back in 1872, the US government declared a 8,900 sq km stretch of dense woodland sprawling
across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana a national park. It hadnt been done before-
anywhere in the world. But, more than a century down the line, that decision has borne
fruit- in more ways than one. That stretch of land is one of the USAs biggest
tourist attractions: Yellowstone National Park; and its been
followed by dozens of other parks, some along the coasts, some in the seemingly
inaccessible heights of the Rockies and the Appalachians- all spectacular, all a wonderful
way of getting out into the open and seeing wild America up close.
Today, the USA boasts of some of the
worlds best protected areas- many of them natural wonders, and some fine examples of
cultural heritage too. Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the
worlds longest cave- all of 563 km long, and still much of it uncharted; Redwood
National Park, along the Western coast, is where the giant California redwood
grows, the largest living thing on earth. Denali and Glacier
are prime examples of far northern fauna and flora: the land of grizzlies and dall sheep,
wapiti elk and salmon. Mesa Verde, surprisingly different from most of
the other parks, protects amazing native American cliff dwellings; and the impressive Grand
Canyon National Park is the place to go to view some of the most brilliant
natural architecture on earth.
Yosemite, Carlsbad Caverns, Great Smoky
Mountains, Redwood, Mammoth Cave, Olympic, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon- all are US national
parks which are World Heritage sites too. This is where you go to see dense green woods of
pine, spruce, aspen and larch; to photograph the bald eagle, the bobcat and cougar, the
black bear and grizzly (dont get too close!); to hike and bike, to camp and
fish.. Marvel at the fall colours in Adirondack Park; wait for Ol
Faithful to come gushing up, punctual to the minute, in a burst of steam and hot water in Yellowstone.
Experience the stunning Sierra Nevada at Yosemite National Park, go
whale-watching at Acadia, and get a taste of the desert, complete with giant cactus and
rare creatures, at Saguaro National Park. Go canoeing down Shenandoahs
many streams (or the river, of course!); and pay a visit to the unique Petrified Forest
National Park, one of the worlds largest concentrations of mineralised wood.
Eager for more? Dont worry; there are
plenty of parks to choose from. All it needs is plenty of time and loads of enthusiasm-
which isnt difficult to summon up when it comes to this. Welcome to wild America.