Recent comments

  • 24 Trails Added to National Trails System   6 years 25 weeks ago

    It may be worth mentioning that while the National Recreation Trails are a program run by the National Park Service, National Recreation Trails are not considered to be part of the "National Park System" - in a way that National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails (including the brand-new Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail) are considered to be included. In this respect, the National Recreation Trails are similar to National Historic Landmarks - another program that is run by the National Park Service, but are not considered to be part of the "National Park System."

  • 24 Trails Added to National Trails System   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Thanks Kurt for adding National Trails Day on your blog this morning. Just what I've been waiting for in regards to finding new hiking trails to explore and conquer. The American Hiking Society and the National Parks are like two peas in a pod. I saw your recent book, Frommer's "National Parks with Kids" [2nd edition, 2008] at the local bookstore. Excellent guide for the family.

  • Yellowstone Officials Now Recommending that Sylvan Pass Remain Open For Snowmobiling   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Is it ridiculous that we are "shelling" Yellowstone National Park? Or just ridiculous that we are "shelling" on behalf of snowmobile users? For example, if the same techniques were use to protect the Old Faithful Lodge or Glacier's Going-to-the-Sun-Road, would it be so ridiculous?

  • Park History: Lowell National Historical Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Thanks for the kind remarks, Phil. I like Lowell NHP a lot and have used the park as a case study for my national parks course. The timing of the post is no accident. Kurt wants to post these park histories on/near significant dates for the parks involved (normally date established), so we write them in advance and schedule them for release on appropriate dates -- though it's not always possible to get exact dates. This Lowell post was prepared a good while ago and has been repeatedly revised. We spend a lot of time on these articles, often extensively revising them. In the case at hand, we even changed the accompanying photo (originally the Boott Cotton Mills Museum) to add more interest. Park histories for Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Biscayne National Park have already been written and are scheduled for release later this month. I'm currently working on Mesa Verde, Big Bend, and Haleakala. Kurt is working on Mammoth Cave and (I think) Olympic. It'll be interesting to see whether all will be completed and posted on time. Again, thank you for the feedback.

  • Park History: Lowell National Historical Park   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Nice timing. It just so happens that today (June 5, 2008) is the park's 30th anniversary of being signed into the NPS. Our summer offerings reflect a whole bunch of programs we are offering to recogonize the creation of the park.

    Thanks for the wonderful writeup.

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago

    This is an interesting discussion. With some quarter of a million words to choose from -- more than any other language that is or ever was -- the English language sure is a lot of fun. If you think that sorting out the difference between largest and biggest can be confusing, try sorting out coterminous, conterminous, and contiguous, all of which mean exactly the same thing and can be reasonably well included in the meaning of "continuous." Being a geography professor, I had to deal with the concept on an almost daily basis. I always used "coterminous states" in my lectures and articles. A geography professor colleague invariably used "conterminous states" in his lectures and articles. When we engaged each other in discussion and needed to refer to what most people call the Lower 48, we used the term "contiguous states" and never said coterminous or conterminous. True story.

  • Yellowstone Officials Now Recommending that Sylvan Pass Remain Open For Snowmobiling   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Sabbattis, I hope you are being sarcastic. Yellowstone already is too much of a bastion for the wealthy at any time of the year; are we to ensure that it is by charging user fees to maintain Sylvan Pass?

    Isn't it a little ridiculous at any cost that we are shelling Yellowstone National Park?

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 25 weeks ago


    While I applaud your enthusiasm and educated article regarding concealed weapons in our National Parks, I would like to express my less educated view of the proposal. I am a law abiding resident of the great state of Colorado. I also have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in my home state. The reason I decided to apply for a concealed weapons permit is not because I think that it would be a cool thing to do or because I want to cause trouble. It is because there are a lot of people in the world who would like to harm us. You see the stories in the news everyday. Granted, there are not a lot of violent crimes in the National Parks but if you are a victim of a crime does it really matter how few there are? Do you think that the six murder victims (according to the statistics that you provided) would agree with you that concealed weapons have no place in the National Parks? I am not afraid of the wildlife that I may encounter, I am afraid of the people. I go to the National Parks to get away from the crowds and hustle and bustle of the city but when you get away from the crowds and into the backcountry, you are on your own to protect yourself. There are usually no police nearby and if you can get a cell phone signal, they would probably not make it in time to help you anyway. There is strength in numbers.

