Just because we rarely feature national fish hatcheries doesn’t mean they’re not important. Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington produces millions of upriver bright and Chinook salmon that are a vital part of the environment and economy of the area. Visitors to the hatchery can learn all about its operations and history, as well as try to catch their own fish in Drano Lake (be sure to follow state regulations). Challenging whitewater for expert kayakers is another available thrill. If that’s too much excitement for you, just relax by the clear waters and enjoy a beautiful fall day. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
From mountaintops to underground caves, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park encourages discovery. Located at the junction of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, Cumberland Gap was the first gateway to the West and helps tell the stories of Native Americans, pioneers, Civil War soldiers and mountain communities. With historic buildings scattered among the forested mountains, it’s easy to feel like you’re going back in time. Visit in the autumn for spectacular fall colors. Photo by National Park Service.
Visitors to City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho often get really into geology. With classic examples of features like tafoni, panholes, xenoliths and intrusions, the park makes an excellent outdoor classroom. But if you don’t find the rocks that fascinating, you can still enjoy the natural beauty of this rugged landscape. Photo by National Park Service.
One of the most daunting tasks facing visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Wildflowers and forests? Endless mountain views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. If you haven’t hiked much recently, be cautious. Five miles roundtrip is a good maximum distance for novices. Just remember to take plenty of water and your sense of adventure, and don’t forget to tell someone where you’re heading. Photo by Stavros Mitchelides (www.sharetheexperience.org).
If patience was a plant, it would be a Bristlecone pine. Cautiously growing in the harsh terrain of Great Basin National Park in Nevada, these amazing trees can grow to be more than 5,000 years old. Gnarled, twisted and scattered in groves on rocky ground, Bristlecone pines make excellent subjects for photos, especially with a night sky or sunset backdrop. Photo by Thomas Sikora (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Colorful and bold, the sandstone cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan tower 50-200 feet directly above the dynamic waters of Lake Superior. Wind and water carved the stone into unique shapes. Chapel Rock is a favorite destination for visitors, who enjoy the nearby beach and taking photos of this interesting formation topped by a tree. Photo by Viktor Posnov (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Born in the Appalachian Mountains, the New River flows north through several states before joining the Ohio River system, then the Mississippi River and finally the Gulf of Mexico. In West Virginia, it tumbles through the wide valley of New River Gorge – an area rich in natural and cultural history. 70,000 acres of this forested valley are protected as New River Gorge National River, where people and wildlife can enjoy the endless natural splendor. Photo by Richard Burgess (www.sharetheexperience.org).