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Archive for national parks

Top of the Nile

By Linda Tancs

The “top of the Nile” is where you’ll get the best view of Murchison Falls in Uganda, where the water powerfully squeezes through a narrow 22-foot crevice in the rocks to plunge over 131 feet below into a 164-foot radius pool. The falls are so spectacular that the national park of which it is a part is named for it. A three-hour, round-trip tour to the bottom of the waterfall will give you an opportunity to observe lots of local wildlife, like the shoebill stork, hippos and crocodiles. And you might even see the dwarf giraffe that was found in the park.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

All Aboard the Brocken

By Linda Tancs

The Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz mountain range in central Germany. From the summit you’ll get glorious views of Harz National Park, the first such park to span two federal states. The peak also offers Brocken garden, a botanical garden established on the summit in 1890. It houses more than 1,500 plant species from high mountain areas from all over the world, with a particular emphasis on the protection and conservation of species that are either threatened with extinction or very rare. Between mid-May and mid-October you can explore the garden between Monday and Friday twice a day with a gardener. One of the best things about the garden is how to get there. A narrow-gauge steam train departs from Drei Annen Hohne station and takes approximately 50 minutes to climb to Brocken Station, just 52 feet below the mountain’s summit.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

What’s New in West Virginia

By Linda Tancs

You may be familiar with the expression, everything old is new again. That’s an apt way of looking at New River Gorge in West Virginia. The New River is one of the oldest in North America, its whitewater cascading through deep canyons. For years it’s been managed by the Park Service as a “national river.” That status received an upgrade last December when the area was designated a national park as well as a national preserve, the first such dual designation outside Alaska. The park has always been a mecca for whitewater rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing and other adventures. Located in southern West Virginia, it’s conveniently accessible from several interstate highways and local airports.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Wild Cats in Poland

By Linda Tancs

Located in the southernmost portion of Poland, Bieszczady National Park is one of the country’s largest national parks. It holds the distinction of being part of the first UNESCO biosphere reserve to be located in three countries, complemented by sections in Ukraine and Slovakia. It might be better known, though, as a home to the once highly-endangered Eurasian lynx, as evidenced by the wildcat’s likeness as the park’s logo. One of Europe’s largest predators, the lynx finds a safe haven in this park thanks to its extensive mountain forests. You might spot a European wildcat or two as well.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Hawaiian History in Canada

By Linda Tancs

Canada’s Gulf Islands are scattered across the Salish Sea between Vancouver and Southern Vancouver Island. Much of that natural oasis comprises Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a place teeming with trails leading to mountaintop viewpoints, lighthouses and reminders of First Nations and pioneer pasts. Part of that pioneering past involves Hawaiians who homesteaded there. In fact, by the 1870s Hawaiians began settling in the Gulf Islands after the U.S. Government began passing legislation preventing them from becoming American citizens or owning land. In British Columbia they continued their work in the maritime fur trade and became landowners, farmers and fishermen. Part of that Hawaiian history is preserved on Russell Island at the Mahoi house, where descendants of Maria Mahoi (the sole heir to the island in 1901) share family stories about Kanaka (Hawaiian) settlement.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Nature and Culture in Finland

By Linda Tancs

Cultural attractions abound in Hämeenlinna, Finland, one of the country’s 107 towns. It’s the birthplace of Jean Sibelius, Finland’s national composer. You’ll also find a 13th-century medieval castle, the city’s signature attraction, overlooking Lake Vanajavesi. Add to that the forest park of Aulanko and you have the perfect mix of nature and culture. The park’s scenic lookout tower at Aulangonvuori Hill gives enviable views over the valley of Lake Vanajavesi with its bays, rocky islands and capes. Part of a nature reserve, the Aulanko area is the first national urban park in the country.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Bears and Unicorns in Bolivia

By Linda Tancs

Located in the so-called Elbow of the Andes, Bolivia’s Amboró National Park is a place of tremendous ecological diversity. In fact, its location features the convergence of three ecosystems: the high-altitude Andes altiplano, the dry Chaco region and the lush pampas of the Amazon Basin. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fauna varies widely as well and includes some rarities. For instance, spectacled bears roam there, the only wild bear remaining in South America. You’ll also find the horned curassow, a rare bird species. Its trademark blue “horn” above the orange bill is responsible for the nickname, “unicorn bird.” Several tours are available to guide you through this immense region. If traveling independently, it’s best to hire a local guide.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Turkish Battlefields

By Linda Tancs

One of the bloodiest conflicts of World War I occurred at the Gallipoli Pensinsula in Turkey at the Battle of Gallipoli, where the Allied Powers unsuccessfully attempted to control the sea route from Europe to Russia. Today those battlefields are protected as a historical national park honoring over 500,000 war dead. The park includes memorials, monuments and cemeteries ringed by green hills, sandy beaches and inviting waters. You can visit from Istanbul via car or bus or via ferry from Canakkale to Kilitbahir or Eceabat. Taking the route from Istanbul will give you a better view of the battlefields.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

New Zealand’s Volcanic Wonderland

By Linda Tancs

Located in the Central North Island region, Tongariro is New Zealand’s oldest national park. Established in the late 1800s, it’s recognized as much for its volcanic landscape as for its religious and cultural heritage. At the heart of the park are its three active volcano mountains—Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu—part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. To the Maori people who have inhabited the land for centuries, it’s a sacred place. The park’s natural and cultural attributes have earned it two World Heritage designations. Ruapehu has two of the largest ski fields in the country, catering to everyone from beginner to advanced, making it a perfect destination for this winter season. If summertime is more to your liking, don’t fret. Scenic chairlift rides operate on Whakapapa (the larger of the two fields) throughout most of the year offering spectacular views over the region.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

The Other Brazilian Rainforest

By Linda Tancs

Although nearly adjacent to the Amazon, Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) is the lesser-known cousin. One of the five most diverse hotspots in the world, this tropical and subtropical rainforest once stretched along the Atlantic Coast of Brazil for a whopping 476,000 square miles. Today, its footprint is much smaller (at around 38,600 square miles) due to centuries of deforestation for timber, sugar cane, coffee, cattle ranching and urban sprawl. In fact, two of the world’s largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, were both built over it. A small percentage of the land is protected, most notably in Chapada Diamantina National Park, where one of the country’s highest waterfalls (Cachoeira da Fumaca) is found. It’s so high that the water vaporizes before it hits the ground, earning it the name “Smoke Waterfall.”

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

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