    I agree that the National Parks are places of peace and beauty, are relatively safe and guns shouldn't be allowed in them but there are people across this country who carry weapons illegally - in their cars, on school grounds, in the mall, everywhere. Even in National Parks! And they prey on people who cannot protect themselves.

    In a perfect world there would be no need to carry guns but that just isn't the case. Being a US citizen, I have the right to bear arms as guaranteed by the 2nd amendment of the Constitution so why does it matter if it is in a National Park? Poaching still happens in the parks, people still get attacked (and killed) in parks so who is actually at risk? I don't believe that crime would go up in the parks because more people have concealed weapons - I think that it would be just the opposite. Who knows? Maybe six criminals would be killed instead of six visitors.

    Criminals will carry their weapons wherever they want. I would just like the opportunity to offset their threat.

    Brian M.

  • Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Kurt wrote: "I think the statistics -- no matter whose you choose to use -- speak for themselves. The more guns in circulation, the more folks get shot, whether intentionally or accidentally, whether by criminals or by guns owned by any legal gun owner, whether they hold a CCW permit or not."

    That's an extremely simplistic way of looking at it. Between roughly 1970 and 2000, the stock of firearms in private ownership in the US more than doubled (handguns even more so); at the same time, the number of accidental firearm deaths dropped by more than half. The American homicide rate has not consistently followed the number of firearms in civilian circulation, and indeed, the American homicide rate is not especially remarkable if you factor out homicides among young, inner city-dwelling, African-American males, who are the most likely demographic to be engaged in the "retail" end of the drug trade as a means of escaping poverty. If you look at cities with the highest homcide rates in the US--places like Washington DC, Detroit and Flint MI, Birmingham AL, Baltimore MD, and Compton CA--the thing that stands as the common factor is disproportionate numbers of poor African-Americans.

    Moreover, while a higher number of firearms in circulation among the criminal element is most certainly correlated to a higher number of gun crimes, we should be careful not to confuse cause and effect. All the available evidence indicates that the supply of black market guns is driven by criminal demand, not vice-versa. For example, some time back, it turned out a large number of guns used in crimes in Washington DC had been purchased by "straw purchasers" in Virginia. In response to the DC city government's demands, Virginia implemented a law prohibiting citizens from purchasing more than one handgun a month. In response, the parties supplying guns to the DC criminal element shifted their acquisitions operations south to Georgia and Alabama, which had no such laws. This happened because the reduced supply of illegally traded firearms in Washington DC did not lead to a reduction in demand; because demand did not decrease, it was worth the black marketeers' effort to go further afield to acquire handguns. Even if the US were to ban the commercial sale and private ownership of firearms all together, if the criminal element continued to produce a demand for handguns, black marketeers would meet it by smuggling the guns in from abroad. You see the same patterns with drugs; American law enforcement has been successful in cracking down on domestic production of meth, but now the stuff is produced (in huge quantities) in Mexico and smuggled into the US, because there still exists a demand for the vile stuff.

    With crime guns, as with illicit drugs, what works in the long run is reducing the demand. Trying to eradicate gun crime or drug use by focusing on reducing the supply while leaving the demand undiminished is an exercise in pointlessness (which is why the "War on Drugs" has been going on for 35 years with no end in sight).

    Availability of guns doesn't cause crime, and it doesn't cause suicide. At most, availability of guns results in a higher percentage of violent deaths being performed with guns, rather than with blades, bludgeons, etc. To compare, in Switzerland, guns are more readily available (legally, at least) than anywhere else in Europe, and not surprisingly, it has one the highest percentages of homicides carried out with guns; at the same time, it has one of the lowest homicide rates in Europe. In 2006, there were 34 homicides and attempted homicides in Switzerland using firearms; in the same year in the Netherlands, there were over 50 completed homicides using firearms. Now, admittedly, the Dutch population is over twice the size of Switzerland's (16 million to 7.5 million, resp.), but firearms are much harder to possess legally in the Netherlands. Also, the number of homicides in the Netherlands in 2006 (160) was the lowest in ten years, and the percentage of Dutch homicides carried out with firearms remained fairly stable during that period (about 33%).

    The bottom line is that guns alone don't cause crime, any more than cars alone cause drunk driving, which is why gun control usually fails to reduce crime; sometimes, it manages to reduce gun crime, but that is by no means a given (see the UK).

    Again, the point I've tried to make in this post and in comments to others is that the concern doesn't necessarily revolve around the "responsible" gun owner, but more so the irresponsible, of which statistics seem to indicate there are plenty.

