Monthly Archives: October 2009

Grand Canyon National Park

Posted by on October 30, 2009

World Heritage Site #102: Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park: My 102nd UNESCO World Heritage Site and my 11th US National Park

From the World Heritage inscription for Grand Canyon National Park:

Carved out by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon (nearly 1,500 m deep) is the most spectacular gorge in the world. Located in the state of Arizona, it cuts across the Grand Canyon National Park. Its horizontal strata retrace the geological history of the past 2 billion years. There are also prehistoric traces of human adaptation to a particularly harsh environment.

The Grand Canyon is one of the greatest natural attractions on Earth. The colors of the rocks change color through the course of the day, culminating in a spectacular sunset.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 16, 2017 @ 5:32 pm

Yosemite National Park

Posted by on October 29, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #101: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park: My 101st UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage site for Yosemite National Park:

Yosemite National Park lies in the heart of California. With its ‘hanging’ valleys, many waterfalls, cirque lakes, polished domes, moraines and U-shaped valleys, it provides an excellent overview of all kinds of granite relief fashioned by glaciation. At 600–4,000 m, a great variety of flora and fauna can also be found here.

Yosemite is one of the major parks in the US and one of the first national parks in the US Park Service. The Yosemite valley is one of the most photographed and special places in the country. If I had to come up with a short list of places to visit in the United States, this would be near the top of the list.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 16, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

Southwestern Road Trip Update

Posted by on October 28, 2009

In the last week I’ve put on a lot of miles and seen many amazing things. The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, the Very Large Array, and the dunes of white sand desert. I’ve also been polishing off audiobooks and podcasts during the hours I’ve had to sit behind the wheel.

The trip has been satisfying but I’m getting really tired. I wake up, answer some email, get a photo ready for the day, drive several hours, take photos and find a room for the night tired from sitting all day. The thing with driving all day long is that you don’t get much exercise and most of the food options along highways aren’t very good.

Tonight I’m in Carlsbad, New Mexico where I got my oil changed and will take off tomorrow for Carlsbad Caverns. The town seems pretty empty this time of year. The motels are advertising walk-in specials and there are few cars in the parking lots.

From here I have a long drive to Dallas where I’ll be able to work for several days before heading to Florida on November 5. I have thousands of photos and stories to work on during December before I take off again and leave the US in January.

If you are in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area and would like to meet sometime next week let me know. I’ll probably be doing a formal meet up with my friend Scott Kurtz sometime next week in the Dallas area. More details to follow.

Redwood National Park

Posted by on October 28, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #100: Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park: My 100th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Redwood National Park:

Redwood National Park comprises a region of coastal mountains bordering the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. It is covered with a magnificent forest of coastal redwood trees, the tallest and most impressive trees in the world. The marine and land life are equally remarkable, in particular, the sea lions, the bald eagle and the endangered California brown pelican.

Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. I was able to see the giant eucalyptus trees of Tasmania which are almost as tall as the redwoods, but they aren’t quite as impressive because they are hardwoods and have a small trunk. In addition to Redwood State and National Parks, you can also see Redwoods as far south as San Francisco in Muir Woods. They are one of the highlights on any trip to California.

Overview

Redwood National Park

The Redwood National Park in California is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was inscribed in 1980. It was established in 1969 as a national park and is currently co-managed by the US National Park Service and California Department of Parks and Recreation. The entire park measures at 139,000 acres in land area with a little over half a million tourist visits per year.

The park belongs to two counties in California: Humboldt and Del Norte. The park’s main feature is the famous old-growth redwood trees and forest. It was established to protect the coast redwood old-growth forests, which is comprised of the tallest and largest tree species in the world.

About Redwood National Park

The Redwood National Park is one of California’s most significant protected areas. It is teeming in flora and fauna species that inhabit the park grounds. The old-growth redwood forest is the main flora species that are worked on being preserved since about 96% of them had been logged. Meanwhile, nearly half of the remaining redwoods in the world are contained within the Redwood National Park in California. The preservation of these tree species is important because they represent at least 20 million years of existence for a tree species.

Redwood National Park

Aside from the popular and ancient redwoods, there are also a variety of fauna species that inhabit the park and are also being preserved by the park management. There are a number of rare animal species that inhabit the numerous ecosystems in the park (consisting of a prairie, river, densely forested zones and seacoast). Among the animal species that call this park home include threatened species like the Steller’s sea lion, Chinook salmon and northern spotted owl. Other animal species that are protected within the park are cougars, black bears, coyotes, river otters, elks, black-tailed deers, bobcats, and beavers, among others.

