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 America's Most Stunning Locations (Part 1)
Information and Postings by; Michael Smith. May 22, 2008

The below wonders are not listed alphabetically or in order of importance.


Redwood National Park, California

 General Information
Redwood National Park contains the tallest living things on earth, evergreen trees that grow to 350 feet. The park was established specifically to protect these trees, because it is only here and in Oregon that these stunning giants survive. Descendants of the giant evergreens that grew during the age of the dinosaurs, redwoods thrived in moist temperate regions of the world. They take 400 years to mature and some of the survivors are more than 2,000 years old. Their thick, sapless bark protects them from fire, but landslides and wind can topple old trees. The Indians used fallen redwood trees to build canoes and houses; commercial logging began during the gold rush era. Logging of redwoods continues and is debated by the timber industry and environmentalists. The trees stand as majestic reminders of the slow evolution of nature. Redwood National and State Parks represent a cooperative management effort of the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Together these parks are a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve protecting resources cherished by citizens of many nations. (Inscribed in 1980)

 Flora
It is estimated that old growth redwood forest once covered 2,000,000 acres (810,000 ha) of coastal northern California. Today, only 4%, or 85,000 acres (34,000 ha), remain, with 45% of that total being managed by the park. The native range of coast redwood is from the northern California coast north to the southern Oregon Coast. The tree is closely related to the Giant Sequoia of central California, and more distantly to the Dawn Redwood which is indigenous to the Sichuan- Hubei region of China. Coast redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth; as of September, 2006, the tallest tree in the park was Hyperion at 379.1 ft (115.5 m), followed by two more named Helios and Icarus which are 376.3 ft (114.7 m) and 371.2 ft (113.1 m) respectively. Before September 2006, the tallest living specimen known was the Stratosphere Giant, outside the park in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which was 370 feet (113 m) in 2004. For many years, one specimen simply named "Tall Tree" in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and within the RNSP was measured at 367.8 feet (112.11 m), but the top 10 feet (3 m) of the tree was reported to have died in the 1990s. One tree that fell in 1991 was reported to be 372.04 feet (113.4 m). Only the Giant Sequoia has more mass. The largest redwood by volume is the 42,500 cubic foot (1,205 m³) "Lost Monarch", located in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Mature Coast redwoods live an average of 800-1500 years and a few are documented to be 2,000 years old, making them some of the longest-living organisms on earth. They are highly resistant to disease, due to a thick protective bark and high tannin content. Redwoods prefer sheltered slopes, slightly inland and near water sources such as rivers and streams, and are very fast-growing.

 Coastline area
Both coastline and the Coast Mountain Ranges can be found within park boundaries. The majority of the rocks in the parks are part of the Franciscan Assemblage, uplifted from the ocean floor millions of years ago. These sedimentary rocks are primarily sandstones, siltstones, and varieties of shale, with lesser amounts of metamorphic rocks such as chert and greenstone. For the most part, these rocks are easily eroded, and can be viewed along the seacoast and where rivers and streams have cut small gorges. Formed during the Cretaceous age, they are highly deformed from uplift and folding processes. In some areas, river systems have created fluvial deposits of sandstones, mudstones, and conglomerates, which are transported into the park from upstream. Redwood Creek follows the Grogan Fault; along the west bank of the creek, schist and other metamorphic rocks can be found, while sedimentary rocks of the Franciscan Assemblage are located on the east bank.

 Recreation
Other than the DeMartin Redwood Youth Hostel, a low-amenities shared lodging facility (near Klamath), there are no hotels or motels within the parks boundaries. However, nearby towns provide small hotels and inns, with extensive lodging options available in the regional trading centers of Crescent City on the northern end of the park and Arcata and Eureka located to the south. The park is 340 miles (550 km) north of San Francisco, California, and 330 miles (530 km) south of Portland, Oregon, and U.S. Route 101 passes through it from north to south. The Smith River National Recreation Area, part of the Six Rivers National Forest, is adjacent to the north end of RNSP.

