exploring The Parks: Yellowstone National Park By Canoe

Ahab had his white whale, Moby-Dick, which drove him to his death. I had the Common Loon, a fish-loving, deep-diving waterfowl that mocked me with its tremolo call as I stood on the shore of Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone National Park.

Musings From AirVenture National Park

Haven't heard of AirVenture National Park? Well sit back and let Lee Dalton tell you all about it.

Estes Park, A Great Base Camp For A Rocky Mountain National Park Vacation

Your ascent to Estes Park, the front door to Rocky Mountain National Park, is anything but smooth. Climbing up through Big Thompson Canyon from Loveland, Colorado, you twist and turn and rise and fall with the road as it crawls through the canyon...and marvel at the cyclists pedaling those beastly 34 miles.

Climbing The Bodie Lighthouse At Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Bodie Lighthouse at CAHA
Visitors can now climb the Bodie Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Though shorter than its more famous cousin, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Bodie Light offers guided tours with a ranger.

Exploring The Parks: Brooks Lodge And The Bears Of Katmai National Park

Last month I joined up with Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris for a tour to photograph the coastal brown bears (Ursus arctos) of Katmai National Park, Alaska. It was an experience of a lifetime for me and one I so enjoyed that I am hoping to return in 2014.

Musings From Pipestone National Monument

They may be separated by a few hundred miles of prairie, but Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota and Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming share parts of a common story. Both hold sacredness for the Indians who once lived and roamed freely across these wide and beautiful lands.
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