Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

… was so designated 96 years ago today (February 26, 1919).

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is more than a great chasm carved over millennia through the rocks of the Colorado Plateau. It is more than an awe-inspiring view. It is more than a pleasuring ground for those who explore the roads, hike the trails, or float the currents of the turbulent Colorado River.

This canyon is a gift that transcends what we experience. Its beauty and size humble us. Its timelessness provokes a comparison to our short existence. In its vast spaces we may find solace from our hectic lives. The Grand Canyon we visit today is a gift from past generations.

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

… was so designated on this date in 1929.

Grand Teton

Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park protects spectacular mountain scenery and a diverse collection of wildlife. The central feature of the park — the Teton Range — is a 40-mile-long mountain front rising from the valley floor some 6,000 feet. The towering Tetons were formed from earthquakes that occurred over the past 13 million years along a fault line. The jagged range includes its signature peak — Grand Teton, 13,770 feet (4,198 m) — and at least twelve pinnacles over 12,000 feet (3,658 m). Seven morainal lakes adorn the base of the range, and more than 100 alpine lakes dot the backcountry.

Elk, moose, mule deer, bison and pronghorn, are commonly found in the park. Black bears roam the forests and canyons, while grizzlies range throughout more remote portions of the park. More than 300 species of birds can be observed, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons and trumpeter swans.

Grand Teton National Park

Lafayette National Park (Maine)

… was designated on this date in 1919. It became Acadia National Park in 1929.

Acadia

Located on the rugged coast of Maine, Acadia National Park encompasses over 47,000 acres of granite-domed mountains, woodlands, lakes and ponds, and ocean shoreline. Such diverse habitats create striking scenery and make the park a haven for wildlife and plants.

Entwined with the natural diversity of Acadia is the story of people. Evidence suggests native people first lived here at least 5,000 years ago. Subsequent centuries brought explorers from far lands, settlers of European descent, and, arising directly from the beauty of the landscape, tourism and preservation.

Attracted by the paintings and written works of the “rusticators,” artists who portrayed the beauty of Mount Desert Island in their works, the affluent of the turn of the century flocked to the area. Though they came in search of social and recreational activities, these early conservationists had much to do with preserving the landscape we know today. George B. Dorr, the park’s first superintendent, came from this social strata. He devoted 43 years of his life, energy, and family fortune to preserving the Acadia landscape. Thanks to the foresight of Dorr and others like him, Acadia became the first national park established east of the Mississippi.

Acadia National Park

Mount McKinley National Park (Alaska)

… now Denali National Park & Preserve, was established 98 years ago today (February 26, 1917).

Denali

Denali is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, 20,320′ Mount McKinley. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await.

Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)

Vicksburg

Vicksburg National Military Park was established on February 21, 1899, to protect areas associated with the siege and defense of Vicksburg, Mississippi, which pitted Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant against the defending Confederate forces commanded by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton. With the capture of New Orleans by Union Admiral David Farragut and Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler on May 1, 1862, the heavily fortified Confederate position at Vicksburg posed the most significant remaining obstacle to complete Union control of the Mississippi River. The Union effort to take Vicksburg and neutralize its gun batteries began in May 1862 with a series of unsuccessful naval attacks led by Farragut and ended with Grant’s climactic siege of the city, which surrendered to Union forces on July 4, 1863.


The Union siege lines and Confederate defensive lines were marked during the first decade of the 20th century by many of the veterans who fought at Vicksburg, thus making Vicksburg National Military Park one of the most accurately marked military parks in the world.

Vicksburg National Military Park