    That rather depends on how you define "plenty"; on the one hand, every irresponsible gunowner is one too many, but on the other hand, if you compare the numbers of people killed and injured in motor vehicle collisions to the number of people killed and injured by firearms (especially if you don't count suicides), the number of irresponsible gun owners is dwarfed by the number of irresponsible motorists. If you only count irresponsible legal gun owners (as the bulk of homicides are committed by people with prior felony convictions, who are prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms), the disparity is even larger.

    Scare quotes on "responsible" noted, by the way.

    The official bestowing of a CCW permit doesn't necessarily carry with it all the wisdom, patience, and judgment that you and other gun proponents would have everyone believe.

    Nice straw man. Of course the act of acquiring a CCW permit doesn't imbue you with better judgment, and it would be magical thinking to claim it does. The indications are, however, that the kind of person who acquires a CCW permit is no more likely to act in an irresponsible manner than the "average" citizen, and a good deal more likely to behave in less irresponsible fashion than many. Again, available statistics (such as they are) indicate that CCW permit holders are significantly less likely to be convicted of both violent and non-violent offenses than the general population.

    Look, the dire predictions you've been making are exactly the same ones that were made every time some state legislature was considering adopting a "shall-issue" law. "People will shoot each other fender-benders," warned the Brady Campaign, the VPC, the CSGV, etc., "rush will turn into Dodge city, blood will run in the streets" and words to similar effect. Those predictions were wrong every. single. time. What earthly reason is there to believe they're going to come true this time?

    "If "concealed carry" is allowed in the parks, where will you pack your weapon? If it's to be "concealed" and it's a warm-weather month, wouldn't that necessitate that the weapon be placed in a pack?"

    Absolutely not. There are many possible ways of carrying unobtrusively in warm weather. An "inside-the-waistband" (IWB) holster covered by a longish shirt worn outside the pants is one possible solution, as is a compact semi-auto or snubnose revolver in a pocket holster, stowed in a thigh pocket of a pair of cargo pants or shorts. There are also fanny packs available which incorporate a holster and a means of rapidly being opened using the off-hand, vests with built-in holsters, and even t-shirts.

  • National Park Service Director Bomar Scheduled to Meet With Mountain Bike Community   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Of course, if you can ask how many mountain biking trails are enough, one can also ask how many hiking trails are enough? Some people would happily do away with maintained hiking trails - be they boardwalks or maintained trails into the backcountry.

    One of the criteria that the National Park Service itself uses for recommending the establishment of a Park is the presence of "superlative opportunities for recreation for public use and enjoyment..."
    So, why shouldn't mountain biking be one of those "superlative opportunities"?

    And finally, its worth pointing out that we already have Segways in at least one National Park - you can get a Segway tour of the National Mall, for example.

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago

    According to the Zion National Park staff, Kolob is the largest natural arch in the Western Hemisphere:

    And according to the Glen Canyon/Rainbow Bridge staff, Rainbow Bridge is the natural bridge in the world:

    My handy Glossary of Geology, fourth edition, by Julia A. Jackson has this to say:
    natural arch - a natural bridge resulting from erosion
    natural bridge -
    (a) any archlike rock formation created by errosive agencies and spanning a ravine or valley
    (b) ....the remnant of the roof of an underground cave or tunnel that has collapsed
    (c) a sea arch or natural arch

    Now, the Natural Arch and Bridge Society tries to distinguish a natural bridge as being either a water-formed natural arch or as an arch that has either been used as a bridge or at least simlpy looks like a bridge. Wikipedia also cites the Dictionary of Geologic Terms which says that a natural bridge is a "natural arch that spans a valley of erosion."

    Bottom Line: While some people distinguish natural bridge and natural arch, the distinction is neither well-defined nor broadly accepted, and the National Park Service seems happy to claim the "largest" title for both Rainbow Bridge and Kolob Arch...

  • Congressman Accuses Sec. Kempthorne of Pandering to NRA on Gun Issue   6 years 25 weeks ago


    You have dona almost the impossible. You have managed to get a pro-gun comment in with an anti-Atzlan comment in the same post. Congratulations. I didn't think it was feasible. You have to watch out for those tricky Hispanics in Congress.

    Rick Smith

  • Yellowstone Officials Now Recommending that Sylvan Pass Remain Open For Snowmobiling   6 years 25 weeks ago

    This policy makes an interesting case for user fees. If it costs that much to keep the road open during that time - why shouldn't the users of the Park pay for that? Of course that would come out to about $1,000 per person. And it does becomes somewhat hard to make the case as to why access for summer users should be subsidized, but not winter users - but that could be handled by prorating the comparable amount spent on visitor access per summer user, and still have the users bear the cost of the access.

