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Archive for national parks

A Glacial Feast

By Linda Tancs

The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, protects 4,200 square miles of glaciers, geothermal springs and lakes representing mostly untouched alpine wilderness. The park’s tiny hamlet of Jasper is connected to Lake Louise in nearby Banff National Park by the Icefields Parkway, a 140-mile-long stretch that parallels the Continental Divide. Considered one of the most scenic roads in the world, the parkway includes along its route the Athabasca Glacier (part of the Columbia Icefield), the most visited glacier on the North American continent. Its ice is in continuous motion, spilling from the icefield (a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once covered most of western Canada’s mountains) over three giant bedrock steps. The Discovery Centre (a visitor’s center opposite the icefield) is open seasonally between May and October.

From the Bowels of the Earth

By Linda Tancs

Earth’s mantle is a layer between the crust and the outer core. Not the kind of thing one would have an opportunity to experience—unless, of course, you find yourself at Tablelands in Canada’s Gros Morne National Park. Situated in western Newfoundland, the exposed mantle represents a 450-million-year process of continental drift. Explore it on your own or with a guided hike available from mid-June to mid-September. Visit the Gros Morne Interpretation Centre to learn more about the area’s geology or to find out the timetable for guided tours along the Tablelands Trail.

Petrified in Arizona

By Linda Tancs

Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park is a prime source of—you guessed it—petrified wood. In a process beginning over 200 million years ago, logs washed into an ancient river system and combined with minerals that incorporated themselves into the porous wood, replacing the organic matter. The result is petrified wood found in the park and the surrounding region that is made up of almost solid quartz. The Jasper Forest vista point showcases one of the largest accumulations of petrified wood in the park.

Off the Tourist Trail in Africa

By Linda Tancs

Equatorial Guinea is a small country on the western coast of central Africa, the only independent nation in Africa where Spanish is an official language owing to its past as a colony. Lacking the glam of safari sites like Tanzania and Kenya, it’s perhaps no wonder that it bears the ignominious distinction of being one of the least visited countries in the world. But its off-the-beaten-path status is exactly why you should go. The country’s national park, Monte Alén, is located near the center and is one of central Africa’s hidden gems. Over 100 mammal species are registered there (more than 16 types of primates alone), as well as 2,300 types of birds and 65 species of reptiles. Moreover, the park’s hotel situated on a jungle ridge is an excellent place to experience the lush rainforest—without the crowds.

America’s First National Historical Park

By Linda Tancs

America’s first national historical park, Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General George Washington and the Continental Army’s winter encampment from December 1779 to June 1780. Two main areas of the park are Ford Mansion, Washington’s headquarters, and Jockey Hollow, where 10,000 soldiers camped during the most brutal winter ever recorded. The park has about 27 miles of designated hiking trails.

The Longest Show Cave in Britain

By Linda Tancs

Located in Yorkshire Dales National Park, White Scar Cave is the longest show cave (tourist cave) in Britain. An informative guided tour takes 80 minutes over a one mile trek covered largely by a metal grid floor. The first feature to be discovered at the cave was the waterfall, which thunders delightfully after some wet weather. Other popular features include the Harry Potter-like Witch’s Fingers, the Devil’s Tongue (flowstone hanging from the cave roof), orange stalactites called The Carrots and Battlefield Cavern with The Face at the far end.

West Africa’s Largest Park

By Linda Tancs

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is a West African country with beach resorts, rainforests and a French colonial legacy. The world’s largest producer of cocoa beans, it’s also home to West Africa’s largest national park, Comoé National Park. A prized but imperiled World Heritage Site (due to civil unrest and other activities), it contains the country’s largest concentration of wildlife, including antelopes, hippos, lions, monkeys and other animals. Its habitats vary greatly from forests to a wide variety of savannas amongst its 4,440 square miles. The different waters of the Comoé River and its tributaries are the habitat for 60 species of fish and various reptiles, including the endangered dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis).

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