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Fun Friday–National Parks I Want to Visit

Friday, October 2, 2009


As everyone knows, I’m a TV and movie junkie. So this time of year is one of my absolute favorites, with all of the season and series premieres. My friend Ruth suggested I do another post like the one I did last year about the new shows I’m watching, but I think I’ll give them a few weeks to shake out and see what I stick with and what I drop after a few episodes.

But in addition to all of those new shows, this week I’ve also been watching a miniseries by my favorite documentarian, Ken Burns. As you may recall, last year, I named The Civil War as my all-time favorite documentary. Well, I now have a new #2 documentary: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea—A Film by Ken Burns. He’s done several short documentaries, as well as three other miniseries (on baseball, jazz, and WWII). I watched most of the WWII documentary two years ago, but it never captured me the way the Civil War series did. I was excited, with a touch of trepidation, when I started seeing promos on PBS earlier this summer for the National Parks series.

I’ve watched, transfixed every evening this week. Aside from learning history I’d never heard about in my life, Ken Burns has a way of finding historical figures and turning them into characters whose stories he draws the viewer into. And it’s amazing how visionary the founders of the National Parks and the National Parks Service were—and how hard they had to fight to protect some of the places that we now couldn’t imagine having unprotected. Of course, part of my interest that plays into this is having been a Civil War–history minor in college and writing several papers about endangered Civil War historical sites that needed protection.

Okay, there are four basic types of sites in the NPS (probably more, but this is how my brain interprets it): national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, and national military parks. Of the three, I’ve been to more of the monuments and military sites. I’ve visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park (NM), White Sands National Monument (NM), Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (NM), Rocky Mountain National Park (CO), Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park (TN/GA), Hot Springs National Park (AR), Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN), Stones River National Battlefield (TN), Blue Ridge Parkway (VA), Shenandoah National Park (VA), Manassas National Battlefield Park (VA), George Washington Birthplace National Monument (VA), Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park (WV), Antietam National Battlefield (MD), Gettysburg NMP (PA), Flight 93 National Memorial (PA), and pretty much every monument/site in Washington DC. And I’ll be adding Shiloh National Military Park to the list on October 24.

After watching the National Parks series, even though I’m not an outdoorsy person, here are a few of the National Parks I would really like to see sometime during my life.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park

    “Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park preserves a spectacular landscape rich with majestic mountains, pristine lakes and extraordinary wildlife. The abrupt vertical rise of the jagged Teton Range contrasts with the horizontal sage-covered valley and glacial lakes at their base, creating world-renowned scenery that attracts nearly four million visitors per year.”

Arches National Park, Utah

    “Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In some areas, the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any other in the world.”

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico

    “From AD 850 to 1250, Chaco was a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area—unlike anything before or since. Chaco is remarkable for its multi-storied public buildings, ceremonial buildings, and distinctive architecture. These structures required considerable planning, designing, organizing of labor, and engineering to construct. The Chacoan people combined many elements: pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and engineering to create an ancient urban center of spectacular public architecture—one that still awes and inspires us a thousand years later.”

Glacier National Park, Montana

    “Known to Native Americans as the ‘Shining Mountains’ and the ‘Backbone of the World,’ Glacier National Park preserves more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Its diverse habitats are home to over 70 species of mammals including the grizzly bear, wolverine, gray wolf and lynx. Over 260 species of birds visit or reside in the park, including such varied species as harlequin ducks, dippers and golden eagles. The park is named for its prominent glacier-carved terrain and remnant glaciers descended from the ice ages of 10,000 years past. Bedrock and deposited materials exposed by receding glaciers tell a story of ancient seas, geologic faults and uplifting, and the appearance of giant slabs of the earth’s ancient crust overlaying younger strata. The result of these combined forces is some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet.”

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

    “Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.”

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
(Yes, can you believe it? I grew up in New Mexico and have never been to the Grand Canyon!)

    “Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today Grand Canyon National Park receives close to five million visitors each year—a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 which the park received in 1919. The oldest human artifacts found are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period. There has been continuous use and occupation of the park since that time. The park has recorded over 4,800 archeological resources with an intensive survey of nearly 3% of the park area. Archeological remains from the following culture groups are found in Grand Canyon National Park: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan (Kayenta and Virgin branches), Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, and Euro-American.”

