Death Valley National Park
This week, Yahoo! named five of our American treasures on a “Nation’s Worst National Parks” list ... as if there could be such a thing as a bad national park.
We agree with the Department of Interior that these five national parks are ridiculously incredible, despite their beauty being lost on one blogger. At a time when America's parks, monuments and wilderness areas are being picked on in Congress, the last thing the parks need is to be disparaged. So instead, we chose to celebrate them.
The myriad types of national parks and monuments are meant to reflect the myriad types of natural and cultural landscapes that the American people are PROUD and FORTUNATE to share. Rather than pick on parks, let's help them. One way we can all do this right now is to tell Congress to vote NO on bills that would block new national parks and monuments. We must also continue to keep the pressure on Congress to resist the outrageous attacks on our parks, monuments and wilderness lands that some members of Congress have already begin launching just two weeks into the new Congress.
For those of you who appreciate our wondrous American wilderness in all forms, here's a closer look at the five bullied parks - and why we think they deserve special stars:
1. Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
The largest national park in the lower 48 states is also an International Biosphere Reserve and International Dark Sky Park. One of America's most remarkable desert wildernesses was also featured in the classic movie Star Wars. And last year, scientists finally solved the mystery of its moving rocks - a remarkable story of massive boulders being transported by wind and ice. It's no wonder it's on our bucket list - and that every year about 952,000 people visit, spending more than $75 million to support 880 jobs. As one of the continent’s hottest and driest locations, we admit it may be best to visit in spring.
photo: Flickr, andrew c mace
2. Gates of The Arctic National Park, Alaska
We also named this park as one of America's most unique, with one of its most photogenic wilderness areas, legendary waters and ultimate American hikes. It may be tucked out of the way, but humans have enjoyed this land's beauty for for more than 13,000 years. Arctic terns have made the longest migration of any bird in the world from Antarctica to its pristine landscapes. In spite of its remoteness, every year about 11,000 people visit, spending more than $16 million to support 225 jobs.
photo: Flickr, NPS (Zak Richter)
3. Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Congaree is on our list for "America's Most Unique National Parks." An International Biosphere Reserve and Globally Important Bird Area, it is the only national park in its state. It contains the largest tract of old-growth floodplain forest remaining in North America, and some of its trees are the tallest on its side of the continent. This area also neighbors African American heritage sites and attracts black communities who are too often left out of conservation dialogues. Every year, about 120,000 people visit, spending more than $5 million to support about 75 jobs.
photo: Flickr, MiguelVieira
4. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
This area of southwestern South Dakota is known for its dramatic, almost otherworldly landscape as well as a legacy of fossil-hunting. Every year, about 892,000 people visit, spending more than $53 million to support almost 800 jobs. If you aren't convinced yet, check out a time-lapse video of its marvels here.
photo: Flickr, Geof Wilson
5. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
One of our country’s oldest national parks contains one of its few remaining intact prairies. The first cave to be designated a national park anywhere on the globe, Wind Cave is notable for its boxwork formations (pictured below) and for being the sixth-longest in the world with 140 miles of explored passageways. Every year, about 516,000 people visit, spending more than $48 million to support about 775 jobs.
photo: Flickr, Amanda Scheliga