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Archive for national parks

An Urban Oasis in D.C.

By Linda Tancs

Officially authorized in 1890, Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., is the third national park to be designated by the federal government. This 1,754-acre city park has over 32 miles of hiking trails and paths, a planetarium, Civil War fortifications, mills and colonial houses. Two popular attractions are Old Stone House and Peirce Mill. Situated in the midst of Georgetown, Old Stone House is the oldest structure on its original foundation in the nation’s capital. Peirce Mill was the most successful water-powered gristmill along Rock Creek until 1897 and today serves as an educational and heritage site. The Friendship Heights Metro is the closest station to the Nature Center, where you can find maps and other information about the park, which is free to enter and open year round.

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Iceland in Miniature

By Linda Tancs

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is often referred to as Iceland in miniature. True enough, considering its 56 miles cover everything the country has to offer, from volcanoes and lava fields to glaciers, cliffs and beaches. At the westernmost part of the peninsula is Snæfellsjökull National Park, the only Icelandic national park that stretches to the sea. The area takes its name from the saga of Bárður Snæfellsás, the half-man, half-troll protector of the region whose colossal stone statue is in Arnarstapi.

Ecotourism in the Exumas

By Linda Tancs

The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 cays and islands, beginning just 35 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas. Its sapphire blue waters are home to two national parks. The 176-square-mile Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, created in 1958, was the first land and sea park in the world. An ecological preserve and wildlife refuge, it’s home to rare coral life, limestone reefs, scores of tropical fish, the endangered Bahamian iguana and the elusive hutia (a Caribbean rodent). More ecological wonders await at Moriah Harbour Cay National Park, covering 13,440 acres. In addition to phenomenal sandbars, the park includes sights like Thunderball Grotto, the Blow Hole at Boise Cay with a 10-foot geyser and Dripping Cave at Guana Cay.

Geological Variety in Aruba

By Linda Tancs

More than just a haven for flora and fauna, Aruba’s Arikok National Park boasts amazing geological diversity. The landscape has three primary geological formations: the Aruba lava formation, batholithic quartz and limestone rocks from fossilized coral. The park is also prized for its bays and the Natural Pool, a basin formed by rock and volcanic stone circles. Culturally,  the Caquetío Indians left rock paintings in Cunucu Arikok and Fontein Cave. The bird drawing in the park logo is a copy of one of these historical artistic expressions. Comprising almost 20% of the island, the park is located in the northeast in the area of Santa Cruz.

Symbol of the American West

By Linda Tancs

The nation’s largest cacti reside in Tucson, Arizona. In particular, that’s the giant saguaro—a large, tree-like columnar cactus that finds protection in Saguaro National Park. A universal symbol of the West, these Sonoran desert sentinels are only found in small portions of the country. The park is uniquely situated around the 500 square miles that make up Tucson. Its two districts—the Tucson Mountain District to the west and the Rincon Mountain District to the east—are separated by the city’s 1 million residents. The western district boasts large stands of saguaro cacti. November through March is the park’s busiest season, when temperatures are cooler and range from the high 50s to the mid-70s.

Canada’s Polar Bear Haven

By Linda Tancs

Autumn brings large numbers of polar bears to Cape Churchill within Wapusk National Park in Manitoba, Canada. The park is located within the range of the Western Hudson Bay population of polar bears, numbering approximately 1,000 bears. Wapusk protects one of the largest polar bear maternity denning areas in the world, mothers and cubs emerging from their earth dens in early spring. Access to Wapusk is via authorized commercial tour operators in Churchill. There are upcoming opportunities to view polar bears from tundra vehicles and a lodge at Cape Churchill.

Secret of the South Atlantic

By Linda Tancs

One of the world’s remotest islands, St. Helena may very well be one of the South Atlantic’s best kept secrets. Of course, history buffs know that it’s the locale where the British exiled Napoleon after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Not surprisingly, the general’s house and its original furnishings are a major tourist draw—that is, for those tourists who have been able to get there. Until now, the tiny British overseas territory was accessible via private flights or the last commercially operating Royal Mail ship. But thankfully the island has caught up with the 21st century with the introduction of weekly flights via South African airline Airlink. The upcoming whale shark season (November to April) is not to be missed; marine tour operators offer opportunities to swim with them. This subtropical paradise also offers an array of endemic wildlife and flora at Diana’s Peak National Park, the island’s highest point.

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