… was established 25 years ago today (1987).
This monument preserves 114,277 acres of which 109,260 acres are federal and 5,017 acres are private. El Malpais means “the badlands” but contrary to its name this unique area holds many surprises, many of which researchers are now unraveling. Volcanic features such as lava flows, cinder cones, pressure ridges and complex lava tube systems dominate the landscape. Closer inspection reveals unique ecosystems with complex relationships. Sandstone bluffs and mesas border the eastern side, providing access to vast wilderness.
For more than 10,000 years people have interacted with the El Malpais landscape. Historic and archeological sites provide reminders of past times. More than mere artifacts, these cultural resources are kept alive by the spiritual and physical presence of contemporary Indian groups, including the Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna,and Zuni, and the Ramah Navajo. These tribes continue their ancestral uses of El Malpais including gathering herbs and medicines, paying respect, and renewing ties.
Despite the harsh lava landscape throughout most of the monument, El Malpais offers an array of fascinating surprises for the naturalist. Some of the oldest Douglas Fir trees on the planet can be found in the monument as can unusual and rare forms of cave life. Lizards and snakes adapt unique colorations to blend in with the basalt lava rocks. Flora clings to life in the seams of lava cracks, while bats emerge from caves and lava tubes to begin their nightly hunt for food. While you can get acquainted with many facets of El Malpais’ natural wonders right here, experiencing them firsthand by visiting the park is by far the best.
NOTICE: All caves in El Malpais National Monument are closed to recreational use.
This closure is due to a combination of factors: The outbreak of a fungal disease killing millions of bats called White Nose Syndrome; the need to prevent continuing loss of delicate geological formations, cave ice, and sensitive biological communities; and the need to implement a cave management program to sustainably provide visitor access to caves while protecting them for future generations of Americans.
El Malpais National Monument
… was established as Colonial National Monument on this date in 1930. It became a national historical park in 1936.
On May 13, 1607, Jamestown was established as the first permanent English settlement in North America. Three cultures came together – European, Virginia Indian and African–to create a new society that would eventually seek independence from Great Britain. On October 19, 1781, American and French troops defeated the British at Yorktown in the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War.
Walk in the steps of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas where a successful English colonization of North America began. Despite early struggles to survive, the 1607 settlement evolved into a prosperous colony. As the colony expanded, the Virginia Indians were pushed out of their homeland. In 1619, the arrival of Africans was recorded, marking the origin of slavery in English North America.
Discover what it took for the United States to be independent as you explore the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Here at Yorktown, in the fall of 1781, General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s British army. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered, effectively ending the war and ensuring independence.
The Colonial Parkway is a twenty-three mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. It connects Virginia’s historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Several million travelers a year use this route to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia.
Colonial National Historical Park
… was authorized on this date in 1980.
The primary story being told at Kalaupapa National Historical Park is the forced isolation from 1866 until 1969 of people from Hawai’i afflicted with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) to the remote northern Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokai.
Two tragedies occurred on the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north shore of the island of Moloka`i; the first was the removal of indigenous people in 1865 and 1895, the second was the forced isolation of sick people to this remote place from 1866 until 1969. The removal of Hawaiians from where they had lived for 900 years cut the cultural ties and associations of generations of people with the `aina (land). The establishment of an isolation settlement, first at Kalawao and then at Kalaupapa, tore apart Hawaiian society as the kingdom, and subsequently, the territory of Hawai`i tried to control a feared disease. The impact of broken connections with the `aina and of family members “lost” to Kalaupapa are still felt in Hawai`i today.
In the late 1940′s with the discovery of sulfone drugs, some of the physical barriers between patients and non-patients were removed and a number of entertainers visited Kalaupapa, including Shirley Temple, John Wayne, the Trapp Family Singers, Red Skelton, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
… was renamed and redesignated on December 19, 1980. It had been a national monument since March 11, 1907.
For all the wild beauty of Chaco Canyon’s high-desert landscape, its long winters, short growing seasons, and marginal rainfall create an unlikely place for a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture to take root and flourish. Yet this valley was the center of a thriving culture a thousand years ago. The monumental scale of its architecture, the complexity of its community life, the high level of its community social organization, and its far-reaching commerce created a cultural vision unlike any other seen before or since.
The cultural flowering of the Chacoan people began in the mid 800s and lasted more than 300 years. We can see it clearly in the grand scale of the architecture. Using masonry techniques unique for their time, they constructed massive stone buildings (Great Houses) of multiple stories containing hundreds of rooms much larger than any they had previously built. The buildings were planned from the start, in contrast to the usual practiced of adding rooms to existing structures as needed. Constructions on some of these buildings spanned decades and even centuries. Although each is unique, all great houses share architectural features that make them recognizable as Chacoan.
. . .
