Recent comments

  • Update: At Grand Canyon National Park, an Abandoned Uranium Mine Must be Cleaned Up   6 years 26 weeks ago

    The costs are one side, but outside of the National Park is the land of the Navajo Nation. People and livestock there use water that is contaminated by abandoned uranium mines that are all over the tribal land. In a study of the Ojato Chapter of the Navajo's land done by EPA every well on the Arizona side was contaminated and all but one on the adjacent Utah part.

    This map shows abandoned mines, wells and contaminated areas:
    Attention: The file is huge.$FILE/Oljato.pdf

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 26 weeks ago

    I've always considered the role of park rangers to protect the environment from the visitors, not the reverse. Despite all the warnings and instructional material about the dangers in the parks, we still have visitors recklessly approaching wildlife, climbing over barriers to the edge of cliffs and bluffs, and ignoring other danger signs. We have the adage, "Buyer Beware"; we should add "Park Visitor Beware".

  • National Park Quiz 21: Railroads   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Nice catch, Sabattis. I revised the quiz item.

  • Climber Dies In Accident In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Well said, Bob, Beamis, and fhasti.
    Everything can change in the blink of an eye. When my mom called from the Tetons on that Wednesday to tell me my dad was missing, I feared him dead because he does not get lost. He is also the strongest, fittest person I know, besides his soon-to-be son-in-law Ironman competitor. With decades of experience in climbing, hiking, and adventuring, including the Matterhorn and the Grand Teton (three times), none of us would have expected anything to ever happen to him. News of his rescue was a relief, but we found out soon after he would have to keep fighting for his life for some while. Of course, my dad is my hero, adopting me at 16 years old and now being a great "Papa" and role model for my young kids. Were it not for the heroic efforts of all those involved in Richard's search and rescue, however, we wouldn't have my dad now. The courageous men and women who do this great service in this and other parks are true professionals. We are grateful.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Its quite the red herring to suggest the possibility of the National Park Service with the responsibility "to have lifeguards overseeing each inch of beach, lake shoreline, or stretch of river?" I can just imagine lifeguards on the Alagnak Wild River.... Har!

    More seriously, this question can be rephrased as - "should the National Park Service eliminate unsupervised swimming in National Parks?" I think the answer should be obvious - of course not!

    So rather than beat this red herring further, I think this discussion is a useful starting point for discussing the role of user fees in National Parks. Lifeguards are interesting in that they have almost "resource protection" value, they are there to provide services to visitor - primarily recreational swimmers. So why should the public purse, with so many demands for funding from replacing crumbling bridges, to hurricane relief, to AIDS and cancer research, to feeding starving people in Africa, to bank bailouts - pay for lifeguards for recreational swimmers? Why shouldn't the swimmers who desire lifeguarding services pay for it?

    Or to put it another way - this article directly poses the question of "what is the optimal number of lifeguards at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore"? Right now some people think there should be more lifeguards - but how do we tell what the right number is? Well a great way to do it (and the way we decide how much of most things to produce in this country) is to start charging user fees for use of lifeguarded beaches - if the beach starts to fill up, keep raising the fee until you can add more lifguards or until the beach isn't full anymore. Its as simple as that really.... And this would put paid to Superintendent Dillon's protestations of not being able to find qualified lifeguards or of needing to balance other duties - if the lifeguards are paid for out of the user fees, then the lifeguards aren't competing with other budgetary and programmatic priorities. *


    * - that's not totally true due to a quirk in Federal law, but this would presumably be corrected by any Congressional proposal to fund lifeguards through user fees

  • National Park Quiz 21: Railroads   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Only 10 out of 12 this week, after a perfect score last week... Oh well.

    I should point that one can ride your bicycle on the C&O Canal NHP towpath from Georgetown to Sandy Hook, MD in Harpers Ferry NHP, and take your bike across the bridge to the Amtrak station.... and then take the train back to Union Station Washington, DC. It wouldn't exactly be a daytrip, though.....

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 26 weeks ago

    I agree with the above.
    It is not Nature that requires the handrails but the public's attitude towards Nature.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 26 weeks ago


    This is probably one of those questions for which there is no good answer. Rangers and other park employees cannot guarantee the safety of all visitors. Most visitor accidents can be traced to a couple things: unfamiliarity with conditions--it's harder to climb down than up or streams run quickly, or hypothermia robs one of the ability to make wise decisions, etc.--or carelessness--overloading boats, not controlling small children, diving into shallow water--or not properly assessing the potential results of one's actions--getting too close to wild animals, under estimating the physical difficulty of backcountry trips. Your post reminds me of the long discussion on the Traveler about the hike up Half Dome and what the NPS should or shouldn't do to protect visitors. We had a similar thread on Angel's Landing in Zion. The truth is that a visit to a national park takes people out of their comfort zones and puts them in places where their decisions can have tragic consequences. Most of us know what parts of town we don't visit after dark We are familiar with this. Most visitors don't have the same instinctive knowledge about what works and what doesn't work in a park. Professor Joe Sax argues in his book, Mountains without Handrails that if we overengineer parks to make them safe we lose the wildness that makes them special. I agree with him.

