Homestead National Monument of America (Nebraska)

… was authorized on this date in 1936. The park includes the 160-acre claim filed by Daniel Freeman under The Homestead Act of 1862. It is one of five National Park Service Units in Nebraska.

It is the purpose of our government “to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.” President Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1861.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed nearly any man or woman a “fair chance.” Homestead National Monument of America, located in Southeast Nebraska, commemorates this Act and the far-reaching effects it had upon the landscape and people.


One of the first people to file a claim under the Homestead Act of 1862 was Daniel Freeman. The site of his claim is now the site of Homestead National Monument of America. This site commemorates the lives and accomplishments of all pioneers and the changes brought about by the Homestead Act. Legend has it that Daniel Freeman filed his claim 10 minutes after midnight at the Land Office in Brownville, NE on January 1, 1863, the first day the Homestead Act went into effect.

Homestead National Monument of America


Zion National Monument (Utah)

… was proclaimed on this date in 1918. It incorporated Mukuntuweap National Monument. On November 19, 1919, Zion National Monument became Zion National Park.

NewMexiKen photo 2005. Click for larger version.

NewMexiKen photo 2005. Click for larger version.

Massive canyon walls ascend toward a brilliant blue sky. To experience Zion, you need to walk among the towering cliffs, or challenge your courage in a small narrow canyon. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons.


Immutable yet ever changing, the cliffs of Zion stand resolute, a glowing presence in late day, a wild calm. Melodies of waters soothe desert-parched ears, streams twinkle over stone, wren song cascades from red rock cliffs, cottonwood leaves jitter on the breeze. But when lightning flashes water falls erupt from dry cliffs, and floods flash down waterless canyons exploding log jams, hurling boulders, croaking wild joyousness, and dancing stone and water and time. Zion is alive with movement, a river of life always here and always changing.

Everything in Zion takes life from the Virgin River’s scarce desert waters. Water flows, and solid rock melts into cliffs and towers. Landscape changes as canyons deepen to create forested highlands and lowland deserts. A ribbon of green marks the river’s course as diverse plants and animals take shelter and thrive in this canyon oasis. From the beginning people sought this place, this sanctuary in the desert’s dry reaches. The very name Zion, a Hebrew word for refuge, evokes its significance.

Zion National Park

NewMexiKen photo, 2005. Click image for larger version.


Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Colorado)

… was authorized as a national monument on this date in 1933. It became a national park in 1999.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.


The Black Canyon stretches far beyond the 14 miles within the national park. Including the canyon within Curecanti National Recreation Area and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, the total length is 53 miles.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

… was authorized by legislation on this date in 1899. It is the fifth oldest of the National Parks, after Yellowstone, Yosemite,, Sequoia, and General Grant (now Kings Canyon).

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park encompasses 235,625 acres on the west-side of the Cascade Range, and is located about 100 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. Mount Rainier National Park is approximately 97 percent wilderness and 3 percent National Historic Landmark District and receives approximately 2 million visitors per year.

At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the most prominent peak in the Cascade Range. It dominates the landscape of a large part of western Washington State. The mountain stands nearly three miles higher than the lowlands to the west and one and one-half miles higher than the adjacent mountains. It is an active volcano that last erupted approximately 150 years ago. The park contains 25 named glaciers across 9 major watersheds, with 382 lakes and 470 rivers and streams and over 3,000 acres of other wetland types.

Mount Rainier National Park


Casa Grande Ruin Reservation (Arizona)

… was authorized on this date in 1889. It was designated Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in 1918.

Casa Grande

For over a thousand years, prehistoric farmers inhabited much of the present-day state of Arizona. When the first Europeans arrived, all that remained of this ancient culture were the ruins of villages, irrigation canals and various artifacts. Among these ruins is the Casa Grande, or “Big House,” one of the largest and most mysterious prehistoric structures ever built in North America. Casa Grande Ruins, the nation’s first archeological preserve, protects the Casa Grande and other archeological sites within its boundaries. You are invited to see the Casa Grande and to hear the story of the ancient ones the Akimel O’otham call the Hohokam, “those who are gone.”


The Casa Grande was abandoned around 1450 C.E. Since the ancient Sonoran Desert people who built it left no written language behind, written historic accounts of the Casa Grande begin with the journal entries of Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino when he visited the ruins in 1694. In his description of the large ancient structure before him, he wrote the words “casa grande” (or “great house”) which are still used today.
. . .

[S]everal influential Bostonians urged Massachusetts Senator George F. Hoar to present a petition before the U. S. Senate in 1889 requesting that the government take steps to repair and protect the ruins. Repair work began the following year, and in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison set aside one square mile of Arizona Territory surrounding the Casa Grande Ruins as the first prehistoric and cultural reserve established in the United States.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

The cover was completed in 1932.


Yellowstone National Park

AN ACT to set apart a certain tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River as a public park.

Yellowstone Act

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the tract of land in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River . . . is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; and all persons who shall locate or settle upon or occupy the same, or any part thereof, except as hereinafter provided, shall be considered trespassers and removed therefrom.

SEC 2. That said public park shall be under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior, whose duty it shall be, as soon as practicable, to make and publish such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary or proper for the care and management of the same. Such regulations shall provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.

. . .

s / Ulysses S. Grant, March 1, 1872

Thomas Moran, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1872.

Thomas Moran, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1872.


Death Valley (California)

… was proclaimed a national monument on this date in 1933. It became a national park in 1994.

Death Valley

In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.


On any given summer day, the valley floor shimmers silently in the heat. For five months of the year unmerciful heat dominates the scene, and for the next seven the heat releases its grip only slightly. Rain rarely gets past the guardian mountains, but the little rain that does fall is the life force of the wildflowers that transform the desert into a vast garden.

Despite the harshness and severity of the environment, more than 1000 kinds of plants live within the park. Those on the valley floor have adapted to a desert life by a variety of means. Some have roots that go down 10 times the height of a person. Some plants have a root system that lies just below the surface but extends out in all directions. Others have leaves and stems that allow very little evaporation and loss of life giving water.

Death Valley National Park