Happy birthday, National Park Service

The National Park Service marks 100 years this week. One hundred years of preserving our amazing natural resources. One hundred years of educating people on our great outdoors. One hundred years of giving joy to the millions of people from all over the world who visit the parks each year.

It’s a good deal when the one having the birthday gives the gifts, though that’s what the National Parks are. A gift. To celebrate this anniversary, here are pictures from my recent visits.

Bryce CanyonUtah boasts a multitude of striking natural landscapes. Wind carves away earth to reveal the tall, skinny spires of rock called Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Canyon Lands UtahLooking down on Canyon Lands National Park, Utah, one gets the impression a dinosaur left its footprint.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TennesseeA mama black bear and her two cubs meandered in front of our car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

Acadia National Park, MaineAcadia National Park, Maine, offers rugged Atlantic Ocean views and tasty crab rolls in local restaurants.

Shenandoah National Park, VirginiaThe Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, provided beautiful vistas, hiking, and a whole lot of wind. I’m not posing so much as trying to control my hair.

Glacier National Park, MontanaGlacier National Park, Montana, in June? Maybe not the best choice. Snow clogged mountain roads while rains closed valley roads, keeping us indoors much of the time. Cloaked in mist and clouds, the mountains were still beautiful. And we did spot both a bear and a moose.

Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaWater should not have been a problem in Death Valley National Park, California, but a record-breaking rain of 1/4 inch the day before we arrived flooded the valley. This impressed on me better than any ranger talk that Death Valley has no river outlet. Rain sheets off the mountains and accumulates on the floor with nowhere to go.

Badlands National Park, South DakotaStriations in the hills of the Badlands, speak to millennia of geologic history. The first time I visited the Badlands – 40 years ago – I thought this must be what the moon surface looks like. At that time, there was no visible greenery. Since then, invasive plants moved in and patches of green are everywhere.

White Sands National Monument

Though White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, is designated a monument, not a park, it’s one of the most visually stunning places I’ve visited in the past few years. Wind moves the dunes a few inches every day, often covering the roads, which have to be plowed to enable traffic to move. The white sand created a visual/mental disconnect for me since I visited there in February when we still had snow in Iowa. It didn’t help to see other visitors snowboard and sledding down the dunes.

Since the National Park Service was established, it’s grown from the one park – Yellowstone National Park – to include over 450 parks, monuments, parkways, historic sites, and seashores. Whenever and wherever I travel these days, I check to see if there’s a national park or monument along the way. They’re always worth the time.

Are you visiting the National Parks? If you haven’t, I hope these pictures whet your appetite. If you have, which have you enjoyed the most? Please leave a note. Then go have a piece of birthday cake.

Comments

  1. I’ve read and listened to some lovely tributes to National Parks and the National Park service over the past few weeks. Now I can add yours, Carol!
    I’ve not been to the beautiful wilderness parks you’ve showcased here–only the more urban ones, such as Independence National Park and more rural Valley Forge National Park.
    Our older daughter and her wife are planning a trip to the national park in Utah next spring.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Each national park is unique and beautiful in its own way. Valley Forge is a beautiful place when an important story behind it. We visited there and Independence National Historic Park on one of the trips to Pennsylvania to visit my sister and her family.

      I’m excited for your daughter and daughter-in-law’s visit to Utah. The state has many national parks and they are each entirely different. I hope they give themselves enough time to savor each one. I have yet to see Zion and I’m told it’s “the best,” but then I thought each of the others was the best when I saw it.

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder says:

    For several years my husband’s cousin’s daughter from Hannover, Germany has flown to the U.S. with camping gear, two teens, her husband and her father, to enjoy the national parks. Years ago, as a young adult, she came to the U.S. as a cross cultural trainee, and she wants her children to experience some of the great expanse of space we enjoy here in North America!
    My husband and I have also enjoyed several of your national parks, and have wonderful memories of time spent there in our earlier years of marriage.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Your husband’s relative is not alone, Elfrieda. One of the things I enjoy about visiting the national parks is mingling with so many international visitors. Obviously the word is out that North America’s national parks are worth the trip. When my husband and I visited Glacier National Park, we crossed the boarder into Canada to see the views from there, too. We stayed in the Prince of Wales Lodge. What a beautiful location.

  3. Nan Johnson says:

    I am a big fan of our national parks and share your enthusiasm. One of the weirdest places my husband and I visited was Toadstool Geologic Park in the northwest corner of Nebraska. Technically, it is under the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands umbrella, but if you don’t mind me going a bit off topic from a strict national park definition, this place was beautifully bizarre.
    My husband and I decided to take three days to drive from St. Louis to visit friends in Rapid City, normally about a 14 hour road trip. We discovered gorgeous gems to hike as we meandered through Nebraska: the Loess Hills along the Missouri River, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. When we entered Toadstool GP, we felt like we were walking into another world, and, like your comment about the Badlands, it also has been likened to a moonscape. While indeed barren, the unusual rock formations were beautiful in their own way. I was awestruck.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      I’m delighted to have you broaden the discussion, Nan. Our country has amazing natural diversity to discover and it’s not all in the National Parks. Any of these wonders that get us out into nature and exploring is worth mentioning. I’d never heard of Toadstool Geologic Park. Sounds like one to go out of my way to see. We have enjoyed touring the Loess Hills in western Iowa. It has always fascinated me that the Loess Hills land formations exist along the Missouri River and in China. Kind of cool.

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