    Rick Smith

  • How Did The National Park Service Err So Badly On the Yellowstone Winter-Use Plan?   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Wow, all this talk when their is a simple answer, Political Pressure.

  • Archaeological Survey At Big South Fork River National River and Recreation Area   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Hmm......Good for them now only if we could do the same at the park I volunteer at, The Boston Harbor Islands. In fact the lack of action is somewhat sadding in the park because it was the site of concentration camps during the king phillp's war, and qurrantine hospitals. On one of the island their are an estamated 4,500 bodies buiried but no one has looked.

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Celebrates Its "Stand-Alone" Birthday and Kilauea Provides the Fireworks   6 years 26 weeks ago

    To see an example of what Jim is talking about, see the photo at this site. I took a similar photo on Chain of Craters Road in 1992, but darned if I know what I did with it.

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Celebrates Its "Stand-Alone" Birthday and Kilauea Provides the Fireworks   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Thank you for the coverage of the national parks in Hawaii.

    These are some of the most exciting parks in the System. Beyond all the wonderful things about them, I will never forget the experience of standing a only few feet back on the Big Island watching the lava flow wipe out a section of road as it moved down to the sea.

    What was exciting was seeing the newest land in America being created right before my eyes.

  • "Hidden Fire" Continues To Burn In Sequoia National Park   6 years 26 weeks ago

    This lightning caused fire is burning in an area that was last burned in 1926. 82 years is a long time to let the fuel load to build up. This heavy fuel load creates a very hot fire that will kill even the fire resistant Giant Sequoia. The survival of this unique species requires much more frequent "cool burning" fires to not allow heavy fuel loads to build up.
    Shame on the Federal Agencies that continue to practice "suppression" over "control".

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Guns and booze don't mix well in the National Parks. Period!

  • Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush   6 years 26 weeks ago

    What was the point of posting about this incident?

    The offender did not, according to any report, have a license to carry, nor was he carrying a concealed weapon (a .22 rifle is not concealable nor is it useful for self-defense).

    This is not related to concealed carry in national parks.

    When this rule is approved (which will be in early October, from what I've heard) the one big difference that you'll notice in the National Parks is that nothing will have changed. Here in Texas, the media predicted blood in the streets when the CHL law was enacted in 1995. It never happened here, nor has it happened anywhere else. In fact, what studies (by THE GOVERNMENT) have shown is that CHLs (permit holders) are an exceedingly law-abiding group. If you don't understand that, check the annual report put out by the Texas Department of Public Safety which compares conviction rates for CHLs vs everyone else. You'll find that conviction rates, particularly for violent crime, are near zero for license holders.

    This is not a surprise. When you apply for a license in Texas, the government comes in and examines your history with a fine-toothed comb. To get my license, I had to go through a two-month background investigation which included individual checks by the state, the feds, and each county that I'd lived in for five years. I was fingerprinted, and the prints were run by the state and the FBI. In Texas, not paying your student loans and/or your child support are justification for denial of a license. Alcohol and substance abuse problems are grounds for disqualification. Some states utilize reference checks and cultivate a history that way. Training and testing are mandatory. Taken as a whole, the process is a pretty strong assurance that those being licensed are of good character and are law-abiding. The State of Texas vouches for me -- who vouches for you, Kurt? No one? That's what I thought.

    The people you need to worry about are not the people who went through the hassle, fees, and training required to legally carry concealed. If you're in a state which allows concealed carry, you already interact with armed licensees on a regular basis. You pass us on the road, you walk right past us at the grocery store, and we're traveling through state parks and national forests (concealed carry is already legal in national forests...don't recall hearing of any disasters).

    Most law enforcement officials I've talked to about concealed carry greatly prefer to interact with CHLs. We're a known quantity to them and we've been vetted. They know to expect good behavior from us. A poll in Police Magazine a few years ago showed about 90% support for concealed carry by law enforcement. I realize the National Association of former Park Rangers (or whatever it's called) is opposed to concealed carry in National Parks. The problem I have with their opinion is that the vast majority of their members did not serve in a law-enforcement capacity in the Parks. They cleared brush and gave tours. That makes them completely unqualified to comment on the impact of this rule.

    It's fantastic that many people feel the parks are safe and there's no need to carry weapons. I guess that means they don't have worry about the inconveniences of carrying concealed firearms. Personally, being a resident of a border state with border parks (i.e. Big Bend NP) I feel a little less safe than they do. Odds are I'll never need to use a concealed handgun, but I will welcome the ability to protect myself in a park which quantifies its safety by promoting itself as "as safe as Houston." In Big Bend, as in many parks, if something happens, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. There's no cell coverage and the isolation is great enough that law enforcement will not be in a position to help you if you need help.

