5 amazing Nasional Parks that you should visit

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1. GATES OF THE ARCTIC

ALASKA

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Located entirely above the Arctic Circle, Gates of the Arctic is one of America’s least visited national parks. Just 10,000-some adventurous souls journey here each year. Those who do enjoy a pristine wilderness with no roads or trails—just vast backcountry filled with jagged peaks, sweeping tundra, and abundant wildlife such as caribou, musk ox, Dall sheep, and grizzlies. This untamed park is not for everyone, which is exactly what makes it so special.

1. Gates of The Arctic is isolated from all roads. Most people gain access to the park by bush plane or hiking from a nearby native village. This is the reason the park is mostly only visited by hardcore hikers and backpackers looking for a challenge.



2. Gates of the Arctic National park is home to many native eskimo tribes. These tribes rely heavily on the wildlife for their food. Just about the only man made thing they have is a gun for hunting. These tribes include the eskimos of the Kobuk and Noatak rivers as well as the Koyoukan Indians. 



3.There are two main caribou herds that travel through the park each fall and spring. The native tribes living there rely heavily on these two herds of caribou for food and clothing.

2. NORTH CASCADES

WASHINGTON STATE

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Each year more than two million visitors flock to Montana’s Glacier National Park to see its 25 remaining glaciers. Meanwhile, fewer than 25,000 people visit North Cascades National Park, which contains over 300 glaciers—roughly a third of all glaciers in the lower 48! How do you get to this nearly deserted alpine wonderland? Simply drive three hours from downtown Seattle.

Location: Washington
Established: October 2, 1968
Size: 684,000 acres, includes two recreation areas
With glacier-clad peaks rising almost vertically from thickly forested valleys, the North Cascades are often called the American Alps. The national park forms one unit of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. The two other units—Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area—contain most visitor facilities.
The park complex preserves virgin forests, fragile subalpine meadows, and hundreds of glaciers. Mule deer and black-tailed deer graze the high meadows, where black bears gorge on berries and hoary marmots sunbathe. Mountain goats clamber on rock faces. Mountain lions and bobcats, seldom seen, help keep other wildlife populations in balance.
The wildness and ruggedness of the park especially lure hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers. "A more difficult route to travel never fell to man's lot," complained trapper Alexander Ross, who came here in 1814. But today the main road (through Ross Lake NRA) and easy access into the park—on some of its nearly 400 miles of trails—also allow more casual visitors to experience the peaceful forests and the drama of the mountains.
The region forms part of the Cascade Range, named for its innumerable waterfalls. The range extends from British Columbia to northern California. A geological theory proposes that the mountains began as a micro-continent several hundred miles out in the Pacific Ocean. Over the eons a series of islands floated on their plate toward North America. About a hundred million years ago, the plate smashed into the North American continent, folding and crumpling into a mountain range as it lodged against the landmass. Those mountains eroded; the Cascades you see today rose only five or six million years ago.
The western part of the park differs markedly from the east. Moisture blows in from Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It hits the western slopes and rises, condensing to rain and snow. Western red cedars, hemlocks, and Douglas firs luxuriate on slopes that receive 110 inches of precipitation a year. When the winds reach the east, they are mostly wrung dry: Only 35 inches of precipitation fall in Stehekin at the head of Lake Chelan. Arid-dwelling sagebrush and ponderosa pine grow in the peaks' rain shadow.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 1956, Canadian author Jack Kerouac found solace (and inspiration for two novels) in a cabin on Desolation Peak, where he worked for the Park Service as a fire spotter for 63 days. In The Dharma Bums, he writes, "I went out in my alpine yard and there it was . . . hundreds of miles of pure snow-covered rocks and virgin lakes and high timber. . . Below, instead of the world, I saw a sea of marshmallow clouds."

3. ISLE ROYALE

MICHIGAN

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This remote archipelago, tucked away in northwest Lake Superior, is the least visited national park in the lower 48 states. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, it welcomes fewer than 20,000 people each year. Highlights include spending the night at Rock Harbor Lodge, paddling the rocky coast, hiking to remote campsites, and viewing wildlife such as moose and wolves.

fact about Isle Royale National Park
  • Isle Royale is Michigan's only national park.
  • Isle Royale is located in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, approximately 53 miles north of Copper Harbor, Michigan.
  • Lake Superior is the world's largest body of fresh water and is well-known for it's sudden, unexpected changes in weather and it's sometimes violent storms. Although it's not common, there were reported 100 mph wind gusts and 30+ ft waves at the time the ore-carrying freighter, the Edmund Fitzgerald, sank near White Fish Point.
  • The average surface temperature of Lake Superior normally does not exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The Island is accessible only by boat or float plane.
  • Isle Royale is approximately 45 miles long and 8.5 miles across at it's widest points and contains roughly 165 miles of trails.
  • The island's length is actually situated from southwest to northeast, however, most people usually refer to the southwest area as the west end of the island and the northeast area as the east end of the island.
  • Isle Royale National Park is actually an archipelago, which is basically defined as a grouping, or a chain of islands. The island most people refer to and visit just happens to be the largest island in the archipelago.
  • Isle Royal National Park covers an area of 850 square miles which is approximately 571,790 acres. There are 539,282 acres under federal control, while the remaining 32, 508 acres are non-federal. The total land area of the park is 133,782 acres, of which 132,018 acres are designated wilderness.
  • The two largest animals on the island are moose and wolves. Visitors who have the opportunity to observe a wolf on Isle Royale should consider themselves lucky because the wolves tend to stay away from people as much as possible.
  • The natural isolation provided by Lake Superior allows scientists to get a rare look at the interaction of the moose and wolf population on the island. Isle Royale has been the backdrop for many scientific studies of moose and wolves because the animals can be observed in their natural environment and are free from human interaction and the presence of outside predators.

