Posts Tagged ‘national parks’

6 Things: Our National Parks

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

There’s hardly an American tradition more venerable than a long, hot road trip to one of our national parks. Families have been experiencing the wonders of the natural world this way since Yosemite was designated as the world’s first national park in 1906. Since the weather’s getting a bit cool for hiking in the mountains, today we’ll take an armchair tour of our nation’s natural treasures.

Yosemite Falls over Merced River. Photo: Anton Foltin

Yosemite Falls over Merced River. Photo: Anton Foltin

Read: How people are working to preserve the natural soundscapes in our national parks, from Smithsonian Magazine.

Hear: American Favorite Ballads, including Shenandoah, Home on the Range, and This Land is Your Land,performed by Pete Seeger, from Smithsonian Folkways.

Watch: Excerpts from the new Ken Burns documentary – The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. From PBS.

Eat and Drink: Did you know that you can bring your own picnic to the National Zoological Park? BTW, no feeding the animals!

Check out: Excavations by geologists in our national parks (and elsewhere) have unearthed much about prehistoric climate change. Our interactive online program teaches you how to use 55 million-year-old leaves to gauge temperature change, from Smithsonian Education.

Go: Now is a great time to book a journey to our National Parks, including our new America’s National Parks tour, a journey through 5 breathtaking National Parks in one phenomenal vacation.

What’s your favorite National Park? Please share.

Geysers on Earth… and Other Far Away Places

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
A  geyser erupts against a background of snow. Photograph by JR Douglass, National Park Service

A geyser erupts against a background of snow. Photo: JR Douglass, National Park Service

Yellowstone National Park is known around the world for its amazing geysers. Although geysers can also be found in Russia, Chile, New Zealand and Iceland,  Yellowstone is special because it has the largest concentration of geysers on the planet. With between 300-500 active geysers, as well as the renowned Old Faithful, Yellowstone is home to half of the world’s geysers. It’s a fairly rare phenomenon here on Earth.

But did you know there are geysers in our solar system too?

A geyser is a spring characterized by temporary releases of steam and water, which are ejected turbulently. Geysers on Earth eject water, but on some moons in our outer solar system, geysers release carbon dioxide or nitrogen. Space geysers are also easier to see because of low ambient pressure and  because their eruptions don’t include liquid, but rather dust and ice that are carried by the gas.Neptune’s moon Triton emits nitrogen from its geysers. When the nitrogen is released, it can eject the material almost 5 miles high and be carried by winds for almost 90 miles. Water vapor jets have also been observed on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. Closer to home are the carbon dioxide geysers near the south polar ice cap of Mars.

But it is nice to know you don’t have to go that far to see a geyser. And that’s one of the many beautiful things about Old Faithful.

Have you seen geysers in other places besides Yellowstone? Share Below.

Watch Old Faithful perform surrounded by snow on our Winter Wildlife in Yellowstone tour.

 

An Unlikely Survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Comanche, the only U.S. Army survivor in the Battle of Little Bighorn, photographed in 1887

Comanche, the only U.S. Army survivor in the Battle of Little Bighorn, photographed in 1887

There were many notable characters that history has documented from the Battle of Little Bighorn.

First, there was the notorious Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, a former Civil War hero with an ego and recklessness that led him and his men to complete defeat in Montana. As the military leader of the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary, he led 263 soldiers and various personnel into Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne territory on June 25, 1876, with tragic results.

Then there was Crazy Horse, a well-respected Oglala Lakota warrior who was instrumental in the defeat of Custer. He led a surprise attack with more than 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne fighters against Brigadier General George Crook’s own force of 1,000 and his allied crew of 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors. This separate conflict, called the Battle of the Rosebud, meant that Crook could not join the 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn and left Custer without enough men. The result was only one survivor.

