National parks in the USA

Geographical position of The United States of America. Distribution of the National parks. History of the National Parks in the country. Major and Minor parks. Tourist trades and campings. The Grand Canyon is awe inspiring and the Grand Canyon KOA.

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No human being can stand apart from the environment because each of us is a part of a natural world. We all depend upon our environment and our environment is depending upon us. Our survival and survival of the future generations depend upon a healthy world.

One of the major problems is the destruction of the rainforests. Traditionally there are three major causes of it: farming, ranching, and logging.

Farmers in rainforest countries are often poor and can't afford to buy land. Instead, these farmers clear rainforest land to grow their crops. Because tropical rainforest soil is so poor in nutrients, farmers cannot reuse the same land year after year. In following years, farmers just clear more land, destroying the forest piece by piece.

The continued increase in human population is having negative effect on our planet's biodiversity. The equation is pretty simple - more people need more space to build houses and industries and this means reduced habitats for many plant and animal species.

Animals and plants need more protected areas where they can live in peace without human interference. National Parks all over the world help to protect our ecosystem.

Topicality of the theme lies in that the United States of America is a country of beautiful views and natural sights. This country is famous for it National Parks. A National Parks is a reserve of natural or semi-natural land, declared or owned by a government, set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, animal and environmental protection, and restricted from most development. While ideas for national parks has been suggested previously, the United States of America established the first National Park in the world. That is why a word «national park» is closely connected with the United States of America. Nowadays National Park is a Part of ecological politics. Only in these parks, you can find untouched nature in their real view. All existing National Parks are a good idea to save not only nature and animals, but the whole our planet. Today, we have a lot of different and difficult problems, and the most serious is the ecological problem. The creation of National Parks all over the world is the first solution of this big problem.

During the nineteenth-twentieth centuries National Parks had been created in the United States of America, and now there are fifty eight National Parks in the country. All American Parks are the best examples of how to save our nature. Americans were one of the first people who had tried to save the planet, and creation of National Parks are theirs great achievement. Besides, National parks are a prominent tourists' attraction which fulfills important learning, recreational and economic functions.

park national tourist camping

1. Geographical position of the USA

The United States of America occupies the central part of the North American continent. It borders on Canada in the north and Mexico in the south. It is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in the east, by the Pacific Ocean in the west and by the Gulf of Mexico in the south.

The present territory of the United States of America consists of three separate parts. The USA proper and Alaska are situated in North America. The Hawaii are situated in the central part of the Pacific Ocean.

The area of the country is about nine million four hundred thousand square km. Its population is about two hundred and fifty six million people.

No general statement can be made about the landscape of the United States of America. It is a country of mountains and prairies, valleys and deserts. About one half of the territory in the west is occupied by the Cordilleras. In the east there are the Appalachian Mountains. Between these great mountain chains central and large valleys lie.

The Rocky Mountains extend from Alaska through Canada and the United States of America to Mexico. Together with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California they have snow-capped peaks and clear mountain lakes.

The Great Lakes are situated in the north-east of the country. They are Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan. The largest rivers of the United States of America are the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Columbia, the Colorado, and the Yukon. American rivers have very expressive names: the Snake River, the Milk River, the Green River, the Sweetwater River, the White River.

The United States of America has rich deposits of coal, oil, iron, zinc, copper, silver, phosphate rock, natural gas, uranium and nonferrous metals. The country has one fourth of the world's coal deposits.

The United States is a country in the Western Hemisphere. It consists of forty-eight contiguous states in North America, Alaska, a peninsula which forms the northwestern most part of North America, and Hawaii, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. There are several United States territories in the Pacific and Caribbean. The term «United States», when used in the geographical sense, means the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States. The country shares land borders with Canada and Mexico and maritime (water) borders with Russia, Cuba, and The Bahamas in addition to Canada and Mexico. [5]

General characteristics

A satellite composite image of the contiguous United States. Deciduous vegetation and grasslands prevail in the east, transitioning to prairies, boreal forests, and the Rockies in the west, and deserts in the southwest. In the northeast, the coasts of the Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard host much of the country's population.

The United States shares land borders with Canada (to the north) and Mexico (to the south), and a territorial water border with Russia in the northwest. The contiguous forty-eight states are otherwise bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast. Alaska borders the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Strait to the west, and the Arctic Ocean to the north, while Hawaii lies far to the southwest of the mainland in the Pacific Ocean.

