When it comes to National Parks I’m a fan girl. They are my favorite kind of vacation and I’m such a geek about it that I actually own a National Park Passport book that I get stamped at every park I visit.
The goal is to buckle into your travel shoes, head out, and get stamped at every National Park on the register. It’s a lofty ambition because I’ve read there’s less than 20 verified passport books to actually reach that goal. Why? Because it’s not easy. There are 401 national sites and counting!
It’s not just well-known and well-traveled parks, there are historical sites, battlefields, and ancient Indian grounds. There’s National Recreation Areas, National Lakeshores and Seashores, and National Monuments like the Statue of Liberty or Independence Hall. And not all are located in the USA. They’re also in American Territories like Guam, Puerto Rico, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands.
My mission is to see as many as I can in my lifetime. Count so far: 25
Lucky for you…I’m going to share some of what I’ve seen and experienced. Yay! But wait…It gets better! As a bonus I’m going to offer a few travel tips called… “Things I Wish I knew Before I Went.”
So, before I roll into that first NP travel exposé, let’s start with some basic trivia.
~ In 1872 the first National Park was established. The honor goes to my personal favorite: Yellowstone. Though technically there were other areas protected earlier, like Yosemite in 1864, or Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1832. And if you want to go waaaaaay back, the northern tip of Cape Cod was set aside as “Province Lands” by the Plymouth Colony in the early 1600’s. This means protecting diverse, fragile, or scenic ecosystems is a wise and long standing tradition.
~ The largest National Park is in Alaska. No surprise there! A state that huge has a lot of ground to set aside and they delivered with Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. It’s 13.2 million acres that stretches from the Bering Sea to one of the tallest mountain peaks in North America – Mount St. Elias.
~ The smallest National Park is in Pennsylvania. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial is only .02 acres and part of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, though it’s’ counted separately. This tiny park is the historical home of a brave and brilliant revolutionary war hero.
~ The only state in the whole USA that does NOT have a National Park is Delaware. What’s up with that?
~ And lastly – The National Park Service has a fact-filled website: www.nps.gov. Do some armchair traveling and build your itinerary!
I think I’ll begin my National Park series with a Tennessee favorite. Sure, we have the Great Smoky Mountains, one of the most popular National Parks in terms of visitors, but that’s not where we’re headed. Nope.
We’re going to the Smokies lesser known cousin – Big South Fork National Park. Let the adventure begin!