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Biggest or largest?

    When I worked at Isle Royale, I remember that we usually called Ryan Island the "largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world." Pretty much the same as what Bob Janiskee wrote above. But when a fire broke out on Ryan island, and I had the opportunity to name the fire, what did I name it? Not the "Biggest" fire, but the "Largest" fire, of course.

    That fire broke out in the fall (from a lightning strike) and it was still smoldering when we left Isle Royale weeks later to close the park and return to the mainland. During the annual winter wolf-moose study, I flew over Ryan Island, now covered with snow. I could finally declare the fire "out" officially. So I suspect the Largest fire may also be the one that burned, at least according to the park's paperwork, for the LONGEST time.

    Bob Krumenaker

  • Segways in the National Parks: Do We Really Need Them?   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I cannot believe the number of thoughtless people out there. I have a degree in zoology and used to be an avid bird watcher and hiker, an avid lover of all things wild. Five years ago I was diagnosed with MS and have now become basically housebound. I can manage to get to work and the store, but can't even take a walk in my neighborhood. What REALLY hurts is that I thought I would never be able to again enjoy the wilder areas and national parks. Then I discovered that Segway makes an off-road version of the popular people mover. These are NOT toys. And many people like me are able to stand, but walking while dragging one fairly useless leg means I can't really go far. So, the feasibility of again being able to get out and see the semi-wild areas has lifted my spirits. I realize I will never be able to again visit really wild areas, but the maintained trails in the national parks would certainly be possible on one of these off-road Segway models. Technology can give me back a little of what I have lost, as long as self-righteous clods don't legislate us to the "back of the bus".

  • National Park Service Director Bomar Scheduled to Meet With Mountain Bike Community   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Once you head down this slippery slope, how do you reverse course? How many single-track trails are enough? How many are too many?

    There already are hiking trails in the parks. Should biking trails parallel them or dart in another direction and further fragment the landscape? How can dual-use trails safely be managed? I was on one the other day and nearly run over by a mountain biker, who grinned and praised his brakes as I jumped aside. Is that what we can expect in the parks?

    If more biking trails are threaded through more and more national parks, how do you tell proponents of Segways that they can't have their own trails? After all, the footprint isn't any bigger and there are quite a few proponents of Segways in the parks. Would IMBA support Segway trails, and if not, why not?

    As more and more user groups demand access to the national parks, how do you conserve the parks as they were intended? How do you keep national parks special, and not simply another public, multiple-use landscape akin to the national forests and BLM lands?

    Those who object to the raising of these questions on occasion dub those who ask them "elitist" and "snobs." That's not the case at all. Rather, these are questions that spring up from the national park values established by the National Park Service Organic Act

    The Traveler would be interested in hearing IMBA's response to these questions and would be happy to provide editorial space.

  • National Park Service Director Bomar Scheduled to Meet With Mountain Bike Community   6 years 25 weeks ago

    If you read IMBA's materials you'll find that they do not espouse adding new singletrack to "all national parks." Mountain bikers and National Parks are working together cooperatively to add shared-use trails only in places where park officials see good opportunities for them. The "Traveler" seems to think that singletrack mountain bike trails are an affront to National Parks and should be relegated to other public lands. However the public -- even many Traveler readers -- does not agree. Director Bomar's appearance at the IMBA World Summit is a good indication that mountain biking opportunities in National Parks should see continued, and very welcome, improvements for years to come.

  • Congressman Accuses Sec. Kempthorne of Pandering to NRA on Gun Issue   6 years 25 weeks ago



    The editorial is clearly marked as such, and the other comments were in response to issues raised by gun proponents.

    Also, please clearly read those comments of mine. I don't believe in them I proclaimed myself to be upset by the statistics. Rather, I was just making a point in response to previous comments that there are some CCW permit holders who have been arrested and convicted for violent crimes.

  • Congressman Accuses Sec. Kempthorne of Pandering to NRA on Gun Issue   6 years 25 weeks ago

    You said

    “Now Art, you can configure the statistics anyway you want, but you still end up with 27 murders/non-negligent manslaughters, two forcible rapes, five robberies, 376 aggravated assaults and 454 "other assaults" committed by CCW holders from 1996-1999.”