Forty-eight of the states are in the single region between Canada and Mexico; this group is referred to, with varying precision and formality, as the continental or contiguous United States, and as the Lower forty eight. Alaska, which is not included in the term contiguous United States, is at the northwestern end of North America, separated from the Lower forty eight by Canada. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. The capital city, Washington, District of Columbia, is a federal district located on land donated by the state of Maryland. (Virginia had also donated land, but it was returned in 1847.) The United States also has overseas territories with varying levels of independence and organization.

The continental United States contains two harbor indented coasts of several thousand miles from which well watered coastal plains rise to two mountain ranges between which is an arable plain overlaid by thousands of miles of interconnected and navigable rivers. The Texas continental crossroads, the southerly deserts, and the basin and range country of Utah and Nevada complete the picture. The combination of rivers navigable thousands of miles inland, running throughout virtually all of the largest contiguous area of farm land in the world, has helped to make the United States the world's breadbasket and wealthiest nation by far. Considering both the natural features and the political unity of the states of the region of the Great Plains, contrasted with the river systems and political disunity of Europe as an example, nothing quite like it exists anywhere else in the world. New Orleans-purchased along with the French territory of Louisiana in 1803-is the key to the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Red river system of North America. In turn, Texas, with its own, unnavigable rivers, but productive land, acts as a buffer to protect New Orleans from the south and west.

Distribution of the National parks. [3]

The probability of a park being created in a state in a given year should depend on the distribution of its costs and benefits. Some states may have a greater endowment of potential parkland - thereby making park creation there of greater benefit or lower cost. States that were settled earliest might be expected to have accumulated more cultural capital and therefore host more parks. Likewise, natural beauty may attract early settlement. The year of entry into the union is also controlled for, possibly capturing development pressures or historical resources. Whether the state joined the Confederacy during the Civil War may also reflect an endowment of war memorials and battlefield sites. States with larger land areas may have a greater supply of parks to declare. The opportunity cost of park designation is not evenly distributed across states. A measure of the amount of vacant (unreserved or «unappropriated») land in a state may capture the local costs of park creation. Population is also controlled for, although it might be related to both benefits (more people to enjoy the park) and costs (greater opportunity costs from development pressures). The percentage of the state population that is urban should influence park creation. More urban states, all else equal, may not have much local resistance to rural park creation. Moreover, park benefits rise in more urbanized areas. The stat e's geographic region may also capture its potential park endowment or development pressures. Limited political variables are al so included in the model. First, whether or not the state has congressional representation may factor in park creation. For states that had, at the time, only territory status, the local costs and benefits may be overlooked for more national interests. Membership on relevant congressional committees, in the modern congressional era (since 1947), may also directly influence where parks are created. A state's representation on certain committees may make park creation more or less likely, depending on local and national interests in park creation. Committee representation should make parks that serve local interests more likely, while parks in the national interest (with high local opportunity cost) will be less likely. Thus, committee representation may make parks more likely generally, although representatives may use committees to block locally costly park creation. [13]

2. History of the National Parks in the country

In 1835, the English poet William Wordsworth described the Lake District as a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.

The painter George Catlin, in his travels through the American West, wrote during the 1830s that the Native Americans in the United States might be preserved (by some great protecting policy of government)… in a magnificent park…A nation's Park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!

The first effort by any government to set aside such protected lands was in the United States, on April twenty, 1832, when President Andrew Jackson signed legislation that the twenty second United States Congress had enacted to set aside four sections of land around what is now Hot Springs, Arkansas to protect the natural, thermal springs and adjoining mountainsides for the future disposal of the US government. It was known as the Hot Springs Reservation. However no legal authority was established and federal control of the area was not clearly established until 1877.

The next effort by any government to set aside such protected lands was, again, in the United States, when President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress on June 30, 1864, ceding the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (later becoming the Yosemite National Park) to the state of California:

…. the said State shall accept this grant upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation; shall be inalienable for all time;…. - thirty eight's United States Congress, Session 1, 1864.

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the world's first truly national park. When news of the natural wonders of the Yellowstone were first promulgated, the land was part of a federally governed territory. Unlike Yosemite, there was no state government that could assume stewardship of the land, so the federal government took on direct responsibility for the park, the official first national park of the United States. It took the combined effort and interest of conservationists, politicians and especially businesses-namely, the Northern Pacific Railroad, whose route through Montana would greatly benefit by the creation of this new tourist attraction-to ensure the passage of that landmark enabling legislation by the United States Congress to create Yellowstone National Park. Theodore Roosevelt, already an active campaigner and so influential as good stump speakers were highly necessary in the pre-telecommunications era, was highly influential in convincing fellow Republicans and big business to back the bill.

