National Parks = American Treasures
National Parks are special land areas set aside by the government for all people to enjoy, appreciate, and preserve. Over the years, National Parks have grown in number; 57 are found throughout 27 different states and 2 more in the U.S Territories of American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.
The parks span from mountains to valleys, desert to the seaside, and prairies to the rainforest. Each has its own identity and focus on the natural world. In addition, each has unique land and water formations, wildlife, plants, mineral resources, and land development. They have their own data about the history, geography, culture, and heritage of the Park, and the area surrounding its location.
Explore & Discover
A trip to a National Park, whether for a day, long weekend, or a full week or more, will provide you with a wonderful experience. All you need is to be open for adventure, be daring enough to explore and discover and want to have fun. Then, no matter what park you choose to visit, and no matter what time of the year (Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall) you will find a variety of fun, learning experiences.
Here’s a list of the kinds of activities that make your visit to a National Park an adventure:
- Hike the miles of trails that span rolling hills, flatlands, rugged terrain or steep inclines.
- Take a nature walk, observe wildlife like mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders, and birds all living in harmony.
- Learn about the ecosystem, or just enjoy the clean fresh air.
- Search caverns deep within the earth’s surface.
- Swim with exotic fish, water ski across crystal, clear lakes.
- Shush down snow-covered mountain slopes.
- Sail in a boat, paddle a canoe, or kayak or go white water rafting down a river.
- Admire the natural scenery of mountain, volcanic, or water formations.
- Enjoy the beauty of green meadows, colorful flowers, desert blossoms, and sand dunes.
With all these available activities, it’s easy to see what you can learn from a National Park. All you have to do is be on the alert, look with eyes wide open, listen for unusual sounds, wear appropriate clothing, keep still, be quiet, and out of sight when necessary. Make sure you look up in trees, down on the ground, in holes in the ground, under bushes, between rocks; peek in or under fallen logs, in root systems, in cracks, crevices, and under a rock. Examine riverbanks, shorelines, marshes, shallow waters, tide pools, and even puddles because they provide a surprise or two. Study animal tracks, not only footprints; check out tree marking, trail patterns, diggings, scat, scents, sounds, and birthing/killing sites can tell you who the inhabitants are. Ask questions of the Park Ranger, read the plaques found along the paths that encompass the park they offer special information.
Pay attention to in-park, special sites like Monuments, Preserves, Reserves, Lakeshores and Seashores, Rivers and other Waterways, Forests, Trails, Historic Sites, Military Parks, Battlefields, Memorials, Recreation Areas, and Parkways, for insights to the culture and history of the Park too.
These American treasures, a.k.a. National Parks, are natural resources for information and inspiration. Be sure to match your choice of Park and activity to the right season, then go explore and discover. Remember, since each park has its own personality with special characteristics, features and activities, you’ll experience something different every time.
A handy and efficient tool for your visit and adventure at a National Park is the author’s new family activity guidebook:
Explore & Discover National Parks
This book uses official Park pictographs and other activities to provide a unique way to gather information, record facts, and enjoy the great outdoors. It can be found on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobel.com.
Did you know that individuals with disabilities may be eligible for an Access Pass to America’s National Parks at no cost? Click on the link to read more.
Helen Colella: A freelance writer, a retired teacher, mother of 5, and grandmother of 2 (so far). Her work includes educational books & materials, articles and stories for adults and children, Chicken Soup for the Soul Book (13) and other anthologies (4), and parenting magazines across the country. I provide editing services to self-publishing writers and work as a consultant for Blue13Creative, Denver.
Photos courtesy of © bumeister1via flickr.com
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