By Eilene Lyon
It’s been a couple weeks since my last post about National Parks and other public lands. As I mentioned before, I highly encourage you to learn more about the history of these places and the threats they face by clicking on the links below.
Let’s start with Glacier National Park (feature photo and above, 2016), which is part of a larger park called the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Why does Waterton get top billing? Because it was established first, in 1895. Glacier is America’s 10th National Park, designated on May 11, 1910. What’s missing in these pictures? Right! There aren’t any glaciers. In 1850, there were probably about 150, but only 25 are still active today – and shrinking rapidly. When will they all be gone?
We went to Montana to attend a family wedding on a homestead just west of the park. Yep. People still live on homesteads, and they are very remote. There is no electricity and no cell phone service. You’ve got to be made of stern stuff to live out there year around (maybe a little anti-social?).
Next we have the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (2016). If you’re into history, how does 54 – 40 million years ago strike you? That’s how old this volcanic lahar is at the Clarno Unit, 18 miles west of Fossil, Oregon. It’s filled with fossils of prehistoric plants and animals (look out for live ones – there are rattlesnakes!). Portions of the John Day River are also part of the monument. While you’re in eastern Oregon, you can also visit the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and get a taste of somewhat more recent history. The refuge was set aside in 1908 by President Teddy Roosevelt.
Moving on to northern California and Lava Beds National Monument (2016), established in 1925. Much of the park is designated wilderness area. If you like exploring caves, there are over 700 in the park, but get a permit first. The bats that hibernate there are not yet under threat from white-nose syndrome, but the park is cautious. The lava beds are flows from the Medicine Lake shield volcano – active for half a million years. The monument is also a cultural preserve, having several sites of historical significance from the Modoc War of 1872 – 1873.
If you don’t like the crowds at the popular parks (think Yosemite and Yellowstone), you might want to visit Movaje National Preserve (2017). This is one of my very favorite places on the planet – it’s entirely possible to explore larges section of the park and see not another human, but you stand a good chance of observing wildlife, including the threatened desert tortoise (in cooler months). There was a time when I did not appreciate the beauty of arid places, but now I’m a true desert rat! The author image below was taken at Mojave in 2008 on top of the Kelso singing dunes. (The “voice” of the dunes is definitely a baritone.) The 1.6-million acre preserve was set aside fairly recently, in 1994. You can find more Joshua trees here than in Joshua Tree National Park. There are also some interesting volcanic formations to see here.
Another out-of-the-way park, but certainly attracting a fair number of visitors, is Capitol Reef National Park in Utah (2017). This is one of the parks that was first a National Monument (est. 1937) and later became a National Park. This is one reason it’s important to protect the 1906 Antiquities Act. Some of the cultural artifacts preserved in the park are native petroglyphs, Mormon residences and orchards from the 1880s, and a pioneer register recorded in stone by 19th century travelers passing through.
In addition to the links above, information was derived from the park brochures distributed at entrances and visitor centers.