The United States in 1872. When Yellowstone was established, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho were territories, not states. For this reason, the federal government had to assume responsibility for the land, hence the creation of the national park.

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

Even with the creation of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and nearly thirty seven other national parks and monuments, another forty four years passed before an agency was created in the United States to administer these units in a comprehensive way - the U.S. National Park Service. Businessman Stephen Mather and his journalist partner Robert Sterling Yard pushed hardest for the creation of the NPS, writing then-Secretary of the Interior Franklin Knight Lane about such a need and spearheading a large publicity campaign for their movement. Lane invited Mather to come to Washington, DC to work with him to draft and see passage of the National Park Service Organic Act, which the 64th United States Congress enacted and which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law on August twenty five, 1916. Of the three hundred ninety seven sites managed by the National Park Service of the United States, only fifty eight carry the designation of National Park. [19]

Following the idea established in Yellowstone there soon followed parks in other nations. In Australia, the Royal National Park was established just south of Sydney in 1879. Rocky Mountain National Park became Canada's first national park in 1885. New Zealand established Tongariro National Park in 1887. In Europe the first national parks were a set of nine parks in Sweden in 1909; Europe has some three hundred and fifty nine national parks as of 2010. Africa's first national park was established in 1925 when Albert I of Belgium designated an area of what is now Democratic Republic of Congo centred around the Virunga Mountains as the Albert National Park (since renamed Virunga National Park). In 1973, Mount Kilimanjaro was classified as a National Park and was opened to public access in 1977. In 1926, the government of South Africa designated Kruger National Park as the nation's first national park. After World War II, national parks were founded all over the world. The Vanoise National Park in the Alps was the first French national park, created in 1963 after public mobilization against a touristic project.

One of the first people generally credited with conceptualizing a «national park» was George Catlin (1796-1872), a self-taught artist who traveled extensively among the native peoples of North America, while sketching and painting portraits, landscapes, and scenes from daily Indian life. On a trip to the Dakotas in 1832, he worried about the impact of America's westward expansion on Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness. They might be preserved, he wrote, «by some great protecting policy of government… in a magnificent park…. A nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!»

In the years that followed, additional national parks and monuments (mostly in the western states) were administered by the National Park System, while other monuments and natural and historical areas were administered as separate units by the War Department and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture. No single agency provided unified management of the varied federal parklands. An Executive Order in 1933 transferred sixty three national monuments and military sites from the Forest Service and the War Department to the National Park Service. This action was a major step in the development of today's truly national system of parks-a system that includes areas of historical, cultural, scientific, and scenic importance.

In 1970, Congress declared in the General Authorities Act that all units of the system have equal legal standing in a national system. Areas of the National Park System, the act states,

«though distinct in character, are united through their inter-related purposes and resources into one national park system as cumulative expressions of a single national heritage; that, individually and collectively, these areas derive increased national dignity and recognition of their superb environmental quality through their inclusion jointly with each other in one national park system preserved and managed for the benefit and inspiration of all people of the United States…»

Additions to the National Park System are now generally made through acts of Congress, and national parks can be created only through such acts. But the President has authority, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, to proclaim national monuments on lands already under federal jurisdiction. The Secretary of the Interior is usually asked by Congress for recommendations on proposed additions to the System. The Secretary is counseled by the National Park System Advisory Board, composed of private citizens, which advises on possible additions to the System and policies for its management. [2]

Though we use the term «national park» in a general sense when referring to the individual units within the National Park System, the classification system used by NPS actually encompasses nineteen separate designations. Some are descriptive listings, such as lakeshores, seashores, and battlefields, but others also include titles that can't be neatly categorized because of the diversity of resources within them. The National Park System today comprises three hundred seventy six areas covering more than eight three million acres in forty nine States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. These areas are of such national significance as to justify special recognition and protection in accordance with various acts of Congress.

3. The future of the National Parks in the country

There are seven main areas of environmental problems that face the U.S. National Park System: overuse, insufficient funds for park operation, threats to wildlife, the concession systems, energy and mineral development, atmospheric pollution, and activities on adjacent lands. The popularity of National Parks especially the crown jewel parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, have overwhelmed some national parks with visitors. In fact, the amount of visitors to national parks has steadily increased by ten percent each year. This massive increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic has caused trails to become eroded from overuse, vegetation surrounding trails around popular attraction to be trampled by visitors, and litter, noise, water pollution, and smog have all impeded the enjoyability of national parks. This increase in visitors and the need for the few rangers employed by the park to meet the needs of more and more visitors have created a safety issue. Rangers can't monitor the entire park for criminal activity, and this impacts the safety of national parks.