What to See or Do

No matter how tall you are, you cannot help but feel tiny around the redwood trees in California’s Redwood National Park. These redwoods soar up the sky like skyscrapers. If you plan on visiting your park, there is more to do with your time than just marvel at the world’s tallest tree species.

Redwood National Park

Your first stop is the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, which is just one of five visitor centers in the park. This one is the largest though, which features various exhibits and films showcasing the history and ecology of the park. There is also a bookstore at the visitor center that you can visit to pick up some souvenirs.

Then, you can drive a few miles to the Klamath River Overlook wherein you can marvel the sight of the freshwater river joining into the Pacific Ocean. This overlook point rises up to 198 meters above the sea to provide the perfect vantage point for watching migrating gray whales and the dramatic crashing surf waves.

The next stop is the High Bluff Overlook wherein you will find picnic areas. Or, if you fancy something more adventurous, you can explore the Yurok Loop, a lovely coastal walk that takes you to the pristine Hidden Beach. Finally, take a stroll to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove loop, wherein you can be in awe beneath the towering redwoods.

Conservation and Management

Redwood National Park

The Redwood National Park is committed to preserving the redwood trees in California. The State of California partnered with the Save-the-Redwoods League in order to protect areas wherein there are concentrated redwood groves or forests. This was in the 1920s, prior to the formation of a state park system in California. By this time when the state park system was established, there were already three preserved redwood areas.

As the threat of logging continues, the effort to preserve not just the redwood trees in the park (along with its neighboring areas), but the old-growth redwood forest, were becoming more persistent. The naming of Redwood National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as an International Biosphere Reserve contributed to any ongoing efforts at preserving the forests.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: May 22, 2017 @ 6:35 pm

Olympic National Park

Posted by on October 27, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #99: Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park: My 99th UNESCO World Heritage Site and my 7th US National Park

From the World Heritage inscription for Olympic National Park:

Located in the northwest of Washington State, Olympic National Park is renowned for the diversity of its ecosystems. Glacier-clad peaks interspersed with extensive alpine meadows are surrounded by an extensive old growth forest, among which is the best example of intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest. Eleven major river systems drain the Olympic mountains, offering some of the best habitat for anadromous fish species in the country. The park also includes 100 km of wilderness coastline, the longest undeveloped coast in the contiguous United States, and is rich in native and endemic animal and plant species, including critical populations of the endangered northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet and bull trout.

I think this is one of the more underrated National Parks in the US. It is a rainforest, albeit not the tropical kind people usually think of. The mosses and the pine trees create a surreal effect when you are walking through them. It is also the location of Forks, WA which as we all know is the home of sexy vampires.

Overview

Olympic National Park

The Olympic National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and a US national park in the state of Washington. The park was established in 1938 but was designated by UNESCO in 1981. As of 2016, an average of 3.3 million tourists visit the park each year. The park is currently managed and administered by the US National Park Service.

The Olympic National Park is one of the most biological and ecologically diverse parks in the United States. It is divided into four basic regions, each recognized for its unique ecosystem: the Pacific coastline, dry forests on the east side, wet temperate rainforests on the west, and the alpine areas. Aside from these four regions, there are three distinctive ecosystems comprised within the park.

About Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Aside from being a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, Olympic National Park is also recognized by UNESCO as an International Biosphere Reserve. It was US President Franklin Roosevelt who officially designated the park in 1938.

The establishment of the park aims to preserve the natural and geologic history in this part of the Washington state. The important components of the park are discussed in more detail below:

Coastline: The Pacific Coastline comprises a large portion of the Olympic National Park. The coast is characterized by its rugged and sandy beach that is located close to a forest. The coastline measures 97 kilometers long and a few miles wide. There are also unbroken stretches of wilderness along the beach that measure around 16 to 32 kilometers each in length. The coastal strip of the park is easier to access as compared to the interior of the park, which consists of more rugged terrain.

Glaciated Mountains: The main feature of the Olympic National Park is the Olympic Mountains, to which the park is named after. Hence, no photo of the park is missing the famous mountain range. The most distinctive shot of the mountains are those that are covered by massive, ancient glaciers. The amount of snow that Mount Olympus receives is quite heavy; in fact, it receives the highest glaciation more than any non-volcanic peak.

