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.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (New Mexico)

… was proclaimed a national monument 108 years ago today by President Theodore Roosevelt (1907).

Explore the world of ancestors of Puebloan people who lived in the Mogollon area over 700 years ago. Enter the village they built within five of the natural caves of Cliff Dweller Canyon. Become inspired by the remaining architecture. Admire the spectacular views from inside these ancient dwellings.

Within a few miles of the cliff dwellings, elevations range from around 5,700 to 7,300 feet above sea level. In the immediate vicinity of the cliff dwellings, elevations range from 5,700 to about 6,000 feet. The terrain is rugged, with steep-sided canyons cut by shallow rivers; forested with ponderosa pine, Gambel’s oak, Douglas fir, New Mexico juniper, pinon pine, and alligator juniper (among others); and usually dry. There are numerous caves in the area. There are several hot springs in the Gila National Forest and within hiking distance of the Visitor Center (there is also a privately-owned hot spring in the nearby community of Gila Hot Springs). Temperatures usually range from hot to very hot. The Visitor Center is located near the junction of the west and middle forks of the Gila River.

When visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, you’ll see corn cobs that are over 700 years old! The ancient Puebloans of the Mogollon area grew corn, beans and squash, including some varieties from Mesoamerica. This substantiates trade amongst the peoples of a large region.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Arches National Park (Utah)

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

Delicate Arch 2010, NewMexiKen photo
Delicate Arch 2010, NewMexiKen photo

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 high on any list of must-see national parks.

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Oklahoma)

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


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

November 10, 1978

… was a great day for the National Park Service and, of course, for us.

On that date President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-625, the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The bill authorized $1.2 billion for more than 100 parks, rivers and historic sites and trails.

Among the National Park Service units that associate this date with their authorization, enhancement or re-designation are:

Valles Caldera National Preserve (New Mexico)

About 1.25 million years ago, a spectacular volcanic eruption created the 13-mile wide crater-shaped landscape now known as the Valles Caldera. The preserve is known for its huge mountain meadows, abundant wildlife, and meandering streams and for preserving the homeland of ancestral native peoples and embracing a rich ranching history.

National Park Service

On October 1, the National Park Service assumed management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a 89,000 acre former ranch in the Jemez Mountains. It closed for the season the day before!

The Preserve had been under a unique trust management since it was acquired in 2000 for $101 million. In brief, it was managed by individuals who seemed to largely confuse their hired role with personal ownership. Access was severely limited and eventually the complaints led to the transfer to a presumably more public oriented Park Service.

So you can imagine how surprised we were yesterday when an un-inviting (I’m being nice) park ranger told us access was closed until May — except for the mile drive down to the visitor center. In other words, closed to general public access for seven months out of 12. Why?

These photos were taken along the short drive to hear the inexplicable bad news. Below the gallery is a description of the Valle Grande from Scott Momaday’s magnificent House Made of Dawn.

Click any image for larger versions. Note the damage from fires on the slopes.

Of all the places that he knew, this valley alone could reflect the great spatial majesty of the sky. It scooped out of the dark peaks like the well of a great, gathering storm, deep umber and blue and smoke-colored. The view across the diameter was magnificent; it was an unbelievably great expanse. As many times as he had been there in the past, each new sight of it always brought him up short, and he had to catch his breath. Just there, it seemed, a strange and brilliant light lay upon the world, and all the objects in the landscape were washed clean and set away in the distance.

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 27 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