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

… was authorized 29 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

Today’s Photos

You think that Autumns in New England
Are the greatest of them all.
But give me sweet Virginia for the fireworks of Fall.
The prettiest October in all the fifty states.
Just drive up to the Skyline,
Park the car and wait.

Eddie from Ohio, “Old Dominion”

Alas, the color was not yet its best October 16th, the day I visited. Pretty, still.

Taken with iPhone 6 Plus, Shenandoah National Park (Skyline Drive). Click for larger versions.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Ninety-two years ago today President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation creating Carlsbad Cave National Monument and its “extraordinary proportions and… unusual beauty and variety of natural decoration…” It became a national park in 1930.

Carlsbad Caverns

As you pass through the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas—filled with prickly pear, chollas, sotols and agaves—you might never guess there are more than 300 known caves beneath the surface. The park contains 113 of these caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, creating some of the largest caves in North America.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the Guadalupe Mountains, a mountain range that runs from west Texas into southeastern New Mexico. Elevations within the park rise from 3,595 feet (1,095 meters) in the lowlands to 6,520 feet (1,987 meters) atop the escarpment. Although there are scattered woodlands in higher elevations, the park is primarily a variety of grassland and desert shrubland habitats.

The Chihuahuan Desert is the largest and wettest of the North American deserts. Most of the desert is in Mexico, but the park is one of the few places where the desert is preserved and protected. The park averages more than 14.4 in (36.6 cm) of annual precipitation and has a semi-arid, continental climate with mild winters, warm summers with plenty of rain. The average annual temperature is 63F (19C).

The park supports a diverse ecosystem, including habitat for many plants and animals that are at the geographic limits of their ranges. For example, the ponderosa pine reaches its extreme eastern limit here and several species of reptiles are at the edges of their distributions.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Effigy Mounds National Monument (Iowa)

. . . was proclaimed on October 25th, 1949. It is one of two National Park Service sites in Iowa (the other being Herbert Hoover National Historic Site).

Effigy Mounds

The mounds preserved here are considered sacred by many Americans, especially the Monument’s 20 culturally associated American Indian tribes. A visit offers opportunities to contemplate the meanings of the mounds and the people who built them. The 200 plus American Indian mounds are located in one of the most picturesque sections of the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

The Late Woodland Period (1400-750 B.P.) along the Upper Mississippi River and extending east to Lake Michigan is associated with the culture known today as the Effigy Moundbuilders. The construction of effigy mounds was a regional cultural phenomenon. Mounds of earth in the shapes of birds, bear, deer, bison, lynx, turtle, panther or water spirit are the most common images. Like earlier groups, the Effigy Moundbuilders continued to build conical mounds for burial purposes, but their burial sites lacked the trade goods of the preceding Middle Woodland Culture. The Effigy Moundbuilders also built linear or long rectangular mounds that were used for ceremonial purposes that remain a mystery. Some archeologists believe they were built to mark celestial events or seasonal observances. Others speculate they were constructed as territorial markers or as boundaries between groups.

The animal-shaped mounds remain the symbol of the Effigy Mounds Culture. Along the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa and across the river in southwest Wisconsin, two major animal mound shapes seem to prevail: the bear and the bird. Near Lakes Michigan and Winnebago, water spirit earthworks—historically called turtle and panther mounds—are more common.

National Park Service

Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower a national monument 109 years ago today. It was the first landmark set aside under the Antiquities Act.


The nearly vertical monolith known as Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet above the meandering Belle Fourche River. Once hidden below the earth’s surface, erosion has stripped away the softer rock layers revealing Devils Tower.

Known by several northern plains tribes as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site of worship for many American Indians. The rolling hills of this 1,347 acre park are covered with pine forests, deciduous woodlands, and prairie grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife are abundant.

According to research conducted by the National Park Service, several historic documents recount the names “Bear Lodge,” “Bears Lodge,” and “Mato Teepee” were the names assigned to the Tower on most maps, with few exceptions, between 1874 and 1901. In 1875 Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dodge escorted the scientific expedition of geologist Walter P. Jenney though the Black Hills to determine the truth of rumors of gold initiated by General George Armstrong Custer the previous year. Dodge wrote in his 1875 journal, “The Indians call this shaft ‘The Bad God’s Tower,’ a name adopted, with proper modifications, by our surveyors.” It is speculated that a guide for Lt. Dodge was the source of this translation, and “Bear Lodge” may have been mistakenly interpreted as “Bad God’s.” As a result, “Bad God’s Tower” then became “Devils Tower.” The name “Devils Tower” was applied to maps of that era, and subsequently was used in the name of the national monument when it was proclaimed in 1906.

Source: National Park Service

NewMexiKen, who has circumnavigated Devils Tower, thinks it should be renamed Bears Lodge.

Roosevelt added several more monuments after Devils Tower, including El Morro, Montezuma Castle, Petrified Forest, and Chaco Canyon within the first year of the Act.

Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected: Provided, That when such objects are situated upon a tract covered by a bona fied unperfected claim or held in private ownership, the tract, or so much thereof as may be necessary for the proper care and management of the object, may be relinquished to the Government, and the Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to accept the relinquishment of such tracts in behalf of the Government of the United States.

Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

… was established on this date 51 years ago (September 12, 1964).


Canyonlands invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

The foundation of Canyonlands’ desert ecology is its remarkable geology, which is visible everywhere in rocky cliffs that reveal millions of years of deposition and erosion. These rock layers continue to shape life in Canyonlands today, as patterns of erosion influence soil chemistry and where water flows when it rains.

Known as a “high desert,” with elevations ranging from 3,700 to 7,200 feet above sea level, Canyonlands experiences very hot summers and cold winters, and receives less than ten inches of rain each year. Even on a daily basis, temperatures may fluctuate as much as 50 degrees.

National parks preserve some of the darkest skies in the country. In some areas, it’s possible to see up to 15,000 stars throughout the night. By contrast, city dwellers may see fewer than 500 stars at night. Night skies at Canyonlands are so pristine that the International Dark-Sky Association designated Canyonlands as a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park in 2015. Canyonlands joins three other national parks in southern Utah with the International Dark Sky Park designation.

Canyonlands National Park