For nearly a century, a popular story has linked the origins of the National Park Service to the genius of one man. In 1914, Stephen T. Mather, a self-made millionaire in the borax industry, visited Yosemite and Sequoia national parks. Finding both of them poorly managed he wrote Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane and complained. “Dear Steve,” Lane allegedly replied, “If you don’t like the way the national parks are being run, come on down to Washington and run them yourself.”
Some stories, whether focused on travel or a specific issue, deserve a longer treatment.
It was raining when I got to Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Since I’ve recently had enough rain to keep me satisfied for a good long while, I didn’t go out to the replica of Fort Clatsop where Captains Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the rest of the Corps of Discovery spent an uncomfortable three months in the winter of 1805 and 1806.
We have discovered during years of travel to America’s national parks that many of our most enjoyable visits have occurred at some of the smallest and least-visited units. It is a pleasant experience to visit a park where crowds are sparse, quiet is the norm, and National Park Service employees have time to engage in leisurely discussions.
While all national parks have abundant wildlife throughout the year, fall is prime time. Birds and animals are on the move, preparing for winter, and courting. They’re busy and plentiful.
National parks actually glow in autumn. From the fluttering gold of aspens and larch in the parks along the spine of the Rocky Mountains to the oranges, yellows and reds of the hardwood forests that cover Eastern parks and even on the Southwest’s sandstone, fall is the season of incandescence in the park system. Where do you find these rainbows? Here’s your guide to the "best bets" for fall color in the National Park System.
It didn't take long, less than seven or eight minutes, to kill the grizzly. First she was immobilized with a drug, and then the equivalent of a shot to her brain and it was over. While the killing brought an end to a bear that attacked and partially consumed a hiker in Yellowstone National Park, it won't likely bring an end to the controversy that was fanned by Social Media commentators.
On a warm summer day, under calm blue skies, the Railroader's Festival came off without a hitch, but a lot of steam, at Golden Spike National Historic Site.
Taiga is a word of just two syllables, and yet it connotes remoteness. Its synonym – boreal – is slightly more familiar, though it too conjures the distant, the mysterious. But if you travel to the Great Lakes, to the national lakeshores that line the southern shores of those inland oceans known as Superior and Michigan, you can find yourself deep in the coniferous forests, the taiga or boreal forests, more familiar to the Canadian landscapes to the north.
From enjoying the park’s waters, to relishing the changing scenery and observing the raucous wildlife, autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park is full of adventures and sights you won’t want to miss.
Perhaps few people today remember Nancy Ayers, but I will never forget her. Certainly, on being informed of her death last winter, a flood of memories came rushing back. In her honor, I decided to reread Polly Welts Kaufman's National Parks and the Woman’s Voice. Although I recalled no woman in the book quite like Nancy, I owed it to her to reflect on our friendship. A book reminiscent of her qualities seemed the perfect touch.
September into the heart of November are my favorite months in the National Park System. The days aren’t quite as long as they are in July and August, but the bugs and crowds are on the wane, wildlife is on the move, and the crisp night air is perfect for sleeping under the stars, or in a cozy cabin.
There has been lots of discussion and debate on the Traveler in recent months over the size of the National Park System as well as the propriety of some of the units in that system. Most recently, a reader took issue with a piece looking at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site that questioned what the goal of the historic site really was.
Editor's note: The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, previously known as the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, maintains the National Park System in its current form is too small, and that more effort should be made to expand it. In this article, the Coalition explains its rationale for such an effort.
I’m really not sure what to write about Fort Vancouver. It’s a concoction of miscellany that is very hard to define, much less describe. It didn’t take me very long to begin wondering just where this place should fit in the big scheme of national parks – or even if it should.
Hagerman, Idaho, is a very small town. I think the sign said something like 470 people live there. About halfway down Main Street, right across from the high school and next door to a storefront church you will find the visitor center for Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Be careful. You might miss it and have to go around the block.
It’s a winding drive through Idaho fields of corn, grain, sugar beets and potatoes. Out into the middle of a vast plain of irrigated fertility. But just 74 years ago, it was a spreading plain of sagebrush squatting beside a large irrigation canal carrying Snake River water to farms further west. It was a desolate, nearly empty place. A perfect place for a prison camp.
Fewer than 100 miles separate Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida from Biscayne National Park, yet when it comes to views on preservation the two parks are light-years apart.bicy-donahue_wilderness_survey.pdf
What about all that green marketing and certification that surrounds ecotourism these days? It sounds good, but is ecotourism all it claims to be? Once established, does the inevitable cycle of tourism development change the very environment and local culture that ecotourism is meant to protect?
Autumn is a spectacular time to visit Denali National Park. The alpine and subalpine tundra at higher elevations gleam with fall color by mid- to late-August. The taiga at lower elevations is aglow in reds by early September, a time when the aspen and balsam poplar near the park entrance turn brilliant yellow and gold.
First, some warnings. If you plan to visit John Day Fossil Beds, be prepared. Road maps might make it look as if the national monument is plunk in the middle of pretty well-inhabited country with towns frequent along the roads.