Posts Tagged ‘national parks’

World Heritage: Yosemite National Park

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
View of Yosemite's Upper and Lower Falls. Photo: April Dennard, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

View of Yosemite’s Upper and Lower Falls. Photo: April Dennard, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

In a country with such natural beauty and diversity it is no wonder that three US National Parks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon National Parks attract visitors from the world over to see their active geysers, white-topped mountains, and flowing rivers.  Yosemite, the world’s first national park, was designated as such in 1906 and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Located in east-central California, the Yosemite area was home to indigenous Paiute, Sierra Miwok, and Ahwahneechee groups long before non-indigenous people entered the region. In the mid-19th century, the California Gold Rush attracted as many as 300,000 new people to the area and displaced the area’s original settlers. Nearly a half-century later, some of the area’s first “tourists,” James Mason Hutchings and Thomas Ayres, investigated and sketched a stunning array of geographical features and wildlife.

In 1903, the landscape seen on a camping trip with preservationist John Muir so enchanted President Theodore Roosevelt that he transferred control of the land to the federal government in order to better preserve the park’s geography, wildlife, and natural beauty. The area officially became a national park in 1906, and was the first such park in the world. Since then, more than 200 other countries have followed our example and set aside land where people can enjoy the outdoors and undisturbed natural landscapes.

In Yosemite today, spectacular granite cliffs, thundering waterfalls, clear streams, and giant Sequoia groves attract more than 3.5 million visitors annually. History and geology buffs alike may learn more about the park’s historical and geological origins at the Yosemite Museum, founded in 1926. Due to increased protection efforts, hikers, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts can continue to enjoy the park’s rich offerings for years to come.

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

Yosemite is especially beautiful in spring. Join us in May, 2010, for an exploration of the park.

Smithsonian Journeys also visits 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.

Video: Drive Through Death Valley

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Death Valley is home to a fantastic array of great hiking and driving options—its salt flats, badlands, and dramatically eroded canyons are not to be missed. The ancient sandstone, exposed by wind and weather, glows orange, yellow, and gold in the desert sun. Here, check out a lovely video on a lonely drive through death valley. Wait until the end for a beautiful sunset—thanks to YouTube user chasgti.

Intrigued by Death Valley? Hike it for yourself on our upcoming Death Valley Adventure, in March, 2010.

Where’s your favorite place to hike? Share below.

Photo: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
The Half Dome is one of the most recognized features of Yosemite National Park.

The Half Dome is one of the most recognized features of Yosemite National Park.

There are myriad reasons to visit Yosemite National Park, but the Half Dome (above) is one of our favorites. Almost 5,000 feet high, its image now graces the California state quarter. Although it was 1875 before people were able to climb the Half Dome, today, there are several trails and climbing routes to the summit. The view from the top is breathtaking, allowing hikers to see the valley floor.

Take your own hike through the Yosemite Valley and see Half Dome for yourself on our Yosemite in Spring tour.

Click here for Smithsonian’s Land Through A Lens virtual exhibit, a collection of iconic images of America’s natural beauty and a chronicle of photographers’ fascination with the land.

Click here to read more about naturalist John Muir’s love affair with Yosemite.

Which US National Park is your favorite? Share below.

Death Valley – Land of Diversity

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Fred Ackerman is Founder and Chief Shepherding Officer of Black Sheep Adventures, a multi-sport adventure tour operator based in Berkeley, California. A graduate of MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering, he found his true calling in adventure travel or as he sometimes calls it “leisure engineering.” Click here to learn more about Fred.

Hiking through Death Valley. Photo: Fred Ackerman

Hiking through Death Valley. Photo: Fred Ackerman

We’ve just concluded another successful Smithsonian Journeys walking tour in Death Valley. At the start of the trip, one of the participants shared with the group what a friend had asked her, “Why would you choose to go to Death Valley?!” All twenty of us laughed for we each knew why we were there, but each of us had a different reason.

Despite its dark and foreboding name, Death Valley offers a diverse range of attractions. First there’s its obvious appeal for those with an interest in geology. Our Study Leader, Kirt Kempter, an expert geologist, delighted us in sharing his vast knowledge of the region’s many noteworthy geological formations such as snow-capped mountains, narrow marble walled canyons, towering sand dunes, volcanic craters, and the lowest spot in the western hemispherethe salt flat at Badwater, 282 feet below sea level. Geologically the range of attractions is terrific, and there’s so much more. (more…)