Like other environmental organizations and agencies, insufficient funding is a major concern. The increase in visitors to national parks has increased the amount of wear an tear that park facilities sustain each year, and this increases the amount of repair requests and new structures that need to built annually. However, with a limited fund, these repairs and improvements often have to take a back seat to more pressing issues. While improvements to roads, trails, and facilities are important to the enjoyment of the park, the amount of park rangers available helps to protect the safety of park visitors. With shortages in funding the number of rangers at these parks is declining which impairs public safety. [27]

Wildlife at national parks is also threatened by the increasing popularity of these areas. More visitors means that there are more people approaching wild animals to take pictures and watch their «natural behaviors.» While these observations don't necessarily harm the animals if done discretely from a distance, there are a few irresponsible individuals who take risks to get close to animals. They harass the animals and provoke them in order to get an action shot or to prove their «manhood.» This practice not only puts the human at risk for injury or death, but it could also stress the animal and cause it to be injured. As funding is lost, private landowners may buy portions of land that once belonged to the park and set up cattle grazing areas, or put the land to some other use. The sale of national land depletes vital habitat for a wide variety of animals and increases the chances that diseases will be spread from domesticated animals to wildlife, or from wildlife to domesticated animals.

The concession system is another issue that is plaguing the national park system. In this case, private companies bid to sell their products in the park to visitors. While they are able to monopolize a market, and they are allowed to operate on national park property, they only return twenty five percent of the money earned to the government. This percentage doesn't make up for the amount of pollution they create from the tourists littering, or from the environmental impacts of their concession stand and sales.

One big concern is the potential exercising of mining claims on national parks. For example in the Grand Basin National Park in Nevada there are two hundred forty seven mining claims that still exist. If any of these claims were to be developed, it could dramatically impact the health of the ecosystems within the park, and it could threaten the health and sustainability of the park.

Atmospheric pollution is yet another issue that national parks face. Acid rain caused by industrial and automobile exhaust impacts the health of water systems within national parks, and harms delicate organisms like amphibians and fish. Smog is also a problem that impacts the health and enjoyability of national parks. With more people visiting parks, vehicle traffic has increased and so has auto emissions near and in parks. This creates smog which can obscure the visitors' views and impede their ability to breathe comfortably within the park.

National parks not only have to worry about internal factors that impact the parks health and operation, but they also have to worry about activities that are on adjacent lands. Mining, logging, and drilling for oil are all activities that produce pollution that can harm the delicate ecosystems within a national park. Air pollution from industrial and automobile exhaust, water pollution from slucebox mining, and deforestation can cause soil erosion that can contaminate the national park's water supply. Agricultural development around national parks can also impact the health and stability of a national park. Domesticated animals can catch and spread diseases from and to wild animals. Also wildlife that cross out of the park to a private piece of property risk the threat of being killed by the rancher or land owner, or even by being hit and killed by traffic. [28]

Yellowstone National Park is perhaps one of the most negatively impacted national parks by these issues. It is one of the most popular national parks and it receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. They face trail erosion, trampled vegetation, and animal harassment. Also they are near prime petroleum fields that are currently being drilled and pumped. Air pollution, soil pollution and water pollution are all real threats that this park has to face, as well as potential negative effects of natural pollutants that could cause injuries to human visitors. Yellowstone is also in the heart of cattle country, and they face an on-going border battle with beef barons. The issue over the right to shoot and kill park animals like bison, bears, and wolves if they cross out of the park and onto private property. The spread of tuberculosis is also a real threat wit bison and cattle interactions.

Untold Stories

The term «national park» conjures up thoughts of big, natural landscapes like Grand Canyon and Yosemite. But two-thirds of the National Park Service's three hundred ninety two areas were created to protect historic or cultural resources, from colonial Boston to New Mexico's Chaco Canyon. And many of those parks lack the money and staff to use those resources to their fullest.

«We have an incredible collection of museum artifacts, and forty five percent of the Park Service collections have not even been catalogued,» says James Nations of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association. «We've got stuff, and we don't even know what we've got, and we don't have places to store it. We're missing opportunities to tell the story of America through our national parks.»

Crumbling History

National parks protect the historic buildings in which America's history was made, places like Independence Hall, Ellis Island, and the San Antonio Missions. But some of these hallowed edifices are crumbling and in desperate need of repair. They're a big part of a nine and a half billion dollars maintenance backlog that plagues the park system.