Grand Canyon

  1. Sara Aimee Herrick permalink
    Friday, October 2, 2009 8:09 am

    I have been watching this as well. I mostly watched “The Great Lodges” because I was at home more often then. It was a wonderful look, as you said, at the vision of people to create the National Parks system. My favorite Lodge is the one at Glacier where you can only get there by hiking or horseback. Want to go there for sure, but soon, while I can still sit a horse!!


  2. Friday, October 2, 2009 9:20 am

    Did your family collect patches or stickers from the parks you visited? We had stickers on the back of our camper and I still have all the post cards we collected along the way. I’ve been to all but one of the parks you listed as wanting to visit. The picture of the Tetons you showcased is actually a painting that hangs in my parents home, one of the first my mother did. But if you that far…go ahead to Mesa Verda, it’s amazing, especially the journey to get to it.


    • Friday, October 2, 2009 1:24 pm

      We didn’t collect the stickers or stamps at the parks, but I do still have the NPS brochures from most of them. For us as a family, as well as for me, we didn’t visit them because they were national parks. We visited because they were sites of historic interest (like the battlefields and the cliff dwellings) or the recreational/touristy thing to do (White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns), or because it made a great place for vacations, retreats, etc. (Shenandoah, Blue Ridge, Great Smokies). There are so many other sites I’ve been to that I always thought were national parks but apparently aren’t (they aren’t on the NPS interactive map, anyway)—like Arlington cemetery, Mt. Vernon, Monticello, some of the other Civil War sites around Nashville, and the part of the Smoky Mountains/Appalachians that we drove through last month to get to my cousin’s wedding in NC.


  3. Friday, October 2, 2009 10:47 am

    Ok, I’m looking forward to your new shows list. I’ve already dropped a couple that I thought I would enjoy (Like the forgotten – the voiceovers by the dead people are just too creepy)

    WOW! Now I know where the picture from my blog comes from! It was one of those pictures that is always passed around in emails and I had no idea where it came from.

    Anyway – I think Yosemite is the only one I’ve been too, but there are others I would love to go to at some point.


  4. Friday, October 2, 2009 10:48 am

    P.S. – where did you find the picture? I’ve always said that if I found out where it came from that I would make sure I had permission to continue using it….


    • Friday, October 2, 2009 12:53 pm

      I just did a Google images search for “Grand Teton National Park” (for hi-res images). That image is on a bunch of sites.


  5. Friday, October 2, 2009 1:14 pm

    God bless Ken Burns! Can the man do anything wrong? “The War” choked me up for however many hours it was, “Jazz” made me want to learn to Jitterbug, and now “National Parks” threatens to ruin our travel budget forever. My husband and I are so far behind on watching it because it’s been a crazy-busy week, but we’re loving every moment and every beautiful shot. He went to a lot of the parks as a kid, but the only ones we’ve been to together are some in Washington State (Mount Rainier, Olympic, and San Juan Island National Historical Site) and Rocky Mountain. Right now I want to go to Yosemite and Mesa Verde. We’ll see…


    • Friday, October 2, 2009 1:19 pm

      I love the fact that KB wanted to give the “whole history” of how the NPS got started, but the more I’ve thought about it today, the more I wish he hadn’t spent almost three entire episodes focusing on just Yellowstone and Yosemite. I know those are important, both historically and scenically, but there are so many other parks that they’ve either left (like Hot Springs) or barely mentioned by name once (Carlsbad Caverns) in favor of the parks everyone already knows about. I did enjoy learning about Acadia NP in Maine—had only learned of its existence a day or two before that episode aired because it was the answer to a question on Jeopardy.


  6. Sylvia permalink
    Friday, October 2, 2009 1:31 pm

    I’ve been to several of the military ones also. Of those that you mentioned I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Grand Teton National Park.

    There’s an interesting new romantic novel series coming out about national parks. I’m looking forward to reading these books.,492.aspx?Tab=Books,7845.aspx?Tab=Books


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