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Archive for ecotourism

The Land of Canaan

By Linda Tancs

In the 1700s the wild valley on the western slope of the Alleghenies looked like the Promised Land to an adventurer in the region.  Or so the story goes.  Regardless of its veracity, that valley is known as the Canaan Valley in West Virginia.  Home to the country’s 500th National Wildlife Refuge, its cool and moist climate provides a haven for 580 species of plants and 288 different animals.  Endangered bats, salamander, dragonflies and priority bird species such as brown thrasher, Eastern towhee, and American woodcock no doubt find it heavenly.

 

Water for Elephants

By Linda Tancs

November is Manatee Awareness Month in Florida.  Despite their popular nickname “sea cow,” these aquatic mammals are actually related to the elephant.  This time of year, when the waters of the Gulf cool down and subject these gentle giants to cold stress, you’ll find them instead in the balmy waters of Crystal River, less than two hours north of Tampa.  During manatee season, more than 150,000 people will visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge to snorkel and kayak among manatees, the only place where such interaction with this endangered and federally protected species is allowed.

Life on the Farm

By Linda Tancs

Is a farmer’s life for you?  Here’s one way to find out:  choose a Swedish farmstay.  With over 300 participating farms, you can choose your length and type of accommodation, like a quaint B&B on an organic farm, for instance.  Don’t worry, you needn’t milk the cows.  There’s ample opportunity for horseback riding, hiking, swimming, fishing–or just enjoy the fertile farmlands of a district like Skåne.

The Grand Staircase

By Linda Tancs

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has the distinction of being the first monument overseen by the Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Park Service.  Holding court in southern Utah at an expansive 1.7 million acres (slightly larger in area than the State of Delaware), this world class geologic and paleontological site comprises not only the Grand Staircase but also the Kaiparowits Plateau and the Canyons of the Escalante.  A staircase of cliffs and terraces, the Grand Staircase’s multi-hued formations represent 200 million years of Earth’s history, featuring fossils of fish and early dinosaurs from the Triassic Period (the vermilion cliffs) as well as Jurassic sand dunes (the white cliffs).  An ancient freshwater lake deposited the siltstone comprising the pink cliffs at the top of the Grand Staircase.  Nearly one thousand miles of roads provide access to what may arguably be one of the greatest shows on Earth.

The Gannets of St. Lawrence

By Linda Tancs

St. Lawrence River is one of the world’s longest rivers, dissecting Québec at its southern latitudes.  Along the river are many island pearls, not the least of which is Île Bonaventure.  Located at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, the island hosts the largest colony of northern gannets in North America.  A haven for ecotourists, the island’s national park (one of 27 in Québec) features a five-million-ton monolith shaped by nature’s fury that is accessible at low tide.

Riding the Circuit in Patagonia

By Linda Tancs

Torres del Paine National Park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve in Chilean Patagonia.  Rich with mountains (particularly the iconic Paine massif), glaciers, lakes and rivers, small wonder the area offers a plethora of activities like fishing, climbing, ice trekking, whitewater kayaking, environmental education and wildlife observation.  The park offers a number of trails, or circuits, for day or overnight trekking.  Those include the Pingo Zapata, Dickson and Grey Glacier circuits (leading to glaciers), the Paine Circuit (no pun intended–an arduous trail requiring seven to 10 days of walking), and Las Torres circuit (leading to the base of Torres del Paine).  Get there via Santiago to Punta Arenas by air or via Puerto Natales overground.

Celebrate At a Refuge Near You

By Linda Tancs

It’s National Wildlife Refuge Week, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wants you to celebrate at a refuge near you.  You’ll find an open house this week at the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on the Big Island in Hawaii.  Take a guided bird hike or a tour of the greenhouse where native plants are being propagated.  Among the lower 48, why not join the staff at New Jersey’s Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge for a sunset nature walk to view the migrating ducks.  As the poet William Wordsworth so aptly put it, “Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher.”

The Jungle of the Mirrors

By Linda Tancs

The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (2,080,000 hectares), the largest reserve in Peru, is located 183 kilometers from Iquitos and is home to numerous endangered species, like the charapa river turtle, the giant river otter, the black caiman, and the river dolphin.   Sometimes referred to as the jungle of the mirrors, the area is rife with activities for nature lovers, such as birdwatching, canoe rides, piranha fishing, and excursions to a watching tower to observe the birth of the Amazon at the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers.   Couple that with a stay at the Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge at the Marañón River’s bank and you’ve got an idyllic holiday.

Birder’s Paradise in the Bahamas

By Linda Tancs

The flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas.  You can see 80,000 of them on Great Inagua Island at Inagua National Park, which houses one of the largest colonies of this graceful bird in the world.  Other resident exotic birds include parrots, pelicans, herons, egrets, and Bahama pintail ducks.  You might think that birding is the primary feature of Inagua.  Although delightful, the island’s main industry is salt.  Morton Salt produces about a million pounds of salt per year here—the second largest saline operation in North America.  Kind of gives new meaning to the term “salt of the earth.”

 

Trash Into Treasure

By Linda Tancs

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  That’s particularly true at Glass Beach, a beach in MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California that is abundant in sea glass created from years of dumping garbage over the cliffs into what became a public dump.  Over many decades the sea and surf has molded an array of household garbage (including obviously lots of glass) into curious colorful trinkets.  Tread carefully.

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