While the state parks have front country campsites that can be driven to, the federal sections of the park do not, and hiking is the only way of reaching back country campsites. These are at Mill Creek campground in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith campground in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, which together have 251 campsites, the Elk Prairie campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park which has 75, and the Gold Bluffs Beach campground which has 25 campsites. Other nearby state parks have additional front country camping. Back country camping is by permit only and is only allowed in designated sites, except on gravel bars along Redwood Creek.

Fire hazards limit camping in the back country to five consecutive nights, and 15 nights in any one year. Proper food storage to minimize encounters with bears is strongly enforced, and hikers and backpackers are required to take out any trash they generate.

Almost 200 miles (320 km) of hiking trails exist in the parks, but during the rainy season some temporary footbridges are removed, as they would be destroyed by high streams. Throughout the year, trails are often wet and hikers need to be well prepared for rainy weather and consult information centers for updates on trail conditions.

Horseback riding and mountain biking are popular but are only allowed on certain trails. Kayaking is popular along the seacoast and in the various rivers and streams. Kayakers and canoeists frequently travel the Smith River, which is the longest un-dammed river remaining in California. Fishing for salmon and steelhead, (a highly prized anatropous form of rainbow trout over 16 inches or 40 cm long), is best in the Smith and Klamath rivers. A California sport fishing license is required to fish any of the rivers and streams. Hunting is not permitted anywhere in the parks, but is allowed in nearby National Forests.

The park has two visitor centers and three additional information points. At the visitor centers, guided nature walks and general information is available. Each campground offers campfire talks during the summer months as well as guided tours. The parks have many picnic areas, which are all easily accessed by vehicle.


 Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier Park is a United States Nat. Park located in SE. Pierce County & NE Lewis County, Washington state. It was established on March 2, 1899, the fifth national park in the United States. The park contains 368 square miles (953 km²) and all of Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot (4,392 m) strata volcano. The mountain rises abruptly from the surrounding land with elevations in the park ranging from 1,600 feet (490 m) to over 14,000 feet (4,300-m). The highest point in the Cascade Range, around it are valleys, waterfalls, sub-alpine wildflower meadows, old growth forest and more than 26 glaciers cap the peak and extend down the mountain's slopes. The volcano is often shrouded in clouds that dump enormous amounts of rain and snow on the peak every year and hide it from the crowds that head to the park on weekends.

Mount Rainier is circled by the Wonderland Trail and is covered by several glaciers and snowfields totaling some 35 square miles (91 km²). Carbon Glacier is the largest glacier by volume in the continental United States, while Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier by area. About 1.3 million people visit Mount Rainier National Park each year. Mount Rainier is a popular peak for mountain climbing with some 10,000 attempts per year with approximately 25% making it to the summit. The park contains outstanding examples of old growth forests and sub-alpine meadows.

The park receives heavy annual precipitation, which supports the growth of thick forest below the timberline at about 1980 m (about 6500 ft). The diverse wildlife includes mountain lion, bobcat, elk, bear, deer, and mountain goat. Mount Rainier was named in 1792 by the English explorer George Vancouver after British Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. The Native American name for the mountain, Tahoma, means “The mountain that was god.” The first successful ascent was made in 1870. Area, 953.5 sq km (368.1 sq mi)

 One of the Parks' Main Attractions
Paradise (46.79° N 121.74° W) is the name of an area at approximately 5,400 feet (1,600 m) on the south slope of Mount Rainier in the national park. Paradise is the most popular destination for visitors to Mount Rainier National Park.62% of the over 1.3 million people who visited the park in 2000 went to Paradise. Paradise is the location of the historic Paradise Inn (built 1916), Paradise Guide House (built 1920) and Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center (built 1966).

The National Park Service says that "Paradise is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is measured regularly. 1,122 inches (93.5 ft, 28.5 m) of snow fell during the winter of 1971-1972, setting a world record for that year. It also holds the Cascade Range record for most snow on the ground with 367 inches (932 cm) on March 10 1956.


 Yosemite National Park, California

Not just a great Valley...but a shrine to human foresight, strength of granite, power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra.

Yosemite National Park, one of the first wilderness parks in the United States, is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.

