Enjoy our nation’s wonder by camping at a National Park.
This upcoming August 25th marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service, an organization devoted to maintaining our nation’s natural splendor. The idea of conserving and enjoying natural spaces is actually even older. An Act signed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 established Yellowstone as our nation’s first national park and the first national park in the world. Last year, over 307 million people visited a national park. From battlefields to recreation areas, scenic waterways and trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And there’s no better way to experience all the splendor that a national park has to offer than camping. So consider pitching a tent at any of the following national parks this summer.
There’s something for everyone at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. Camping, historic sites, wildlife watching and kayaking are available at this national park in Monroe, Michigan. The site was the scene of a major battle in the War of 1812. The loss by the United States’ forces here was a major turning point in our eventual victory. The trail provides visitors with an outstanding opportunity to step back in time and experience the marshes and wetlands that the early French settlers first explored.
Head north to Upper Michigan and explore Isle Royale National Park. This island park in Lake Superior offers canoeing, kayaking, fishing and scuba diving adventures. Backpacking and camping are especially popular, with 36 campgrounds located across the island. Campsites are accessible only by foot or watercraft. Typically, campers backpack from one campground to another, traveling six to eight miles per day. Several campgrounds on the Lake Superior shoreline have docks for power and sail boaters. Other campgrounds, located inland, are only accessible by non-motorized boats such as canoes and kayaks. For those who enjoy tranquility, you must check out this park.
Just as rugged and just as awe-inspiring is Voyageurs National Park in International Falls, Minnesota. It was established in 1975 and named after the fur traders, called voyageurs (voyagers or travelers) who paddled the waterways over 200 years ago. Here you can see and touch rocks half as old as the world, experience the life of a voyageur, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of a boreal forest, view the dark skies right from your campsite, or ply the interconnected water routes. With one-third of the parks 215,000-plus acres consisting of water, be sure to take in one of the two boat tours available June through September.
Explore the world’s longest known cave system (over 400 miles of caves have been explored so far) at Mammoth Cave National Park in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. Cave tours have been offered since 1816, which makes Mammoth Cave one of the oldest tour attractions in North America. Mammoth Cave offers a number of tours of various duration and physical ability; be sure to pick one that suits you and all of your family members. Dress accordingly, since even on the hottest August days a sweatshirt or jacket is recommended within the cave. In addition to cave tours, hiking, camping, horseback riding, fishing and kayaking are available.
Situated on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s most visited national park. It offers an unparalleled diversity of plant and animal life. Part of the Appalachian mountain chain, the “Smokies” get their name from the fog that tends to hang over the mountains in the morning and after rains. In addition to the natural beauty of these ancient mountains, this park offers views of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. One of the most popular destinations within the park is Cades Cove. It offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are frequently seen and sightings of black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and other animals are also possible.
In addition to camping, plenty of other activities are available, including biking, hiking, fishing and horse riding. Thanks to its’ ample rainfall and elevation gradient, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an ideal destination for those who want to experience waterfalls. Over 100 prominent ones are featured within the park.
The rugged beauty of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Take in the 45-minute geology walk, visit the paleontology lab or attend the fossil talk to learn more about the ancient mammals––such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat––that once roamed here. Today, bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets reside within the park’s 244,000 acres. Have your cameras ready to capture their majestic beauty. For those who have never truly experienced the magnificence of the night sky, be sure to take in the Night Sky Program. It offers views of more than 7,500 stars and clear views of our Milky Way.
Every state in our nation offers a national treasure, be it a wilderness area, historical monument, trail or recreation area, with many offering onsite camping. The list is much too long to include in any article, so please visit www.nps.gov for more information and discover for yourself why we call it America the Beautiful.
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Enjoy our nation’s wonder by camping at a National Park.