Wildlife Management

No park exists in isolation, and that fact is becoming increasingly clear as the areas surrounding parks are developed for living space, agriculture, mining, forestry, and more. The iconic species protected inside the parks don't recognize boundaries and must often move in and out of the parks to feed, mate, or migrate. If larger ecological wildlife corridors can not be maintained to include the lands outside of parks, many species may not survive within them either.

Foreign Invaders

National parks are inviting places, especially for non-native species that can cause havoc once they move in. Plants and insects often hitchhike to our shores on boats or airplanes while other species, like snakes, are intentionally imported for the exotic pet trade. When turned loose with no competition, invasive species can run amok in an ecosystem and send a park's native residents toward extinction.

More than six thousand five hundred non-native invasive species have been found in U.S. national parks. Seventy percent of them are plants, which encroach on a staggering seven million acres of our national parklands. [29]

Adjacent Development

A Canadian company hopes to site North America's largest open-pit gold and copper mine right next to Alaska's remote Lake Clark National Park. Uranium prospecting is currently under way on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Sugar producers have long fouled waters with phosphorus pollution and disrupted critical flows to the Everglades.

What happens on a park's borders can dramatically impact the environment inside the park itself. Mining, petroleum prospecting, clear-cut lumbering, and other developments are generally prohibited inside parks-but they still pose serious threats to water quality, clean air, and other vital aspects of the park environment.

Climate Change

If Earth's climate continues to change as scientists predict it will, the national parks will be impacted like the rest of the planet. Glaciers may melt away, as indeed they are at Glacier National Park in Montana. Fire seasons may grow in length and severity, and the landscape may shift under the feet of the parks' wild residents.

«Changes in temperature and precipitation can push species out of their previous ranges towards softer temperatures, either upwards in elevation or northward,» says Nations. «But they don't recognize where the boundary is and in many cases that land is owned by someone else.»

Water Issues

Some parks are already feeling drier these days, as increasing human demand shrinks supplies on which aquatic species depend. In Florida's Biscayne National Park, where freshwater arrives from the highly compromised Everglades ecosystem upstream, a freshwater shortage is becoming an issue even though ninety five percent of the park remains covered with seawater.

Ten parks are touched by the Colorado River and its tributaries, which are being drained of water by the growing cities and farmlands of an increasingly thirsty West. Less reliable precipitation on a warmer, drier Earth would make this growing problem worse.

Air Pollution

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Southeast wasn't named for its smog, but it is one of many parks seriously affected by the problem. Air quality issues originate outside the parks. At Great Smoky, power plant and industrial emissions are blown by winds to the southern Appalachians and trapped there by the mountains.

Air quality problems choke off views, poison plants, and even foul water. Recent air quality data show a glimmer of hope-visibility and ozone concentrations are stable or improving in most parks. However, in too many cases, stable means simply preserving a subpar status quo. [9]

Transportation Troubles

National parks are the destination of many a great American road trip. But too many roads within the parks themselves are in disrepair and some pose a real danger to drivers. The same goes for many parts of the parks' transportation infrastructure, from shuttle buses to hiking trails.

Repairs are always under way but it will take time and money to truly set things right. More than half of the Park Service's nine and a half billion dollars maintenance backlog is earmarked for the transportation infrastructure that enables people to actually visit the parks.

Visitor Experience

Popular parks like Yosemite face overcrowding issues that would have amazed John Muir. Managers must balance open access with negative impacts on visitor experience and on park environments.

Today's visitors also use parks in new ways. Snowmobilers prowl Yellowstone and pilots fly visitors over the Grand Canyon. Mountain bikers, motorboaters and many others all hope to enjoy their favorite pastimes in their favorite parks.

Does allowing such activities enhance the park experience or detract from it? Managing preferences and park usage conflicts is a growing challenge for administrators-but National Park System Chief of Public Affairs David Barna says the top priority is clear. [6]

4. Types of the National Parks

Nature reserves are areas of land in a predominantly untouched, natural condition which have high conservation value. Their primary purpose is to protect and conserve their outstanding, unique or representative ecosystems, native plant and animal species or natural phenomena.

Scientific research is an important objective in nature reserves, as it increases our understanding of their values and provides the information needed to conserve them.

Nature reserves have few visitor facilities, such as picnic areas, lookouts and walking tracks, and visitation is carefully managed to minimise disturbance.