Temperate Rainforest: The temperate rainforest ecosystem dominated the western side of the park. To be specific, it is home to the Quinault and Hoh rainforests. With an average precipitation of 150 inches, it is the wettest region in Continental United States. The coniferous trees and mosses are a common sight within the rainforests of the Olympic National Park.

Interesting Facts

Olympic National Park

  • The entire Olympic National Park measures at 922,000 acres in land area.
  • You can visit the Olympic National Park any time of the year. Depending on which season you visit, there is something unique to see in the park.
  • To make the most of the park, plan to stay and explore the park for two days. This will give you enough time to hike the forest and terrain, as well as visit the key sites such as the Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent area, and Sol Duc Hot Springs, among other things.
  • The park is home to a wide range of native and endemic species of plants and animals. A critical population of the marbled murrelet, bull trout and the northern spotted owl can be found here.
  • The hottest time of the year is from June to September. Meanwhile, it is coldest from December to February.

How to Get Here

Olympic National Park

To get to Olympic National Park, you must travel via US 101. This will take you through three sides of the Olympic Peninsula. The main visitor center and entrance to the park is through the city of Port Angeles.

If you are traveling from Seattle, you must take the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island. Once you reach the island, you must travel north via Washington 104 until you reach US 101. From there, you must travel west until you reach Port Angeles. The drive will cover 60 miles.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: May 22, 2017 @ 8:46 am

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks

Posted by on October 26, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #98: Canadian Rocky Mountian Parks

Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks: My 98th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks:

The contiguous national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, as well as the Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks, studded with mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves, form a striking mountain landscape. The Burgess Shale fossil site, well known for its fossil remains of soft-bodied marine animals, is also found there.

The Canadian Rockies are a special place. I visited Banff but would return to explore some of the other parks in a heartbeat. The above photo was taken at Lake Louise.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Mar 16, 2017 @ 8:44 pm

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Posted by on October 25, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #97: Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park: My 97th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Dinosaur Provincial Park:

In addition to its particularly beautiful scenery, Dinosaur Provincial Park – located at the heart of the province of Alberta’s badlands – contains some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made from the ‘Age of Reptiles’, in particular about 35 species of dinosaur, dating back some 75 million years.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is located in the middle of nowhere and is part of the Alberta Badlands, which is very similar to the South Dakota Badlands, but not quite as large or colorful.

Overview

Dinosaur Provincial Park

The Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada located in Calgary, Alberta. Specifically, it is located in the valley of Red Deer River. This area is notable for its badland topography and is one of the reasons why tourists are drawn to this area. Aside from that, the park is noted for being the site of the richest dinosaur fossils in the world. There are approximately 40 dinosaur species that were discovered in the location of the park. Meanwhile, over 500 specimens have been uncovered at the site and are currently exhibited in various museums all over the world.

Hence, the large assembly of dinosaur fossils, the presence of over 500 life species, and other organisms at the site have merited it being inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Dinosaur Provincial Park was inscribed in 1979 under the Natural category. It is also considered a National Monument in the province of Alberta, Canada.

About Dinosaur Provincial Park

The Dinosaur Provincial Park was established in 1955. It was the initiative of the Alberta government to establish this park in order to protect the fossil beds and other fossil remains at the site. However, it was not until 1979 when it was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its badlands that are of national significance, and the unique habitat for the various life species in the region. At the same time, the fossils that were recovered at the site are of international importance.

Prior to 1985, any fossils or remains that were found at the Dinosaur Provincial Park were shipped to other laboratories and museums all over the world. These fossils were studied and analyzed for their archaeological reasons. But since the opening of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, all of these fossils and archaeological findings were studied here.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

The entire scope of the Dinosaur Provincial Park measures at more than 73 square kilometers in land area. It is currently governed by the Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation department. It protects a highly complex ecosystem that is divided into three communities: badlands, prairies, and riverside cottonwoods. For this reason, there is also a wide range of wildlife and animal species that have formed a habitat on this site. Some of these wildlife species include coyotes, mule deer, nighthawks, cottontail rabbits, bull snakes and rattlesnakes, to name a few.

