Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

… was authorized as a national park 14 years ago today, pending land acquisition. The land was acquired and Great Sand Dunes became America’s 58th (of 59) National Park September 24, 2004. It had been a national monument since 1932.

GreatSandDunes

The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more!


Through the breaking apart and movement (rifting) of large surface plates on Earth’s surface, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were uplifted in the rotation of a large plate. Fossils from the bottom of an ancient sea are now preserved in high layers of rock in the Sangre de Cristos. The San Juan Mountains were created through extended and dramatic volcanic activity. With these two mountain ranges in place, the San Luis Valley was born, covering an area roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.

Sediments from both mountain ranges filled the deep chasm of the valley, along with water from mountain streams and rivers.

Sand that was left behind after these lakes receded blew with the predominant southwest winds toward a low curve in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The wind funnels toward three mountain passes here – Mosca, Medano, and Music Passes – and the sand accumulates in this natural pocket. The winds blow from the valley floor toward the mountains, but during storms the winds blow back toward the valley. These opposing wind directions cause the dunes to grow vertically.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve


A small gallery below of photos taken August 30th of last year. Note the solo adventurer in the long-range photo without any grass visible. Also, you can see the waves on the sand in the closeup, and how grass takes root where it seems impossible.

Click any image for larger versions.

I include the park sign because somewhere nearby are my prescription sunglasses, carelessly left on the roof of the car while peeling off layers.


Zion National Park (Utah)

… … was established on this date in 1919.

Located in Washington, Iron, and Kane Counties in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries. Zion also has 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs, pine- and juniper-clad slopes, and seeps, springs, and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens.

With an elevation change of about 5,000 feet-from the highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain (at 8,726 feet) to the lowest point at Coal Pits Wash (at 3,666 feet), Zion’s diverse topography leads to a diversity of habitats and species. Desert, riparian (river bank), pinyon-juniper, and conifer woodland communities all contribute to Zion’s diversity. Neighboring ecosystems-the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Rocky Mountains-are also contributors to Zion’s abundance.

Zion National Park

Originally Zion was proclaimed Mukuntuweap National Monument (July 31, 1909); Mukuntuweap was incorporated into Zion National Monument (March 18, 1918); Zion National Monument became Zion National Park.


Arches National Park (Utah)

… was redesignated from national monument to national park on this date in 1971.

Delicate Arch

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.

Arches National Park

For there is a cloud on my horizon. A small dark cloud no bigger than my hand. Its name is Progress.

The ease and relative freedom of this lovely job at Arches follow from the comparative absence of the motorized tourists, who stay away by the millions. And they stay away because of the unpaved entrance road, the unflushable toilets in the campgrounds, and the fact that most of them have never even heard of Arches National Monument.

The Master Plan has been fulfilled. Where once a few adventurous people came on weekends to camp for a night or two and enjoy a taste of the primitive and remote, you will now find serpentine streams of baroque automobiles pouring in and out, all through the spring and summer, in numbers that would have seemed fantastic when I worked there: from 3,000 to 30,000 to 300,000 per year, the “visitation,” as they call it, mounts ever upward.

Progress has come at last to Arches, after a million years of neglect. Industrial Tourism has arrived.

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968)

“In 2010, the park received over one million visitors.”

Arches is magnificent and should be on any list of must-see national parks.

NewMexiKen photo, 2010

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Oklahoma)

. . . was authorized on this date in 1996. It is one of three National Park Service sites in Oklahoma.

Washita

The site protects and interprets the setting along the Washita River where Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th U.S. Cavalry on a surprise dawn attack against the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle on November 27, 1868. The attack was an important event in the tragic clash of cultures of the Indian Wars era.

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site


Korean War Veterans Memorial (Washington, D.C.)

… was authorized 28 years ago today (October 28, 1986).

Korean War Veterans Memorial

“Freedom is not free.” Here, one finds the expression of American gratitude to those who restored freedom to South Korea. Nineteen stainless steel sculptures stand silently under the watchful eye of a sea of faces upon a granite wall—reminders of the human cost of defending freedom. These elements all bear witness to the patriotism, devotion to duty, and courage of Korean War veterans.

Korean War Veterans Memorial


Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (New Mexico)

… began as Gran Quivara National Monument in 1909, but evolved over the years and was renamed Salinas Pueblo Missions 26 years ago today (October 28, 1988).

Salina Pueblo Missions

Tucked away in the middle of New Mexico you’ll find Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The three sites offer a glimpse into a unique time in history. A time entrenched with cultural borrowing, conflict, and struggles. The now abandoned sites stand as reminders of the Spanish and Pueblo People’s early encounters.


Salinas Pueblo Missions is a curious park in that it is a collection of three discontinuous units, each with distinct Spanish Missions, Native American Pueblos, and a variety of other historic buildings and ruins. The park started on November 1, 1909 with the preservation of the Gran Quivira unit. This first park, Gran Quivira National Monument was joined in 1980 by the Abo and Quarai Units which were transferred to the National Park Service from New Mexico State Monuments. The two new units were combined with Gran Quivira to create Salinas National Monument, which was renamed Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in 1988.

Each of the three units would easily make an incredible National Monument on their own. For this reason it is difficult to briefly summarize the individual locations, staggering architecture, and historical significance of the three units. In light of this fact, in the following pages each unit is divided into its own section with additional pages for highlighted features, buildings, and structures.

Source: National Park Service