State conservation areas

State conservation areas are lands reserved to protect and conserve significant or representative ecosystems, landforms, natural phenomena or places of cultural significance, while providing opportunities for sustainable visitation, enjoyment, use of buildings and research.

The principal difference between the management, objectives and principles of national parks and state conservation areas is that mineral and petroleum exploration and mining may be permitted in state conservation areas.

Statutory reviews of state conservation areas have been completed in 2008 and 2011.

What is karst?

Karst landscapes are named after the great limestone Karst Plateau in Slovenia. These landscapes are formed from rock that dissolves in water, such as limestone, dolomite or chalk.

Over vast lengths of time, water erodes crevices in the rock, forming deep vertical gorges. Streams disappear underground, trickling into cracks to eventually hollow out underground caverns. As water drips and seeps over cave walls it leaves calcium carbonate deposits behind, in the form of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and shawls.

On the surface above, depressions (called dolines) are gouged out of the landscape - some of them very deep and wide. Exposed limestone beds are sculpted into sharp-edged grooves, flutes and pits called karren. [21]

Karst conservation reserves in NSW

Karst conservation reserves are outstanding cave areas that offer unique experiences with their spectacular beauty and stunning surroundings. There are four in New South Wales: Jenolan, Wombeyan, Borenore and Abercrombie.

These diverse cave systems offer unique experiences with their beauty and spectacular surroundings. They're all found in the rich countryside bordering the western side of the Blue Mountains. You can spend a day at one of the caves, or take a few days on the round-trip 'four cave tour'.

The guided and self-guided tours will open your eyes to the stunning and distinctive formations in each cave system. For the more adventurous, squeezing through the tiny passageways of 'wild' caves makes for an exhilarating adventure experience.

Accommodation is available to suit most budgets at Abercrombie, Jenolan and Wombeyan caves. The camping areas are shaded by well-established trees and provide hot showers and laundry facilities. Alternatively, you can enjoy the fresh and cool mountain air, staying in a cabin or cottage constructed in harmony with surrounding reserves.

Marine parks

Marine parks are areas of marine waters and lands permanently set aside to protect the biological diversity of our marine plants and animals, and to provide protection for unique and representative areas. Marine parks are zoned for multiple-uses such as fishing and recreation. This provides varying levels of protection, and ensures the continued enjoyment of our marine resources. [15]

5. Major and Minor parks

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, established by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March first, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone, widely held to be the first national park in the world, is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful Geyser, one of the most popular features in the park. It has many types of ecosystems, but the subalpine forest is dominant.

Native Americans have lived in the Yellowstone region for at least eleven thousand years. The region was bypassed during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early nineteenth century. Aside from visits by mountain men during the early-to-mid - nineteenth century, organized exploration did not begin until the late 1860s. The U.S. Army was commissioned to oversee the park just after its establishment. In 1917, administration of the park was transferred to the National Park Service, which had been created the previous year. Hundreds of structures have been built and are protected for their architectural and historical significance, and researchers have examined more than one thousand archaeological sites.

Yellowstone National Park spans an area of three thousand four hundred and sixty eight square miles, comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent. The caldera is considered an active volcano. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years. Half of the world's geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism. Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone. The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining, nearly intact ecosystem in the Earth's northern temperate zone. [1]

Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been documented, including several that are either endangered or threatened. The vast forests and grasslands also include unique species of plants. Yellowstone Park is the largest and most famous megafauna location in the Continental United States. Grizzly Bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk live in the park. The Yellowstone Park Bison Herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States. Forest fires occur in the park each year; in the large forest fires of 1988, nearly one third of the park was burnt. Yellowstone has numerous recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, boating, fishing and sightseeing. Paved roads provide close access to the major geothermal areas as well as some of the lakes and waterfalls. During the winter, visitors often access the park by way of guided tours that use either snow coaches or snowmobile.


The park is located at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River, from which it takes its historical name. Near the end of the eighteen'th century, French trappers named the river «Roche Jaune,» which is probably a translation of the Minnetaree name «Mi tsi a-da-zi» (Rock Yellow River). Later, American trappers rendered the French name in English as «Yellow Stone.» Although it is commonly believed that the river was named for the yellow rocks seen in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Native American name source is not clear. [4]

The human history of the park begins at least eleven thousand years ago when aboriginal Americans first began to hunt and fish in the region. During the construction of the post office in Gardiner, Montana, in the 1950s, an obsidian projectile point of Clovis origin was found that dated from approximately eleven thousand years ago. These Paleo-Indians, of the Clovis culture, used the significant amounts of obsidian found in the park to make such cutting tools and weapons. Arrowheads made of Yellowstone obsidian have been found as far away as the Mississippi Valley, indicating that a regular obsidian trade existed between local tribes and tribes farther east. By the time white explorers first entered the region during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, they encountered the Nez Perce, Crow and Shoshone tribes. While passing through present day Montana, the expedition members were informed of the Yellowstone region to the south, but they did not investigate it.