 Did You Know?
That 95% of Yosemite is designated Wilderness? In this stunning natural paradise you can experience unparalleled opportunities for solitude while enjoying one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

 The Season of Waterfalls & Wildflowers in Yosemite.
Spring brings heart-stopping waterfalls and carpets of wildflowers to Yosemite.  Rivers filled with fresh snow-melted water tumble over the soaring granite cliffs into Yosemite Valley.  In addition to Yosemite’s grand falls, like Yosemite Falls or Bridal-Veil Fall, visitors may be treated to dozens of smaller ephemeral falls as high country water courses down to the Merced River. Meanwhile, the meadows are slowly filling with wildflowers starting first at the lower elevations, and slowly rising as warmer days settle in Come visit Yosemite’s Springtime and keep your eyes open!

Activities & Sightseeing

 Things to do
Rock Climbing - Snowboarding - Downhill Skiing - Cross-Country Skiing

 Overnight Trips
Pack and Saddle Trips - Backpacking - Big Wall Guided Climbs - High Sierra Camp Trips - Glacier Point Ski Hut Trips

 Guided Walks & Hikes
Night ProwlTwilight StrollPhoto Walks - Ranger Walks and Talks -  Explore Yosemite  Historic Ahwahnee Tour - Cliffs and Climbers Hike - Discovery Hike Adventure Hike - Custom/Private HikesFull Moon Snowshoe - Mule and Horseback Rides - Guided Climbs...and more.

 Equipment Rentals
Bikes - Rafts - Climbing Shoes - Climbing Helmets - Camping Equipment


 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Latest Update as of Aug. 2010;

*Due to several major fires over the past few years the park is void of mature trees, and vegetation, and seems bare with little animal visibility. There are also constant and lengthy delays due to over crowding and road construction. Photography and fishing is incredibly restricted and there are just too many ridiculous regulations for truly enjoying the park.

After a lengthy tour of the park for 2 weeks in late July and Aug. 2010, Travelers Digest recommends that people seeking the absolute best park travel north to one of the most breathtaking National Parks in America...The Glacier National Park in Northern Montana, which transcends across the Canadian border. More details and lots of scenic photos will be posted soon.

Thank you, Michael Smith

Travelers Digest

Yellowstone

Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America's first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world's most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

 Things to do
Experience Old Faithful, the most popular geyser in the world, and hundreds of other geysers and hot springs. View the colorful Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and enjoy the wild beauty of Yellowstone Lake. Look for bears and wolves, elk and buffalo in the Lamar and Hayden Valleys. Discover Fort Yellowstone and learn about the park's history. Hiking, camping, fishing, enjoying exhibits and films, and attending Ranger-led programs are among the many ways you can enjoy Yellowstone National Park.

 Park Conditions
Contact the park officials for current conditions. Park is accessible from late March to Mid Oct.

From March each year all main park roads and entrances are plowed and open. Expect spring conditions with a remaining heavy snow pack. Visitors should be prepared for a wide range of spring weather conditions.

 Climate
Yellowstone's climate is one of cold winters and moderate summers. Most of the park is above 7,500 feet and the weather is unpredictable. Be prepared for changing temperatures, storms and emergencies.


 Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon is a national park located in southwestern Utah in the United States. Contained within the park is Bryce Canyon. Despite its name, this is not actually a canyon, but rather a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to its geological structures, called hoodoos, formed from wind, water, and ice erosion of the river and lakebed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views to visitors.

Bryce is at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2400 to 2700 m), whereas the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000 feet (2100 m) above sea level. The area therefore has a very different ecology and climate, and thus offers a contrast for visitors to the region (who often visit all three parks in a single vacation).

The canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1875. The area around Bryce Canyon became a U.S. National Monument in 1924 and was designated as a national park in 1928. The park covers 56 mi² (145 km²). The park receives relatively few visitors compared to Zion Canyon and the Grand Canyon, largely due to its remote location. The town of Kanab, Utah is situated at a central point between these three parks.

 Biking
Bicycles are restricted to paved roadways and there are NO bike lanes in the park.