The only survivor of the U.S. 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn was actually a horse of mustang lineage named Comanche. A burial party that was investigating the site two days later found the severely wounded horse. He was then sent to Fort Lincoln, 950 miles away, to spend the next year recuperating from his injuries. Even though the horse remained with the 7th Calvary, it was ordered that he never be ridden again and be formally excused from all duties. The horse’s primary responsibility going forward was at formal military functions where he was draped in black, with stirrups and boots reversed, at the head of the Regiment.

Comanche eventually died at the age of 29 of colic on November 7, 1891. The officers of the 7th Calvary wanted to preserve the horse, so after the taxidermist completed the project, Comanche was put on display in the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

Today, you can visit Comanche at Dyche Hall at the University of Kansas. The Museum of Natural History at the University now keeps him on display to the public in a  humidity controlled glass case.

Who is your favorite famous horse from history? Share Below.

Travel Hit List: Our National Parks

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

There’s hardly an American tradition more venerable than a long, hot road trip to one of our national parks. Families have been experiencing the wonders of the natural world this way since Yosemite was designated as the world’s first national park in 1906. Since the weather’s getting a bit cool for hiking in the mountains, today we’ll take an armchair tour of our nation’s natural treasures.

Yosemite Falls over Merced River. Photo: Anton Foltin

Yosemite Falls over Merced River. Photo: Anton Foltin

Read: How people are working to preserve the natural soundscapes in our national parks from Smithsonian Magazine.

Hear: American Favorite Ballads, including Shenandoah, Home on the Range, and This Land is Your Land, performed by Pete Seeger from Smithsonian Folkways.

Watch: Excerpts from the new Ken Burns documentary – The National Parks: America’s Best Idea from PBS.

Eat and Drink: Did you know that you can bring your own picnic to the National Zoological Park? BTW, no feeding the animals!

Check out: Excavations by geologists in our national parks (and elsewhere) have unearthed much about prehistoric climate change. Our interactive online program teaches you how to use 55 million-year-old leaves to gauge temperature change, from Smithsonian Education.

Go: Now is a great time to book a journey to our National Parks.

What’s your favorite childhood memory in a National Park or other protected area? Share below.

World Heritage: Grand Canyon National Park

Monday, November 16th, 2009

In a country with such natural beauty and diversity it is no wonder that three U.S. National Parks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park, one of the world’s earliest, was designated as such in 1919 and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

A 1938 poster advertising travel to the Grand Canyon. Image: Library of Congress.

A 1938 poster depicting the Grand Canyon. Image: Library of Congress.

The Grand Canyon National Park boasts stunning vistas that even the best photographs can’t adequately capture. About the size of Delaware, but located in Arizona, the park is big enough to contain exposed rock that as old as two billion years and has enough diverse microclimates that people can be hiking through snowdrifts and sunbathing on the river bank on the same day.

John Wesley Powell is credited with leading the first passage through the Grand Canyon in 1869 on the Powell Geographic Expedition. Powell, a U.S. soldier and trained geologist, explored the Colorado River and the surrounding areas, gathering information and providing recommendations to developers back east. The extremely rugged and remote landscape of the area prevented major agricultural development, but made it a top-notch destination for intrepid outdoor explorers and athletes. Even so, only 3.3 percent of the terrain has been surveyed by archeologists, who continue to look for more evidence from groups who once inhabited the area. Carbon dating indicates that some artifacts found there date from as far back as 2900 B.C. It is thought that people have lived in the area for at least 8,000 years.

The Havasupai, who are native to the area, continue to live there in Supai village and the surrounding lands; their rock art decorates the nearby cliffs. Today, the park hosts more than four million tourists each year, who walk the trails, climb the cliffs, photograph the scenery, row the river, explore by helicopter, and revel in the grandeur of the Canyon.

What’s your favorite National Park and why? Share below.

Take your family to the Grand Canyon this summer. Join us in June 2010 for an exploration of the park.

Smithsonian Journeys also travels to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Big Bend, and Glacier National Parks. Click  for details.

There is a new mini-series on PBS by Ken Burns about our National Parks. Click to learn more.