In 1806, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, left to join a group of fur trappers. After splitting up with the other trappers in 1807, Colter passed through a portion of what later became the park, during the winter of 1807-1808. He observed at least one geothermal area in the northeastern section of the park, near Tower Fall. After surviving wounds he suffered in a battle with members of the Crow and Blackfoot tribes in 1809, he gave a description of a place of «fire and brimstone» that was dismissed by most people as delirium. The supposedly imaginary place was nicknamed «Colter's Hell». Over the next forty years, numerous reports from mountain men and trappers told of boiling mud, steaming rivers and petrified trees, yet most of these reports were believed at the time to be myth.

After an 1856 exploration, mountain man Jim Bridger (also believed to be the first or second European American to have seen the Great Salt Lake) reported observing boiling springs, spouting water, and a mountain of glass and yellow rock. These reports were largely ignored because Bridger was known for being a «spinner of yarns». In 1859, Captain William F. Raynolds, U.S. Army surveyor embarked on a two year survey of the northern Rockies. After wintering in Wyoming, in May 1860, Raynolds and his party which included naturalist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden and guide Jim Bridger attempted to cross the Continental Divide over Two Ocean Plateau from the Wind River drainage in northwest Wyoming. Heavy spring snows prevented their passage but had they been able to traverse the divide, the party would have been the first organized survey to enter the Yellowstone region. The American Civil War hampered further organized explorations until the late 1860s. [16]

The first detailed expedition to the Yellowstone area was the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition of 1869, which consisted of three privately funded explorers. The Folsom party followed the Yellowstone River to Yellowstone Lake. The members of the Folsom party kept a journal and based on the information it reported, a party of Montana residents organized the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870. It was headed by the surveyor-general of Montana Henry Washburn, and included Nathaniel P. Langford (who later became known as «National Park» Langford) and a United States Army detachment commanded by Lt. Gustavus Doane.

The expedition spent about a month exploring the region, collecting specimens, and naming sites of interest. A Montana writer and lawyer named Cornelius Hedges, who had been a member of the Washburn expedition, proposed that the region should be set aside and protected as a National Park; he wrote a number of detailed articles about his observations for the Helena Herald newspaper between 1870 and 1871. Hedges essentially restated comments made in October 1865 by acting Montana Territorial Governor Thomas Francis Meagher, who had previously commented that the region should be protected. Others made similar suggestions. In an 1871 letter from Jay Cooke to Ferdinand Hayden, Cooke wrote that his friend, Congressman William D. Kelley had also suggested «Congress pass a bill reserving the Great Geyser Basin as a public park forever».


Over one thousand and seven hundred species of trees and other vascular plants are native to the park. Another one hundred and seventy species are considered to be exotic species and are non-native. Of the eight conifer tree species documented, Lodgepole Pine forests cover eighty per cent of the total forested areas. Other conifers, such as Subalpine Fir, Engelmann Spruce, Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir and Whitebark Pine, are found in scattered groves throughout the park. As of 2007, the whitebark pine is threatened by a fungus known as white pine blister rust; however, this is mostly confined to forests well to the north and west. In Yellowstone, about seven percent of the whitebark pine species have been impacted with the fungus, compared to nearly complete infestations in northwestern Montana. Quaking Aspen and willows are the most common species of deciduous trees. The aspen forests have declined significantly since the early twentyth century, but scientists at Oregon State University attribute recent recovery of the aspen to the reintroduction of wolves which has changed the grazing habits of local elk.

There are dozens of species of flowering plants that have been identified, most of which bloom between the months of May and September. The Yellowstone Sand Verbena is a rare flowering plant found only in Yellowstone. It is closely related to species usually found in much warmer climates, making the sand verbena an enigma. The estimated eight thousand examples of this rare flowering plant all make their home in the sandy soils on the shores of Yellowstone Lake, well above the waterline. [10]

In Yellowstone's hot waters, bacteria form mats of bizarre shapes consisting of trillions of individuals. These bacteria are some of the most primitive life forms on earth. Flies and other arthropods live on the mats, even in the middle of the bitterly cold winters. Initially, scientists thought that microbes there gained sustenance only from sulfur. In 2005, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder discovered that the sustenance for at least some of the diverse hyperthermophilic species is molecular hydrogen.