    Supposedly low crime rates are wonderful until you're the one who's victimized.

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Celebrates Its "Stand-Alone" Birthday and Kilauea Provides the Fireworks   6 years 26 weeks ago

    Not guilty. There was no separate Hawaii Volcanoes National Park until 1961. Only in 1961 did HAVO finally split away from Haleakala and become a stand alone unit of the National Park System. In light of this, the National Park Service specifies September 22, 1961, as the official date of HAVO's establishment . Visit this site to confirm this. We use the official NPS date here at Traveler when we do these anniversary articles, and that's why we didn't use the August 1, 1916, date you prefer. That said, I agree with your basic gripe.

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Celebrates Its "Stand-Alone" Birthday and Kilauea Provides the Fireworks   6 years 26 weeks ago

    How did you come up with 47th anniversary? The park was established in 1916 (yes, same year as the NPS) and is planning for its centennial in 2016. There was a name change (from Hawaii National Park) and split from Haleakala a while ago, perhaps 47 years, but don't take away half the park's history!

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 27 weeks ago

    We just returned from a Utah vacation, which included a trip to Wall Arch. We originally saw it in 2006 and never gave any thought to it collapsing in our lifetimes. Surprising that other seemingly more fragile arches are still standing, and this one fell. A reminder that you can’t always tell the substance of things or people by looking on the outside.

  • Sunset Over Flat Mountain Arm, Yellowstone National Park   6 years 27 weeks ago

    Great sunsets must be easy to come by at Yellowstone Lake. I took this shot on Yellowstone Lake also in early September on the way back from Glacier, though this photo doesn't quite have the paddle-equity yours does:

  • "Hidden Fire" Continues To Burn In Sequoia National Park   6 years 27 weeks ago


    Not all Yellowstone fires are extinguished. The LeHardy fire that started earlier this summer north of Fishing Bridge was pretty much coaxed into the backcountry and allowed to burn there, although it was fought to prevent it from sliding south to Fishing Bridge.

  • "Hidden Fire" Continues To Burn In Sequoia National Park   6 years 27 weeks ago

    We will never learn. Natural fires need to take a course. As forest are overgrown, the price is being paid. Control instead of suppress. In Yellowstone fires are still extinguished instead of being allowed to burn.

  • Help Ken Burns Chronicle the Parks   6 years 27 weeks ago

    In Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, many old Hispano families claim their land grants were stolen and are now managed by the National Parks System. Will your documentary cover this? Latinos say you have a blind-spot to their history in this country. This seems like a good opportunity to make up for it.

  • Musings From Yellowstone National Park   6 years 27 weeks ago

    The issue of race in the national parks is not a new subject on Traveler. As a point of reference, please see this link and the ensuing discussion that Wayne Hare touched off. Look closely at the links to the research done by Dr. Nina Roberts on this issue (listen to this audio piece at and read this pdf report at

    This is a very important issue that needs more attention; however, if we are going to do so, it would be helpful if we look back at what has already been said here about it.

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

  • Musings From Yellowstone National Park   6 years 27 weeks ago

    I'll go out on a limb and propose that non-white people (as opposed to the "white" people Kurt speaks of) don't have a cultural interest in conservation or nature like many segments of the white community do. Maybe this is an artifact of the way minorities have gravitated to urban areas - not because they love the city, but because the city loved them. Regardless the reasons, it seems to me if you look at the naturalists with conservation societies, the students in environmental programs at universities, the employees that go on the company canoe trip where I work, and yes, the rangers in the National Parks, you see white people. Does this mean non-whites are excluded? More likely it means they have little interest in these things. So we should force them to like it, right? We should spend a lot of money making sure we have some non-white rangers in high profile positions so little non-white kids can become more "white" and learn to love nature?

    Saying we need more non-white rangers so we'll get more non-white park-lovers sounds like a desire for homogenization of cultures and of races. Let's quit trying to make everyone like the things white people like.

    Propping up manufactured role models is not - and never has been - the answer to anything. Picture two rangers: Ranger A is a white woman who grew up hiking in the woods and has a life-long love affair with nature and conservation. Ranger B is a African American woman who became a ranger because it was a good, secure government job and a diversity program existed to make it easier for her to get the job, and her career counselors highly recommended it. Now, a group of young minority children from the city go on a tour to the park. Do you want Ranger A or Ranger B to talk to them? I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts the kids come out more enthusiastic from Ranger A's tour. And if they don't, then they don't because the subject doesn't appeal to them, not because the ranger was pasty white. Cultural differences, tastes, and traditions will continue to make the world go round.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • A Section of the Appalachian Trail Designed for Wheelchair Access Opens in Vermont   6 years 27 weeks ago

    As a disabled person who wants to keep hiking as I did when I was younger, I am thankful that Merryland's attitude is not shared by the masses. Wheelers (hikers using mobility devices) should be able to experience a few of the exceptional trail opportunities out there.