 Camping and Campfires
Camping is allowed in campgrounds and at designated backcountry sites with a fee permit. Building wood or ground fires is prohibited in the Backcountry.

 Flora and Fauna
Ponderosa pines, high elevation meadows and fir-spruce forests border the rim of the plateau, while panoramic views of three states spread beyond the park's boundaries. This area boasts some of the nation's best air quality. This, coupled with the lack of nearby large light sources, creates unparalleled opportunities for star gazing.

Elevations ranging from 6,000 feet to 9,000 feet and diverse soil and moisture conditions influence the park's plant life. More than 400 species grow in the park. At the park's comparatively high elevations, many wildflowers that bloom in spring elsewhere may bloom late in summer here.

 Size and Visitation
Bryce Canyon National Park consists of 37,277 acres of scenic colorful rock formations and desert wonderland. The majority of park visitors come during June to September and are lowest in December through February. Each year the park is visited by more than 1.5 million visitors from all over the world. Languages as varied as the shapes and colors of the hoodoos express pleasure in the sights.


 Grand Canyon, Arizona

A powerful and inspiring landscape, the Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size; 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep.

 Grand Canyon Geology Introduction
Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site, encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins.

Well known for its geologic significance, the Grand Canyon is one of the most studied geologic landscapes in the world. It offers an excellent record of three of the four eras of geological time, a rich and diverse fossil record, a vast array of geologic features and rock types, and numerous caves containing extensive and significant geological, paleontological, archeological and biological resources. It is considered one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world. The Canyon, incised by the Colorado River, is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles at its widest. However, the significance of Grand Canyon is not limited to its geology.

The Park contains several major ecosystems. Its great biological diversity can be attributed to the presence of five of the seven life zones and three of the four desert types in North America. The five life zones represented are the Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. This is equivalent to traveling from Mexico to Canada. The Park also serves as an ecological refuge, with relatively undisturbed remnants of dwindling ecosystems (such as boreal forest and desert riparian communities). It is home to numerous rare, endemic (found only at Grand Canyon), and specially protected (threatened/endangered) plant and animal species. Over 1,500 plant, 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 9 amphibian, and 17 fish species are found in the park.

The Grand Canyon is considered one of the natural wonders of the world largely because of its natural features. The exposed geologic strata - layer upon layer from the basement Vishnu schist to the capping Kaibab limestone - rise over a mile above the river, representing one of the most complete records of geological history that can be seen anywhere in the world. Geologic formations such as gneiss and schist found at the bottom of the Canyon date back 1,800 million years. This geologic incline creates a diversity of biotic communities, and five of the seven life zones are present in the park.

The entire park area is considered to be semi-arid desert, but distinct habitats are located at different elevations along the 8,000 foot elevation gradient. Near the Colorado River, riparian vegetation and sandy beaches prevail. Just above the river corridor a desert scrub community exists complete with a wide variety of cacti and warm desert scrub species. A pinion pine and juniper forest grows above the desert scrub up to 6,200 feet, while between 6,200 feet and 8,200 feet ponderosa pine is abundant. On the North Rim at elevations above 8,200 feet, a spruce-fir forest tops out the park.

As in all natural habitats, the type and abundance of organisms is directly related to the presence or absence of water. The Colorado River and its tributaries, as well as springs, seeps, stock tanks and ephemeral pools provide oases to flora and fauna in this semi-arid southwest desert area.

The arid climate has been a benefit to the Paleontological resources of the park. The dry climate has been instrumental in preserving many prehistoric fossils deep within caves in Grand Canyon's geologic formations.

 Climate
SUMMER temperatures on the South Rim are relatively pleasant. North Rim temperatures are a few degrees cooler due to the higher elevation. Inner canyon temperatures are extreme. Daytime highs at the river often exceed 105°F. Thunderstorms frequently occur during July, August, and early September.

WINTER conditions on the South Rim can be extreme. The road into the North Rim is closed from the first heavy snow in November or early December to mid-May.

SPRING and FALL. Come prepared for a variety of conditions. Pleasant weather can change to rain or cold.