According to scientific studies, the sediments on the badlands of the park indicate that these formations have been going on in the past 2.8 million years. moreover, the different layers of sediments indicate that they comprise of three geologic formations.

Tips for Visiting

Tourists who visit the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta have a hefty list of attractions and activities to fill their time. Here are some tips to make planning your visit easier:

  • In order to preserve the park, only guided tour programs are allowed. Most of the park is restricted to visitors and are only accessible only with a certified guide.
  • There are interpretive bus and tours (as well as hiking tours) around the preserve. Make sure to book early in order to be accommodated.
  • The peak season for booking tours to the Dinosaur Provincial Park is from July to August. Keep this in mind when deciding when to go.
  • There are age restrictions to some of the tour programs offered at the park. The park staff strictly adhere to these restrictions for the safety of the visitors.
  • Pets are not allowed in the interpretive center.
  • If you are going to camp, it is important to reserve in advance. The campsites get very busy during weekends, especially in the months of June to August.
  • If you want to fully experience the park and its sights, a 2-day trip is recommended.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: May 20, 2017 @ 1:24 am

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Posted by on October 24, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #96: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump: My 96th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump:

In southwest Alberta, the remains of marked trails and an aboriginal camp, and a tumulus where vast quantities of buffalo (American Bison) skeletons can still be found are evidence of a custom practiced by aboriginal peoples of the North American plains for nearly 6,000 years. Using their excellent knowledge of the topography and of buffalo behavior, they killed their prey by chasing them over a precipice; the carcasses were later carved up in the camp below.

I didn’t know what to expect when I visited this site, but in the end, it was far more interesting than I thought it would be. Most people have an image of Indians on horseback hunting buffalo. Horses, however, weren’t introduced to the Americas until the arrival of the Europeans. Before that, they had to walk everywhere. One of the easiest ways to hunt would be to heard bison into a group and run them off a cliff. Most of the tribe would be waiting below the cliff to skin and process the bison that jumped. It was actually quite brilliant and very efficient way of providing food.

Overview

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada located in Alberta. It was inscribed in 1981 while the site was founded in 1955. It is also considered a National Monument and belongs to the list of National Historic Sites in Canada and Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites list.

This buffalo jump is located at the same spot wherein the foothills of the Rocky Mountains rise from the prairie. The buffalo jump along with the museum of Blackfoot culture in Alberta, Canada comprise the UNESCO property. Joe Crowshoe Sr. was instrumental in the preservation of this site since he has dedicated his life in preserving the Aboriginal culture, as well as the ties between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

About the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is located where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains in Alberta. It is considered as the oldest, largest and most well-preserved buffalo jump in the world. The site is also a testament to a hunting tradition in Alberta that has existed for more than 6,000 years and can be traced back to the natives that once settled in the area.

Hence, this UNESCO site is considered of important archaeological value. You will also find several remnants of a remarkable history of how the Plains people survived for several millennia. This survival can be attributed to the people and natives’ understanding of the regional topography and behavior of the bison that lived on the land. This enabled them to hunt bisons by stampeding them over a cliff.

The history of chasing bison off the cliff is considered to be a 6,000-year old practice. The researchers who worked on the site were able to scope out archaeological finds over the area covered by the UNESCO site. While the first record of history of the site was by the Europeans in the 1880s, this site was abandoned by the 19th century following contact with Europeans. The first excavations on this archaeological site were done in 1938 by the American Museum of National History. After the excavations produced evidence of prehistoric life, it was named into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

Interpretive Center and Museum

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

To help in facilitating the conservation and preservation of the archaeological site, an interpretive center and museum were built near the location of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump site. The interpretive center was opened to the public in 1987. The structure was built into the ancient sandstone cliff to make it seem naturalistic. There are five distinct levels found within the interpretive center and each level are dedicated to exploring the different aspects of the Blackfoot people that lived on the property, along with their links to the archaeological evidence found on the site. These aspects explored within the interpretive center include ecology, mythology, lifestyle and technology.

There are also educational workshops available within the center along with tipi camping. Meanwhile, there are annual events held at the site to commemorate the native festivals and events that are linked to the history and culture of the ancient Aboriginal people that called the site home. The exhibitions are available all year round. Hence, tourists who visit Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump are able to witness these exhibitions, which are collaborative works from various museums and historical societies.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: May 19, 2017 @ 10:56 pm