Tag Archives: national parks

America’s National Parks – so many places to visit!

Although it is only March, we’ve been doing some day dreaming of places to visit during the summer holidays. And where better to start thinking about where to go than some of America’s National Parks?

There are 407 areas that are managed by the National Park Service, including 59 National Parks, 78 National Historic Sites and 79 National Monuments. All these areas encompass more than 84 million acres (339,936 km2) and are in every state and overseas US Territory! They range in size from the smallest, 80 m2 at the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania to Wragell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska at 53,419 km2. The area of the United Kingdom is 243,610 km2, so the total land managed by the National Park Service is 40% more than the UK and the largest National Park is 10 times as large as Norfolk! These areas saw almost 293,000,000 visitors last year.

nat parks etc map

SOURCE: kids.britannica.com

Those of us who work at the Memorial Library have visited a few of these special places, although there are many more we’d like to see. A few of our favourites are Olympic National Park, Washington and Acadia, Maine.

Olympic, Washington:
This park has coastline, glacial mountains and alpine environments as well as the temperate rainforests that the Pacific Northwest is famous for. There are numerous endemic plants and animals and trails that can lead you to discover waterfalls, mountains and beaches.

acadiaAcadia, Maine: The Park covers most of Mount Desert Island and a few small islands off the coast of Maine. It is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River, and was once part of Acadia, a colony of New France that included parts of Canada in the 17th and early 19th century.  There is so much to do there, including kayaking in the sea or lakes, walking and cycling along the many carriageways throughout the Park. In addition to the scenery, there are historical sites and there is also really amazing local seafood in the area!

A few parks which are not as well known, but special places to visit if you can:

capitoal reef parkCapitol Reef National Park, Utah: This long and narrow Park protects the Waterpocket Fold – a 65 million years old warp in the Earth’s crust. This warp is the result of colliding continental plates and has eroded to expose millions of years of fossils and geology. There are few paved road in the Park, but there are miles of unpaved roads and trails through the incredible landscape for the more adventurous traveller. There are also numerous petroglyphs left behind by the Fremont people, who inhabited the area in 1000 CE.

kings canyon - sequoiasKings Canyon, California: This Park is often overlooked by visitors heading to its neighbouring (and better known) Parks – Yosemite, Sequoia and Death Valley. There are some spectacular canyons, including Kings Canyon – one of the deepest in the US at 2,500 m! There are also giant sequoias, rivers and exciting wildlife. John Muir, who visited in the 1870s, was struck by the similarities between the geography of Kings Canyon and Yosemite. The dramatic U-shaped valleys in both areas were carved by glaciers out of the bedrock during the last Ice Age. These areas influenced Muir’s ideas about the impact of glaciers on the Sierra Nevada landscape, which caused some controversy in geologic circles in the late 19th century as the other competing theory was that earthquakes had created the valleys and canyons.

Ofu parkNational Park of American Samoa: This is probably the hardest National Park to get to; flights to American Samoa are only 2-3 times a week from Hawaii (2,600 miles away). There is very limited tourist infrastructure in the area, so visiting takes a bit of an adventurous attitude – but can be well worth it! The Park will organise home stays with local families, who are permitted to fish in the Park. The parkland in fact belongs to local villages and is leased to the National Park Service. Many of the Park’s visitors come via cruise ship, but there are some others that are able to come and stay longer.

If you’re thinking about visiting any National Parks or travelling around the US this summer holiday (or anytime), we have many books to help you out, such as: yosemitezion et algrand canyonNPS 2NPS guide - NGacadia book

If you’d like to learn more about the experiences of a Park Rangers or the National Park System, these books are great:

hey rangerdesert solitaireseed

Have you visited any of these? Or do you have some favourite National Park places of your own? Let us know in the comments.

All photos courtesy of National Park Service (www.nps.gov)

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California Dreaming: Memorial Library Travel Section Exposes the Hidden Gems of California from Wine Country to Black Bears

This week we have a guest blog from Sarah Salmon, the Activities Coordinator at the Millennium Library. In it she details the highlights of her most recent adventure to California and all the helpful hints and tips she gained from reading some of the books in our American Travel section. Read on:

In Sarah’s words,

I like to travel and explore new places. The amazing landscapes, national parks and cities of America are favourite destinations and thanks to the collection of travel books held in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library I’ve just completed an amazing trip exploring California with my husband and parents.