 Did You Know?
The Grand Canyon is considered one of the natural wonders of the world largely because of its natural features. The exposed geologic strata, layer upon layer, rise over a mile above the river, representing one of the most complete records of geological history that can be seen anywhere in the world.


 Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the opening of the San Francisco Bay onto the Pacific Ocean. As part of both US Highway 101 and State Route 1, it connects the city of San Francisco on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County.

The Golden Gate Bridge had the longest suspension bridge span in the world when it was completed in 1937 and has become an internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco and California. Since its completion, the span length has been surpassed by eight other bridges. It still has the second longest suspension bridge main span in the United States, after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City. In 2007, it was ranked fifth on the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.

Pedestrians (including wheelchair users) and bicyclists may access the sidewalks during daylight hours. Pedestrians and bicyclists share the east sidewalk on weekdays and all must pay close attention as the sidewalks can get very busy. The Bridge is 1.7 miles long and we encourage you to wear comfortable shoes and layered clothing. Roller Blades, Skateboards and Roller Skates are not permitted. Dogs are permitted only if under control and on a leash at all times.

Pedestrians and bicyclists may access the east sidewalk, located near the Strauss Statue, daily (hours adjusted seasonally). On weekdays, pedestrians and cyclists must share the east sidewalk from 5 am to 3:30 pm. As the sidewalk can get very busy, please pay close attention and watch for passing cyclists. The sidewalks can be accessed from the southeast parking lot or the northeast parking lot.

Take a short walk to the Fort Point overlook from the southeast parking lot . Follow the brick sidewalk located behind the Strauss Statue and continue to follow the bricks to the right until they join an asphalt walk. Then follow that to the left to the overlook. Take a walk through the renovated garden area on the southeast side of the Bridge. Stepping back from the Strauss Statue, visitors are faced with yet another visual treat: the immaculate gardens. On less than five acres, the annual and perennial flower beds and manicured hedges accent the brick sidewalks inviting guests to wander up or down a path to view the Bridge from a different prospective. The gardens have been acclaimed in Joan S. Hockaday's book The Gardens of San Francisco and in Pacific Horticulture Magazine.

 Shopping
A trip to the Golden Gate Bridge would not be complete without a visit to the Gift Center, located in the historic "Roundhouse" on the southeast side, behind the Strauss Statue.  Designed in 1938, the Roundhouse was originally a restaurant for passing motorists.  Now it is open daily, 8:30 am to 7:30 pm during the summer and 8:30 am to 6:30 pm during the winter.  The Gift Center offers a variety of historical information, photos, books, posters, videos, and various souvenirs of the Golden Gate Bridge.

 Facts
Construction statistics of the Golden Gate Bridge are presented on a cross section of one of the Bridge's main cables displayed to the left, and a little behind, the Strauss Statue.  The main cable section demonstrates the magnitude of this incredible engineering feat. The Strauss Statue is located on the southeast side of the Bridge. The statue of the original Chief Engineer stands as a constant reminder of his vision and determination to build this modern wonder. The Roundhouse Gift Center located behind the Strauss Statue offers a wealth of books and videos about the history of the Golden Gate Bridge.

When visiting the Vista Point parking lot located on the northeast side of the Golden Gate Bridge, be sure to visit the Lone Sailor Memorial.

 Bridge Cafe
The Bridge Café is located on the southeast side of the Bridge. The Café is open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm during winter months, and 9 am to 7 pm during summer months. A variety of snacks, including muffins, sandwiches, salads, desserts, sodas, water and Starbuck's coffee, is available to reenergize you during your visit.

 The Golden Gate Bridge experience...
If you are somewhat adventurous, and want an astounding visual, walk onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Being on foot you can really appreciate its magnitude and what it must of been like for the men building this phenomenal structure. At mid-span you are 220 feet above the water's surface and ships below appear like small toys. The distance from one vista point to another is 1.7 miles and is a most fulfilling trip, just be cautious of the high wind.

Pedestrians are allowed only on the east (city side) sidewalk, during daylight hours, and pets are not allowed for safety reasons.