In time, the people shifted away from Chacoan ways, migrated to new areas, reorganized their world, and eventually interacted with foreign cultures. Their descendants are the modern Southwest Indians. Many Southwest Indian people look upon Chaco as an important stop along their clans’ sacred migration paths-a spiritual place to be honored and respected.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
… was authorized on this date in 2003.
Before Dr. Carter G. Woodson, there was very little accurate written history about the lives and experiences of Americans of African descent. Today a National Historic Site, Dr. Woodson’s home served as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Dr. Woodson established Negro History Week here in 1926, which we celebrate today as Black History Month.
The Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site is a new unit of the National Park Service, acquired in 2005. It is in need of rehabilitation and restoration and is closed to the public.
You can go to the house to view the façade.
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
December 19th is Woodson’s birthday. He was born in 1875 and died in 1950. The home is at 1538 9th Street NW.
… was created by presidential proclamation on December 19, 1907.
The well-preserved Lower and Upper cliff dwellings were occupied during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. The people farmed in the Salt River Valley and supplemented their diet by hunting and gathering native wildlife and plants. They were fine craftsmen, producing some of the most exquisite polychrome pottery and intricately woven textiles to be found in the Southwest. Many of these objects are on display in the Visitor Center museum.
The monument is located in the Upper Sonoran ecosystem, known primarily for its characteristic saguaro cactus. Other common plants include cholla, prickly pear, yucca, agave, ocotillo, and an amazing variety of colorful wildflowers.
For over 100 years, these ruins have been called the Tonto Cliff Dwellings. We don’t know who named them, and there is no way of knowing when they were first seen by Europeans. Cowboys, settlers, and the cavalry were probably aware of the ruins by the 1870’s, although no known documentation exists from this period.
Tonto National Monument
… was established by presidential proclamation on December 19, 1919. The ruins remain unexcavated.
Yucca House is one of the largest archeological sites in southwest Colorado, and acted as an important community center for the Ancestral Puebloan people from A.D. 1150-1300. On July 2, 1919, Henry Van Kleeck deeded 9.6 acres of land, including most of Yucca House, to the federal government. Due to its significance as an excellent example of a valley pueblo, Woodrow Wilson made Yucca House a National Monument by Presidential Proclamation on December 19, 1919.
Yucca House National Monument is one of our earliest examples of public/private stewardship of our cultural resources and will remain protected well into the future. The long-term preservation of Yucca House ensures that archeologists will be able to continue studying Ancestral Puebloan society and what caused them to migrate from this region in the late 1200s.
Yucca House National Monument
Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charles Mason rode out on what is now Sun Point in search of lost cattle 124 years ago today (1888) and found Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde. That afternoon, Richard found Spruce Tree House, and the next day, the two men discovered Square Tower House. Al Wetherill, Richard’s brother, saw Cliff Palace sometime the year before, but he did not enter the dwelling, so the credit for “discovering” the dwelling has been given to Richard Wetherill and Charles Mason.
In 1901, Richard Wetherill homesteaded land that included Pueblo Bonito, Pueblo Del Arroyo, and Chetro Ketl in what is now Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Wetherill remained in Chaco Canyon, homesteading and operating a trading post at Pueblo Bonito until his murder in 1910. Chiishch’ilin Biy, charged with the murder, served time in prison, but was released in 1914 due to poor health. Wetherill is buried in the small cemetery west of Pueblo Bonito.
NewMexiKen took the photo of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in 2006 and that of the Richard Wetherell [sic] grave marker at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in 2003. Click images for larger versions.
… was designated a National Park 41 years ago today (1971). It had been a national monument since 1937.
The Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth’s crust known as a monocline, extends from nearby Thousand Lakes Mountain to the Colorado River (now Lake Powell). Capitol Reef National Park was established to protect this grand and colorful geologic feature, as well as the unique natural and cultural history found in the area.
Capitol Reef National Park
… was so designated on this date in 1919. It is one of five National Park Service sites in Nebraska.
Towering eight hundred feet above the North Platte River, Scotts Bluff has been a natural landmark for many peoples, and it served as the path marker for those on the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express Trails.
Scotts Bluff National Monument preserves 3,000 acres of unusual land formations which rise over the otherwise flat prairieland below.
From various tribes of Native Americans living and travelling through the area to our modern towns with populations made of many different cultures, Scotts Bluff has served as a landmark for a huge diversity of peoples.
Although earlier people did not leave very much that shows what the bluffs meant to them, evidence shows they did camp at the foot of the bluff. On the other hand, the westward emigrants of the 19th century often mentioned Scotts Bluff in their diaries and journals. In fact, it was the second most referred to landmark on the Oregon, Mormon and California trails after Chimney Rock. Over 250,000 people made their way through the area between 1843 and 1869, often pausing in wonder to see such a natural marvel and many remembered it long after their journeys were over.
Scotts Bluff National Monument