NO CALIn recent years we’ve travelled to the National Parks of the South West and also New York but without the books, and staff, in the library we’d never have managed to plan such a successful trip. When we started the planning 18 months ago we knew that we wanted to visit Yosemite and San Francisco but not much more than that; but by borrowing the travel guides in the library focusing on the area, especially Eyewitness Travel: San Francisco and Northern California, we discovered that there were many more National and State Parks in the area and slowly our itinerary grew into a fabulous trip during which we saw natural and man-made wonders of the world, stayed in the heart of the wine country in a luxury hotel and then in an almost silent lodge in a National Park with hardly any visitors.

Coming from a very flat county, mostly at sea level, the scenery of Northern/Central California was amazing and the highs were many.

storm clouds over the Sierra

Ansel AdamsMy personal favorites were landscape related, for years I’ve been a fan of the photographer of Ansel Adams and so the chance to see his studio, and take a short photography course that took me to locations where some of his most famous photos were taken was a dream come true but perhaps the joy of just taking a walk and seeing bear was the true highlight…

Salmon Bear If you are planning a trip to the States I do recommend popping into the library and looking at the travel guide collection, and the travel writing books stored next to them, as they really will help you discover some hidden gems. I’m now waiting to borrow, National Geographic’s Guide to State Parks of the United States, to start planning my next adventure.

We at the Memorial Library would like to thank Sarah for her amazing blog and for telling us all about her California adventure. Sarah’s blog could not have come at a better time since next week marks the 150th anniversary of Yosemite National State Park and we will be displaying many of our books which celebrate Yosemite and American state parks in general.

If her trip has inspired you, stop by the Memorial Library to browse our extensive  travel collection. You can browse online here but here are a few to get you started.  Where would you like to go?

state parks


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Just taking the kids to the (National) Park

Lanza Kids at Glacier National Park. Photo by Michael Lanza.

Lanza Kids at Glacier National Park. Photo by Michael Lanza.

“Since we started hiking yesterday morning, other backpackers have stopped and stared at our kids, asking their ages. Alex and Nate have probably noticed that we’ve seen only a few other kids out here. But they have no grasp of the anomaly of their own presence. It would mean nothing to them to hear that I was past thirty when I first saw these mountains and walked this trail; they are Westerners, but I was a child of the East who discovered the West as an adult. They don’t yet appreciate that they are experiencing one of America’s most beloved landscapes more intimately than the vast majority of their countrymen ever will.

“But that’s the problem with mature perspective: you don’t acquire it until long after it first would have been useful.”

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA

Outdoorsman and writer Michael Lanza has hiked the American West like a teepeed nomad. He’s a kind of ranger-shaman. He knows things that a man knows only when he’s lived and stalked around outdoors like the beast Darwin says he is. Lanza knows, for instance, that “the Tetons will manhandle your psyche.” He knows the giddying company of “a bull elk standing right outside our tents in the milky glow of a full moon.” He knows five miles of “dizzying pain from a broken foot” and he knows the less temporary consequences of walking undomesticated terrain: death (what goes up must come down, and its remains be found), and loss. “Returning to ground where Rick and I stood together … I also feel his absence, like I’m in an empty room where we were supposed to meet.”

But that is all cake because over four seasons Lanza is doing it over — the Tetons, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier Bay, Joshua Tree, the Rockies, and others — with a couple of tagalongs, Nate and Alex, aged nine and seven.


Before They're Gone, by Michael LanzaThe title says it all: Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks (Beacon Press, 2012). Each chapter tells of visiting a different national park. Lanza puts you there but takes an unusual angle. He also leads you to see the world through a child’s eyes — his children are engaging co-protagonists — and to grasp from a new perspective the challenges ahead. The personal narrative is grounded by studies and reports and interviews. What you get is a boots-on-the-ground account of climate change set against the desire of every parent to fill their children’s lives with the wonders of their own.

Discover and Plan with the help of our American Travel Guides

As you begin to plan for the summer holidays, why not take a look through our collection of American travel guides? As well as covering all fifty states broadly and in depth, our collection will guide you through the hundreds of national park areas across America. Here are a couple I’ve just thumbed:

The Official Guide to America's National ParksThe Official Guide to America’s National Parks: 13th Edition (Fodors, 2009). Every year millions of people travel to cherished national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite to see some of the most stunning landscapes on Earth. Produced in cooperation with the National Park Foundation, this is the official guide to all 397 sites in the national park system, including natural, historic, and cultural treasures.  It’s invaluable as a quick reference as well as to help plan the trip of a lifetime. 

National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United StatesNational Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States: Sixth Edition (National Geographic, 2009). Packed with more color photographs (380) and detailed, color maps (80) than any other parks guidebook on the market, this handy, practical, guide offers comprehensive information on the crown jewels of the national park system — the 58 scenic national parks that conserve and protect the flora and fauna in some of our nation’s last wilderness areas. This guide helps travelers design custom trips, depending on the time and interests they have.

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