Guided Tours: Many San Francisco tour operators include the Golden Gate Bridge in their tour itineraries, but most allow only a few minutes to get out at the south vista point. City Guides offers regular, free walking tours. Stroll with them and learn who named it, how the structure cheated the law of concrete and steel, and what members of the Halfway to Hell club did to join it.

 Travelers Digest Review
We rate the Golden Gate Bridge as one of the most inspiring of human endeavors and a must visit. It's an iconic San Francisco sight and is one of the world's most desired American destinations. The entire San Francisco Bay is absolutely stunning so be sure to check-out one of the world's most scenic parks...The Golden Gate Park.


 The Painted Desert, Arizona
As well as info on the Petrified Forest Park

The Painted Desert is definitely a must visit. It received its name from the Spaniards who named it "el Desierto Pintado" due to its brightly colored landscape. It is a broad area of badlands located in Northern Arizona in the United States. The area within the Petrified Forest National Wilderness is also known as the Painted Desert Wilderness. Much of the Painted Desert region is located within the Navajo Nation. The region is also home to a number of county parks such as the Little Painted Desert County Park found just north of Winslow. The Navajo and the Hopi people have lived in the region for at least five hundred, and one thousand years, respectively. Exact time periods are still a mystery

The Painted Desert covers an area of 93,533 acres that stretches southeast from the Grand Canyon to the *Petrified Forest National Park and runs roughly astride and just north of the Little Colorado and the Puerrco Rivers.. The desert comprises stratified layers of mineral and decayed organic matter. Many hardened dunes can be found. These hardened dunes are visually distinct due to the bands of grays, reds, oranges and yellows which are then shaped by natural wind and rain patterns. The area is noted to be especially beautiful at sunset and sunrise when the land appears to glow in hues of violet, blue, red and gold. Other key features include the many mesas and buttes that rise sharply from the desert floor. Sparse desert flora and fauna can also be found.

In the southern portions of the desert the remains of a Triassic Era coniferous forest have fossilized over millions of years. Wind, water and soil erosion continue to change the face of the landscape by shifting sediment and exposing layers of the Chinle Formation. An assortment of fossilized prehistoric plants and animals are found in the region, as well as dinosaur tracks and the evidence of early human habitation.

Much of the region is accessible only by foot or unpaved road though major highways and paved roads cut across the area. Depending on use, location and duration of stay, travelers might be required to purchase permits from the appropriate authorities. The towns of Cameron and Tuba City, both within the Navajo Nation, are two major settlements. One interesting side note about Tuba City and Cameron is that parking lots and yards are often covered by bright red dust that is blown in from the surrounding lands by dust storms. Currently coal and petroleum mining operations are active in the region and red clay is retrieved from the desert by locals. This clay is then used to produce handmade pottery to be sold at roadside stands and souvenir shops.

 Petrified Forest National Park
With one of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood, multi-hued badlands of the Painted Desert, historic structures, archeological sites, and displays of 225 million year old fossils, this is a surprising land of scenic wonders and fascinating science.

Petrified Forest was set aside as a national monument in 1906 to preserve and protect the petrified wood for its scientific value. It is recognized today for having so much more, including a broad representation of the Late Triassic paleo-ecosystem, significant human history, clear night skies, fragile grasslands ecosystem, and unspoiled scenic vistas.

Scientific studies are on-going at the park. Paleontologists find new fossils, including new species of plants and animals, each year. Biologists study living plants and animals, including vegetation surveys and reptile, amphibian, and mammal projects. Archeological site monitoring is on-going. Air quality, weather, and seismic monitoring stations constantly generate new data.

 Fossils
Petrified Forest National Park has one of the best geologic and fossil records of the Late Triassic in the world. Learn about fossils from petrified wood to dinosaurs, review a list of published scientific papers, see what current research in the park has revealed, and more!

 Science and Education Center Lecture Series
As part of the Petrified Forest National Park Science and Education Center, a monthly lecture series is held on the first Wednesday of each month. Topics include paleontology, geology, archeology, and others. Admission is free, and the public is invited to attend.

