Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Our Top Six National Parks and Monuments in the USA

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Our Top Six National Parks and Monuments in the USA

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain! 

It took me about five years after 2004m after I retired from Philippine business and migrated to the US when I began to find myself humming this song. In 2008, Bill and I married, and we took a five-year honeymoon RVing across America. I saw first-hand the grandeur of the land, her significant history, and her beautiful people. Not long after, I also started humming the Star-Spangled Banner and it all came together in 2011 when I took my oath as an American citizen.

I have become an American, proud that the lyrics of this Scout Song will ring true for many centuries to come. The US protects her natural beauty and heritage like no other country.  As of 2015, 25,800 areas, comprising 14% of the country’s total land area, are protected. The number also constitutes 10% of the world’s total. The extent of protection will ensure that not only Americans will enjoy the country’s best for a long time to come, but also those who visit our land from all over the world.

how to visit all in one epic trip from
Different levels of government, federal, state, tribal and local level authorities, manage this function. All fifty states participate as well as the following federal agencies:
National Landscape Conservation System (Bureau of Land Management Special Areas)
National Park Service
National Wild and Scenic Rivers System
National Wildlife Refuge System
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Marine Protected Areas

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service, the agency in charge of the top 407 of the protected areas, turns 100! In celebration, a program to “inspire all people to connect with, enjoy, and support America’s national parks” is ongoing. In cooperation with the 2nd century’s stewardship of this beautiful land, I am contributing this article, using the hashtag #FindYourPark in my social media, and promoting this route to visit all 59.

There are many designations used for these protected areas, among them National Parks and National Monuments. Of 59 national parks and 122 national monuments, Bill and I have visited 32 of the former, 29 of the latter, and 107 other protected areas during the five years we crossed the country (and continent) in an RV. I have written about all 168 of them and others from Canada and Mexico in my book, Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream.

Recently, Bill and I decided to rank all those we have seen. To make the selection easier, we used only one criterion for each. For National Parks, we used “outstanding natural beauty.” For National Monuments, on the other hand, we used exemplary "resource because of natural or historical significance.” It is interesting to note that the Grand Canyon was a national monument before government elevated its status to a national park.

Our Top Six National Parks

Bill and I had the same rankings for the top three and differed slightly for the next three. But we disagreed on the next four. So we are only naming our Top Six National Parks:

Grand Canyon in Arizona
Yosemite in California
Yellowstone in Wyoming and Montana
Denali in Alaska
Crater Lake in Oregon
Haleakala in Hawaii

Our Top Six National Monuments

The same thing happened for national monuments. We had almost identical rankings for the top 5 and differed slightly on the 6th but greatly on the next four. So here are the National Monuments we chose as our Top Six:

Statue of Liberty in New York
Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota
Chaco Culture in New Mexico
Giant Sequoia in California
Hanford Reach in Washington
Effigy Mounds in Iowa

No one will regret taking the time to go to these twelve protected areas. Any travel plan or bucket list for visiting the USA should include them. They will all leave you with the lasting impression that America is indeed beautiful from the Atlantic to the Pacific, deserving of unity and brotherhood, instead of the divisiveness and hatred that is spreading. Hopefully, the message of the last paragraph of the classic Scout Song will ring louder and truer still:  

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

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