October 17, 2012

Get Your National Park On!

Continuing the celebration of Earth Science Week, I thought it would be good to discuss the National Parks System in the United States of America. The National Parks Systems in the U.S. is one of our national treasures, yet so many people have never even been to one. In honor of Earth Science Week, I think it’s about time we learned more about these opportunities.

What’s great about this system is that it consists of more than just National Parks; also encompassed in this system are National Battlefields, National Historic Sites, National Monuments, National Preserves, National Seashores, and so many other sites and parks and areas. In fact, The National Parks Services website proclaims that the National Park System includes 398 areas. That’s more than one per a day, and they are spread all over the country, from sea to shining sea. Let’s focus specifically on the National Parks.

Many of the actual National Parks are part of our cultural discussions. A majority of people have at least heard of several National Parks like Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Redwood, and—thanks to U2—Joshua Tree. But of the 398 areas included in the National Parks System, 58 are National Parks. That means approximately 14.5% of the National Parks System are actually Parks. That’s worth looking into.

The National Parks are all over the country; from Alaska to Florida, Maine to Hawaii, people find National Parks to discover. Not only is this land protected by the federal government, but so are the animals, which means that when looking for the wild flora and fauna of the U.S. of A, National Parks are the places to go.

People can experience many activities in National Parks from fishing to hiking to camping to exploring to oh so much more. If there’s an outdoor activity, most National Parks support it. Some of the best mountain climbing happens in America. Looking for incredible bike trails? Well, search no further. Just find your local National Park. For all the shutterbugs out there, National Parks are great places to find the perfect shot. And for the artists, what better vista than protected Nature? I’m telling you, National Parks are the places to be.

Of course, National Parks do cost, but in comparison to other activities, they are well worth the expense. Each park has its own entrance fees, usually varying from about $10-$25 dollars. But the National Parks Services also has annual passes available. U.S. citizens may purchase a general annual pass for $80. This means that we can get into any and all National Parks, country-wide, as many times as possible in a year for only $80. For military and citizens with permanent disabilities, free passes are available upon approved application. Still, seniors may purchase a $10 lifetime pass.

The annual passes pay off in a hurry for the general pass, and for the other annual pass options, why wouldn’t you get one? Through these annual passes, people can experience parts of America that they probably knew nothing about. They can search for rocks and fossils, look at petroglyphs and ancient civilization remnants, touch trees and flowers and waters that have lived for millennia. They can hike and become part of Nature.

The National Parks are a treasure. In celebration of Earth Science week, go check one out. You won’t be disappointed.

Image Credit: welcomia / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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