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

Aztec Ruins National Monument (New Mexico)

… was proclaimed 92 years ago today (1923).

Aztec Ruins

Around 1100 A.D. ancient peoples embarked on an ambitious building project along the Animas River in northwestern New Mexico. Work gangs excavated, filled, and leveled more than two and a half acres of land. Masons laid out sandstone blocks in intricate patterns to form massive stone walls. Wood-workers cut and carried heavy log beams from mountain forests tens of miles away. In less than three decades they built a monumental “great house” three-stories high, longer than a football field, with perhaps 500-rooms including a ceremonial “great kiva” over 41-feet in diameter.

A short trail winds through this massive site offering a surprisingly intimate experience. Along the way visitors discover roofs built 880 years ago, original plaster walls, a reed mat left by the inhabitants, intriguing “T” shaped doorways, provocative north-facing corner doors, and more. The trail culminates with the reconstructed great kiva, a building that inherently inspires contemplation, wonder, and an ancient sense of sacredness.


Ancestral Puebloans related to those from the Chaco region farther south built an extensive community at this site beginning in the late 1000s A.D. Over the course of two centuries, the people built several multi-story structures called “great houses,” small residential pueblos, tri-wall kivas, great kivas, road segments, middens, and earthworks. The West Ruin, the remains of the largest structure that they built and which has since been partially excavated, had at least 450 interconnected rooms built around an open plaza. Several rooms contain the original wood used to build the roof. After living in the area about 200 years, the people left at about 1300 A.D.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument (Nebraska)

… was so designated on this date in 1919. It is one of five National Park Service sites in Nebraska.

ScottsBluff

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