Thermus aquaticus is a bacterium found in the Yellowstone hot springs that produces an important enzyme that is easily replicated in the lab and is useful in replicating DNA as part of the polymerase chain reaction process. The retrieval of these bacteria can be achieved with no impact to the ecosystem. Other bacteria in the Yellowstone hot springs may also prove useful to scientists who are searching for cures for various diseases.

Non-native plants sometimes threaten native species by using up nutrient resources. Though exotic species are most commonly found in areas with the greatest human visitation, such as near roads and at major tourist areas, they have also spread into the backcountry. Generally, most exotic species are controlled by pulling the plants out of the soil or by spraying, both of which are time consuming and expensive


Yellowstone is widely considered to be the finest megafauna wildlife habitat in the lower forty eight states. There are almost sixty species of mammals in the park, including the gray wolf, the threatened lynx, and grizzly bears. Other large mammals include the bison (buffalo), black bear, elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goat, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and mountain lion.

The Yellowstone Park Bison Herd is the largest public herd of American Bison in the United States. The relatively large bison populations are a concern for ranchers, who fear that the species can transmit bovine diseases to their domesticated cousins. In fact, about half of Yellowstone's bison have been exposed to brucellosis, a bacterial disease that came to North America with European cattle that may cause cattle to miscarry. The disease has little effect on park bison, and no reported case of transmission from wild bison to domestic livestock has been filed. However, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has stated that Bison are the «likely source» of the spread of the disease in cattle in Wyoming and North Dakota. Elk also carry the disease and are believed to have transmitted the infection to horses and cattle. Bison once numbered between thirty and sixty million individuals throughout North America, and Yellowstone remains one of their last strongholds. Their populations had increased from less than fifty in the park in 1902 to four thousand by 2003. The Yellowstone Park Bison Herd reached a peak in 2005 with four thousand nine hundred animals. Despite a summer estimated population of four thousand seven hundred in 2007, the number dropped to three thousand in 2008 after a harsh winter and controversial brucellosis management sending hundreds to slaughter. The Yellowstone Park Bison Herd is believed to be one of only four free roaming and genetically pure herds on public lands in North America. The other three herds are the Henry Mountains Bison Herd of Utah, at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota and on Elk Island in Alberta, Canada.

To combat the perceived threat, national park personnel regularly harass bison herds back into the park when they venture outside of the area's borders. During the winter of 1996-1997, the bison herd was so large that one thousand and seventy nine bison that had exited the park were shot or sent to slaughter. Animal rights activists argue that this is a cruel practice and that the possibility for disease transmission is not as great as some ranchers maintain. Ecologists point out that the bison are merely traveling to seasonal grazing areas that lie within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that have been converted to cattle grazing, some of which are within National Forests and are leased to private ranchers. APHIS has stated that with vaccinations and other means, brucellosis can be eliminated from the bison and elk herds throughout Yellowstone. [23]

Starting in 1914, in an effort to protect elk populations, the U.S. Congress appropriated funds to be used for the purposes of «destroying wolves, prairie dogs, and other animals injurious to agriculture and animal husbandry» on public lands. Park Service hunters carried out these orders, and by 1926 they had killed one hundred and thirty six wolves, and wolves were virtually eliminated from Yellowstone. Further exterminations continued until the National Park Service ended the practice in 1935. With the passing of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the wolf was one of the first mammal species listed. After the wolves were extirpated from Yellowstone, the coyote then became the park's top canine predator. However, the coyote is not able to bring down large animals, and the result of this lack of a top predator on these populations was a marked increase in lame and sick megafauna.

By the 1990s, the Federal government had reversed its views on wolves. In a controversial decision by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (which oversees threatened and endangered species), Mackenzie Valley wolves, imported from Canada, were reintroduced into the park. Reintroduction efforts have been successful with populations remaining relatively stable. A survey conducted in 2005 reported that there were thirteen wolf packs, totaling one hundred and eighteen individuals in Yellowstone and three hundred and twenty six in the entire ecosystem. These park figures were lower than those reported in 2004 but may be attributable to wolf migration to other nearby areas as suggested by the substantial increase in the Montana population during that interval. Almost all the wolves documented were descended from the 66 wolves reintroduced in 1995-1996. The recovery of populations throughout the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho has been so successful that on February twenty seven, 2008 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service removed the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population from the endangered species list.

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