4. CONGAREE

SOUTH CAROLINA

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Flooded boardwalk through Congaree National Park floodplain forest 

A short drive from South Carolina’s capital, Congaree—explains the National Park Service—protects "one of the tallest temperate deciduous forests in the world" with "the largest intact expanse of old growth bottom land hardwood forest" in the Southeast. It’s a mouthful, but you don’t need a degree in forest management to enjoy the Redwoods of the East. As you stroll along the park’s elevated boardwalks, massive oaks, tupelos, and cypress trees form a dramatic canopy 130 feet above.

Location: Central South Carolina
Established: November 10, 2003
Size: 24,180 acres
Say the word "swamp," and the first image that probably comes to mind is of a wet, sticky, mosquito-infested mire that few people would want to visit. Such an image certainly might have kept some visitors away from Congaree Swamp National Monument, a 22,000-acre forest in South Carolina.
Yet, after the monument gained national park status in November 2003—and dropped the unappealing "s" word from its name—the number of visitors each month increased significantly.
Technically speaking, Congaree is not a swamp, because it does not contain standing water throughout most of the year. One of the newest national parks is actually a floodplain forest that floods about ten times a year. Spreading northeast from the meandering Congaree River, the land is the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottom land hardwoods in the United States.
Push back the ghostly Spanish moss that drips from the bald cypresses, and you enter a lush back country inhabited by bobcats, deer, and playful river otters. Yellow bellied sapsuckers drill holes into trees one day and return the next to feast on the sap that has filled the holes. The rapid-fire series of knocks you hear is from one of the many woodpeckers found in the park, also hard at work boring holes into trees.
At night in the fall and spring, rangers lead visitors on an "owl prowl," so they can hear the eerie calls of barred owls and see the glowing fungi that grow on the cypresses. According to local legends, the cypress tree's trademark "knees"—small, knobby wood growths that rise around the trunk's base—are really wood elves who come to life at night to dance through the forest.
Congaree was named for the Native American tribe that lived here centuries ago. They were decimated in the 18th century, victims of a smallpox epidemic that came over with European settlers.
Toward the end of the next century, the country's burgeoning lumber industry moved south, with an eye on Congaree's giant hardwood trees. However, because of the remoteness of the area and the lack of navigable waterways many of the old giants were saved from the ax.
Conservationists worked hard to save the rest. In 1976, Congress rewarded their efforts by setting Congaree aside as a national monument. Since its establishment, the park has been designated as a national natural landmark, a globally important bird area, and an international biosphere reserve.

HOW TO GET THERE

Twenty miles southeast of Columbia, via I-77 and Bluff Road or S.C. 48. Follow the Congaree National Park direction signs to the park.

WHEN TO GO

Year-round. Spring and fall are the most pleasant seasons. Boaters find easier paddling after a rain in late winter and early spring.

HOW TO VISIT

Allow a full or half day. From the visitor center, take the Low and High Boardwalk Trails (2.4 miles total). Then do the Weston Lake Loop Trail (4.4 miles) around the oxbow lake. Birders like the 11.7-mile Kingsnake Trail in a remote part of the park.

5. DRY TORTUGAS

FLORIDA

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These seven tiny islands, perched a hundred miles off the tip of Florida, shelter nesting sea turtles and feature stunning beaches and Fort Jefferson, the largest all-masonry fort in the U.S. But what really sets Dry Tortugas apart is what lies below the waves. Over 99 percent of the park is underwater, protecting extensive corals and roughly 200 shipwrecks.

A visit to Key West, Florida isn’t complete without an outing to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Situated in the Gulf of Mexico, 70 miles west of Key West, the Dry Tortugas is known for its stunning natural beauty, wildlife, beaches, coral reefs, campgrounds and array of activities both in and out of the water.

Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the Dry Tortugas in the summer of 1513 and named the cluster of pristine keys Las Tortugas, because of the abundance of sea turtles he’d caught while visiting. Later, the area was deemed the Dry Tortugas because of the lack of fresh water available on the islands.

The Dry Tortugas National Park earned its place in the history of the United States when the Navy decided to build a military fortress there to protect the Florida coastline. Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846 and included 25-ton Rodman Cannons, rifled Parrot Guns and other heavy artillery. While it was still under construction, the fort served as a prison during the Civil War and was well known for its harsh conditions and several infamous residents.

In 1992, the Dry Tortugas was established as a National Park. More than 80,000 people a year come to see and explore this secluded oasis and all of its eco-wonders. Visitors spend the day just enjoying the scenic beauty and the white sandy beaches. For those who love to go camping, overnight, weekend, and longer-term arrangements are available.

The Dry Tortugas National Park is also known for its extraordinary bird watchingopportunities, as a diverse assortment of bird species are said to make the park their home. Whether you love to snorkel, fish, hike, or just soak in the sun, the Dry Tortugas National Park is an out-of-the ordinary adventure for people of all ages.

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