    As I said before, According to the Rocky Mountain News in 2006 .... And this is ONE YEAR

    "Last year, there were 11 homicides, 35 rape cases, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings, 261 aggravated assaults and 320 other assaults out of a total of 116,588 offenses in national parks."

    Sounds like by your standard National Parks are indeed dangerous. Your letter to the Interior Secretary omitted the numbers for rape robbery, kidnappings, and aggravated assaults for 2006.

    In your letter you said “During 2006 there also were 320 assaults without weapons, 1,950 weapons offenses, 843 public intoxication cases, and 5,752 liquor law violations. How many of those might have turned deadly were concealed carry allowed in the park system?"

    Do you expect me to believe that the source for this information included public intoxication and not rape and kidnappings? Are you going to correct this omission in a follow up letter to the Secretary of the Interior or are you going to allow your argument to be framed by cherry picked facts?

    You are upset about CCW crime numbers? How about police who murder, rob, rape, etc. What were their numbers? Are they included in your CCW numbers? I know that there were a couple policemen in the news recently involved in murders. How can you trust the police to be armed when some of them commit crimes? The only common theread for criminals is that they do not respect the law and other people, that’s what makes them criminals, even the former governor of NY is a criminal by his own standard!

    Why are you willing to tarnish your reputation as a reporter who can do good for the environment and the parks? Everyone here knows how you feel. You are not reporting you are proselytizing on this issue. Give it a rest. We are going to have a big job on hands if Raul Grijalva fulfills his dream and hands the National Parks (and the rest of his “Aztlan” fantasy ) over to the corrupt Mexican Government!

    Can we stop comparing stats yet ? You are the one who started with the baloney Kurt.

    And yes we too value the Parks.


  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago

    Hmmm, nice technicality, Owen. While there is water flowing nearby, none flows beneath Kolob.

    But beyond the question of whether Kolob is an arch or a bridge, it seems than Rainbow Bridge is almost twice as tall ( 290 feet vs. 104.7 feet) as Kolob, so that alone should make it "larger" when pure mass is considered. Although, it seems that Kolob's thickness has been measured at 75 feet, which is roughly 33 feet thicker than Rainbow Bridge, and the width is 35 feet, or just slightly wider than Rainbow.

    More arch trivia can be found at this site.

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago

    "Must" is a bit too restrictive. That's because "water flowing through it" is a suggested standard definition. Several other definitions are in use and are considered at least technically correct, depending on the context. This much we can say with confidence: All natural bridges are arches, but not all arches should be considered natural bridges.

  • Yosemite National Park Waterfalls Approaching Full Throttle   6 years 25 weeks ago

    I had the priviledge of living in Yosemite Valley for two years. The Valley is most exciting when the big waterfalls hit their peak in mid to late Spring. During this wonderful season of the year, one can literally "feel" the vibrations created by the sound of falling water.

    I recall vividly one of my very last hikes as a Yosemite resident. It was in mid April 1971. The NPS park librarian, Larry Nahm, and I decided to scramble to the base of Ribbon Fall, located within a notch carved into the north wall of Yosemite Valley, just west of El Capitain. The fall was approaching full throttle, yet there was still a remnant of an ice cone at its base, protected by the shade provided by the notch in the granite wall and the chill of evening air.

    Hiking along the western buttress of the granite notch, we discoverd a spout of water, gushing as from a spigot straight out from the granite wall mid-way between us and the top of the wall. There was no sign of a crack in the rock where water could get to the spout itself.

    To the best of our knowledge, this water spout had no name. It was probably ephemeral, observed only at this time of year by those willing to scramble their way to the base of Ribbon Fall. For Larry and myself, it was our own personal discovery.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago


    Are you thinking perhaps about the Kolob Arch in Zion National Park? It's big, but it is not a natural bridge. To be considered a natural bridge, there must be water flowing underneath. I don't think this is the case with Zion's Kolob Arch.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago

    The answer is the one indicated in the quiz. The NPS describes the bridge thusly: "Rainbow Bridge is the world's largest known natural bridge........ From its base to the top of the arch, it is 290 feet -- nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty -- and spans 275 feet across the river; the top of the arch is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide." In my mind, largest means biggest, and I think that's reasonable. Otherwise....... take your complaint to the Park Service. :-)

  • National Park Quiz 5: Biggest This or That   6 years 25 weeks ago


    I'm resting on my laurels here in NM but wonder about question 7. I had always heard that the longest natural bridge in the world was in Zion. Did I get tripped up on the difference between "longest" and "biggest'? Or am I wrong about both?

    Rick Smith