Situated in central Arkansas alongside the city of Hot Springs, Hot Springs National Park is home to 47 natural thermal springs and today protects a number of historic bathhouses. The smallest national park in America, Hot Springs is also the hometown of former President Bill Clinton.
The first officially protected reservation in the United States, Congress deemed the region Hot Springs Reservation in 1832. In 1921, the park was reestablished and renamed as Hot Springs National Park. The park preserves 47 hot springs as well as the historic “Bathhouse Row”, a National Historic Landmark District which includes eight formerly luxurious bathhouses.
For centuries, the natural thermal waters of these springs have been used to heal ailments and unwind. In the 1800s and early 1900s, Hot Springs National Park saw many visitors who came for the healing treatments of the waters. As modern medicine advanced, many of the bathhouses closed and were preserved as museums.
As the name suggests, Hot Springs National Park is filled with an abundance of naturally flowing thermal hot and cold water springs. The surrounding areas boast lush, mountainous terrain sprinkled with creeks and valleys. The park is brimming with wildflowers, shrubs, as well as oak, hickory, and pine trees.
Capitol Reef National Park lies in southern Utah and is home to a rugged desert filled with breathtaking rock formations. The park surrounds the Waterpocket Fold, a natural wrinkle in the earth’s crust. One of Utah’s distinguished national parks, Capitol Reef National Park draws many visitors each year.
In ancient times, Native American tribes inhabited the land surrounding the Waterpocket Fold. When explorer John C. Fremont came across Capitol Reef in 1854, Fremont River was named after him. In the 1870s and 80s, Mormon settlers established themselves in the area and developed what is now the historic district of Fruita alongside the Fremont River. The orchards the Mormons planted there still grow fruit today and can be picked from by visitors to Capitol Reef National Park. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the area, then called Wayne Wonderland, as a national monument, though funding for the park was limited. In the 1960s, the park gained a visitor center, a campground, staff housing, and a paved road, and the majority of farmers who had previously inhabited the land sold their portions to the National Park Service. In 1968, a massive plot of land was added to the park, which led to the official establishment of Capitol Reef National Park in 1971.
Characterized by ancient geological features like colorful sandstone canyons, buttes, ridges, slot canyons, narrow bridges, cliffs, streams, and monoliths, the park exists along the vast Waterpocket Fold, a monocline which extends 100 miles from Thousand Lakes Mountain to Lake Powell. The park is named for its rocky buttes which are said to resemble capitol domes, and the line of rugged cliffs which, similarly to coral reefs in the ocean, provide a barrier to travel.
One of the continent’s best preserved cliff dwellings, Montezuma Castle National Monument is located in Camp Verde, Arizona. These gorgeous prehistoric structures are more than 800 years old and are composed of more than 5 stories of carved rooms. Montezuma Castle National Monument is a fascinating piece of history tucked away in the vast desert.
The dwellings were created and used by the ancient Sinagua people between 1100 and 1425 AD. Montezuma Castle was named as a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 8, 1906 via the Antiquities Act. When “Castle A” was renovated in 1933, it quickly became a popular American tourist destination. The castle is composed of 45 to 50 rooms, originally filled with ancient artifacts that allowed historians a deeper understanding of the area’s original inhabitants. Still one of the Southwestern United States’ most popular national monuments, Montezuma Castle welcomes 350,000 visitors annually.
Situated in the desert in the heart of Arizona, Montezuma Castle National Monument is perched atop a limestone cliff facing nearby Beaver Creek. One of the best preserved prehistoric cave dwellings in North America, the monument is comprised of 5 stories of nearly 60 rooms. Built high above the ground to protect from invaders and the annual flooding of Beaver Creek, Montezuma Castle was carved from limestone slabs as well as mud and clay.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and spectacularly beautiful US National Park, Glacier Bay National Park is home to vast landscapes composed of jagged mountains, massive glaciers, and freshwater lakes. Situated in Alaska’s panhandle not far from Juneau, the state capital, Glacier Bay National Park has much to offer.
Glacier Bay National Park was originally carved into being by the enormous Grand Pacific Glacier. In 1794, Captain George Vancouver was the first to survey Glacier Bay in detail, recognizing the glacier as more than 4,000 feet thick and more than 100 miles long. In 1879, naturalist and author John Muir discovered that a bay had been formed where the glacier had retreated more than 30 miles. By 1916, the Grand Pacific Glacier had retreated more than 60 miles.
Along with other conservationists, John Muir pushed for the protection of Glacier Bay and President Calvin Coolidge signed Glacier Bay National Monument into being in 1925. The monument was elevated to national park status by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, which also expanded the boundaries of the park. Glacier Bay National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
Glacier Bay National Park is characterized by jagged snow capped mountains, coastal beaches, vast tidewater glaciers, deep fjords, rocky valleys, freshwater rivers and lakes, and plenty of native wildlife. The park’s tides can be intense and change dramatically to as much as 25 feet within a 6-hour period. The region is situated in the rugged Gulf of Alaska and is home to the snowy Fairweather Range.
The largest marine park of the United States National Parks, Biscayne National Park is located in South Florida. The park protects several of the Florida Keys, part of the Biscayne Bay, coral reefs, mangrove shorelines, and more. This beautiful national park offers plenty of water recreation activities and is a wonderful place to simply relax.
During the boom of industrialism in the 1950s, many Americans were moving to Florida and vacationing in the Florida Keys. There were plans to turn this serene natural area into the bustling City of Islandia, as well as a seaport and a jetport. In an effort to protect the land and its resources from development, Biscayne Bay became a national monument in 1968, with the intention of preserving as many of the undeveloped Florida Keys as possible. In 1974, more lands were added to the monument and in 1980 Biscayne finally became a recognized national park. Florida congressman Dante Fascell is largely credited with preserving the region, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill making Biscayne a national park in 1968.
Biscayne National Park is composed of several different ecosystems. These include mangrove forests along the shoreline of the mainland, the southern portion of Biscayne Bay, the Florida Keys’ northernmost islands, and part of one of the largest coral reefs in the world. The park is characterized by crystal clear waters, a wealth of marine life, seabirds, and subtropical vegetation. The park’s subtropical climate ensures warm sunny days year round with occasional thunderstorms and hurricanes. There are a variety of trails to explore on the mainland and the islands, and there are plenty of beaches for visitors to enjoy.