Seven new national parks in Alaska were established on this day in 1980. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act extended varying degrees of protection to over 157 million acres of public lands, doubling the size of the national park system. From ice-covered peaks to turquoise fjords, countless glaciers, forests, tundra, rivers and wildlife were added to the state’s conservation jewels. A lifetime of exploring and a heart the size of Denali are not enough to fully appreciate the wonders found on these lands and waters. Photo of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service.
The sunset brings vibrant orange hues over Skyline Arch and fills spectators with a resounding sense of awe. When visiting Arches National Park in Utah, try camping with family or friends in Devil’s Garden Campground. From there, take the short hike up behind Skyline Arch. Experiencing the sunset from this vantage point promises some of the best evening light and can be a dream scenario for photographers. Photo by Nina Mayer Ritchie (www.sharetheexperience.org).
World-renowned for photography and climbing opportunities, the majestic Fisher Towers in Utah rise above the valley like red castle spires. Maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, a National Recreation Trail wraps around the base of the towers and gives visitors fantastic views of the Colorado River Valley. The tallest rock formation, “The Titan,” towers 700 feet above the surrounding landscape and is the tallest rock tower in the United States. Photo by Steven Luther (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Sunrise over Badlands National Park in South Dakota reveals a landscape of grassy prairies and rugged rock formations. The rock layers testify to tens of millions of years of deposition – when tiny grains of sediments such as sand, silt and clay are cemented together into rock. Different environments – sea, tropical land and open woodland with meandering rivers – caused different sediments to accumulate here at different times. About half a million years ago, the process reversed itself and now water and wind erode the rocks, leaving behind this jagged silhouette and its embedded fossil treasures. Photo by National Park Service.
There is so much to discover on public lands. Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is the second largest wilderness area in Arizona. A campaign by the Arizona Boy Scouts helped establish the refuge in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. The refuge’s name – Kofa – comes from an acronym for one of the area’s most notable mines, the King of Arizona gold mine. Photo by Rebecca Wilks (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Follow the creek decorated with Indian paintbrush up through Charon’s Garden Wilderness at Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. The refuge has over 15 miles of trails – taking you through scenic rocky outcrops, beautiful mixed-grass prairie and scrub oak forest. With 8,570 acres of designated wilderness, the refuge offers backcountry camping by permit in certain portions of the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area. Photo by Steven Hunter (www.sharetheexperience.org)
Stretching almost 500 miles along the crest of the Appalachian mountains through North Carolina and Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States. Stretching far off its shoulders, the park protects a continuous series of panoramic views, excellent habitat for plants and wildlife, and encompasses some of the oldest settlements of both Native Americans and early European settlement. Those are just a few reasons why it’s known as one of the best drives in the world. Photo by Norman Lathrop (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The ‘Ōhiʻa (pronounced oh-hee-yah), is a small flowering tree with incredible cultural and ecological importance to Hawaii. Once lava cools — before any other life can return — the ‘Ōhiʻa tree grows. It is the lone voyager. It’s bright red blossoms and green leaves can be seen dotting barren lava fields across the big island of Hawaii. Without the ʻŌhiʻa to help bring life back to the land, the cycle of creation after a lava flow would be disrupted. Unfortunately, ʻŌhiʻa are facing an invasive fungal pathogen and we need help identifying it and protecting this important tree. Photo courtesy of J. B. Friday.