 Climate
Petrified Forest National Park has variable weather throughout the year. Summers are hot with thunderstorms from July through September. With an elevation of over 5,000 feet, winters can be quite cold and snow is a possibility. Spring and fall can be hot or cold with rapidly changing conditions during the day. Always be prepared!

 Did You Know?
Petroglyphs are sometimes calendars, marking events like the summer solstice with interactions between the glyph, the sun, and natural landscape features.

 Getting Around
Travel through the park is by private vehicle, bicycle, motorcycle, or commercial tour only. The park road, parking lots, and pull outs are suitable for large recreation vehicles, including those towing smaller vehicles. Off road vehicle travel is not allowed within the park, including mountain bikes.

Travel time through the park is at least 45 minutes, though an average visit is 3-4 hours with several stops at viewpoints or trails along the park road.
 


 The Snake River at Hells Gate, Idaho

The Snake River at Hells Gate is a major tributary of the Columbia River in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The river's length is 1,040 miles (1,670 km), its watershed drains 108,000 square miles (280,000 km²), and the average discharge at its mouth is 56,900 cubic feet per second (1,610 m³/s). The river flows from its source in Yellowstone National Park through a series of mountain ranges, canyons, and plains.

 Basin overview
The canyon, as well as the river with its excellent white-water rapids, is a desolate, but stunning example of America's diverse beauty. The upper part of Snake River lie in the Rocky Mountains and in southern Idaho the river flows through the broad Snake River Plain. Moving onwards to the Idaho-Oregon border the river flows through Hells Canyon, part of a larger physiographic region called the Columbia River Plateau, through which the Snake River flows through Washington to its confluence with the Columbia River. Parts of the river's basin lie within the Basin and Range province, though it is itself a physiographic section of the Columbia Plateau province. Altogether it is part of the larger Intermundane Plateaus physiographic division.

The Snake is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, with a mean discharge of 50,000 cubic feet per second (1,400 m³/s), or 56,900 cubic feet per second (1,610 m³/s) according to the USGS, the 12th largest in the United States. It also feed The Shoshone Falls which is actually higher than the Niagara Falls in New York.

Hells Canyon is a ten mile wide canyon located along the border of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho in the United States. It is North America's deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet (2436 m) and the most important feature of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

The canyon was carved by the waters of the Snake River and plunges more than a mile below the canyon's west rim on the Oregon side and 8,000 feet below the peaks of Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains range to the east. The area is inaccessible by road.

Aside from being known as the deepest river gorge in North America, the area offers scenic vistas of mountain peaks and cascading waters, and glimpses of abundant wildlife in a remote wilderness setting.

Prehistoric tribes roamed the area and artifacts from these earlier inhabitants as well as the colorful ruins of early miners and settlers are visible. The area can be experienced by land, trail or boat.

 History
The earliest known settlers in Hells Canyon were the Nez Perce tribe. Others tribes visiting the area were the Shoshone-Bannock, northern Piute and Cayuse Indians. The mild winters, ample plant and wildlife attracted human habitation. Pictographs and Petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon are a record of the Indian settlements.

In 1806, three members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition entered Hells Canyon along the Salmon River. However, they turned back without seeing the canyon. It wasn't until 1811 that the Wilson Price Hunt expedition explored Hells Canyon while seeking a shortcut to the Columbia River. Hunger and cold forced them to turn back, as did many explorers who were defeated by the canyon's inaccessibility. There remains no evidence in the canyon of their attempts, except their expedition journals.

Did you know…

  • If Idaho was flattened it would be as big as Texas.

  • The first Nuclear Power Plant was built in Idaho in 1951.

  • The first gold boom town was in Idaho.

  • The longest main street in the USA, the 33 mile or 53km long road is in Island Park, Idaho.

  • Idaho has craters similar to those on the moon that were made about 15,000 years ago from volcanic lava.

  • It’s called the Gem State because Idaho means “Gem of the Mountains” in the Shoshone language.

  • 80% of McDonalds’ fries are made from Idaho potatoes.
     

  • Click here for America's Most Stunning Locations - Part 2


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