Craving Culture in National Parks This Summer

Date:   March 8, 2007
Contact:   Marcie Kohenak, NPCA, 202-454-3311

Craving Culture in National Parks This Summer

National Parks Conservation Association Highlights Parks with History, Funding Needs

Washington, D.C.—With summer rapidly approaching, travelers are planning their vacation destinations. Considering the national parks but want more than awe-inspiring scenery and wildlife? Looking for a non-traditional, less-crowded destination? The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has selected ten parks that highlight America’s cultural heritage and diversity, and encourages everyone to visit and help protect our National Park System.

“National parks are a part of American culture, and are some of the best places in the country to experience our past firsthand,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. 


America’s 390 national parks offer a wide variety of activities. Whether you want to experience life aboard a 19th century sailing ship at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, discover the history and heritage of the Cherokee Indians in the Great Smoky Mountains, or follow the Underground Railroad through the home of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C., here are ten national parks to consider for your travel plans this summer.


Big Thicket National Preserve - Kountze, Texas

Use a flashlight to discover the secrets of Big Thicket as you explore after dark, or savor the chance to explore the world of insect-eating plants by day. Reportedly once a hiding place for fugitive slaves, Big Thicket is home to a number of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. Called an “American ark” and the “biological crossroads of North America”, the park was established to protect its complex biological diversity.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Explore the cultural and spiritual connections between the Cherokees and the Great Smoky Mountains through tours and stories retelling the traditions in both the English and Cherokee languages. Discover the ancient mountains and their history, from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century.


San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park - San Francisco, California

From sailing to shipbuilding to the U.S. Navy, explore the history of African-Americans and the American coast at the Maritime visitor’s center. Discover the stories of Captain Michael Healy, the only 19th - century African-American commissioned officer at sea, and Captain William T. Shorey, a famed adventurer in the last days of whaling.


Cane River National Heritage Area - Natchitoches, Louisiana

As cleanup from Hurricane Katrina continues, travel opportunities are returning to Louisiana. Canoe over 20 miles down Kistachie Bayou, or sit back and enjoy the daily trolley and carriage tours of colonial forts, Creole plantations, churches, cemeteries, archeological sites, and historic transportation routes. Known for historic agricultural landscapes, Creole architecture, and its multi-cultural legacy Cane River National Heritage Area is a place where many cultures came together to create a way of life dependent on the land, the river, and each other.


Gettysburg National Military Park - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

View some of the unique artifacts related to Gettysburg’s well-known Civil War history, and literally step into the action through the Gettysburg Cyclorama. An unusual art form that was a very popular means of American and European entertainment in the late 1800s, massive oil paintings were displayed in special auditoriums and enhanced with landscaped foregrounds and life-size figures. After closing for a nine million dollar rehabilitation project, the Gettysburg Cyclorama will re-open in May as the only exhibit of its kind.


Ocmulgee National Monument - Macon, Georgia

Walk back in time through the wilderness of the Ocmulgee River floodplain on the River Trail and stroll to the Earthlodge and Early Mississippian sacred temple mounds at Ocmulgee National Monument. A memorial to the relationship of people and natural resources in the Southeast, the site preserves a continuous record of the area’s human life from the earliest times to the present.


Mesa Verde National Park - Mesa Verde, Colorado

Discover some of the most notable and best preserved archaeological sites in the United States, from pithouses to cliff dwellings, at Mesa Verde. With over 20 mesa top sites and view points, the park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years.


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site - Washington, D.C

Restored and re-opened just this year after being closed for 2 years, Frederck Douglass’ home at Cedar Hill is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the19th - century African-American. Tour the house and grounds while learning about his efforts to abolish slavery and his struggle for equal rights for all oppressed people.


Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks - Three Rivers, California

Beginning in May of 1903, African-American soldiers from the 9th U.S. Cavalry patrolled Sequoia and Kings Canyon for several years before the National Park Service was officially formed. Today, the parks protect 265 Native American archaeological sites and 69 historic sites. Stop in at the bilingual visitor’s center when you arrive to find out more.


Harpers Ferry National Historic Park - Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Find out whether you agree with Thomas Jefferson’s claim that Harpers Ferry “is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” The site of the first successful application of interchangeable manufacture, the arrival of the first successful American railroad, John Brown's raid, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States, a visit to this historic community is like stepping into the past.


“Exploring our national parks allows visitors to not only honor great moments of history, but also reflect on a shared heritage that needs to be preserved,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. “If these places are threatened, so too is our ability to teach our country's colorful history to the next generation.”


Under current budget constraints, park managers are struggling to protect cultural resources, leaving dozens of national icons plagued with dilapidated historic buildings, crumbling artifacts and inadequate educational programming. Visiting these sites can be not only personally enriching, but bring much needed attention to the state of our national parks.


Visit NPCA's website to plan your next park trip or find more information about traveling to national parks. To find our more about what you can do to help protect the parks, read NPCA's 5 Ways America Can Fix Our National Parks report. 


Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.


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