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Zion National Park

Next up in our exploration of the United States’ great collection of national parks is Zion National Park. Located in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is undoubtedly one of the most scenic protected areas in the United States. This park has has steadily increased its visitation numbers since its establishment in 1919 from 1,814 people in that year to the whopping 4,295,127 visitors it had in 2016. With its rich history, abundant wildlife, and countless attractions, this national park’s immense natural beauty is something that should be preserved and appreciated by generations of visitors to come.

Zion’s high plateaus and canyons had their first encounters with humans roughly 12,000 years ago.  At this time, humongous mammals like woolly mammoths, giant sloths, and camels wandered the area, and they and ultimately became extinct about 8,000 years ago as a result of over-hunting and climate change thinned out their populations.  Zion’s provision of a wide, level place to grow food, a river to water it, and an adequate growing season led to the settling of the Anasazi and Paiute peoples as well as Europeans there.  Through hard work and many difficulties, these groups were able to make this national park’s irregular landscape home for a period of time before deciding to utilize their resourcefulness in a different location.

As with any national park, the wildlife of southwest Utah that call Zion home add a whole new dimension to the park’s already breathtaking landscape. Over 1,000 species of plants, 78 species of mammals, 30 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, and 291 species of birds create an expansive and flourishing ecosystem amidst the sandstone cliffs and freshwater springs. Relying on each member of the ecosystem to fulfill its role. For instance, sagebrush provides not only sustenance for animals that consume it, but shade from the intense sunlight for rattlesnakes as well. In additions to this, mountain lions take advantage of the night to hunt for animals like mule deer and wild turkeys for food along with other smaller animals. The continuous exchanges that go on between the many species that live in this park help maintain the teeming-with-life atmosphere of the area.

Among the many incredibly intricate pieces of scenery located within the park is Zion Canyon, which averages 2,000 feet deep and in which people are able to hike the 20-30 foot wide area known as The Narrows. People from all over the country and the world make Zion National Park their destination to see the various natural rock arches that exemplify the park’s 250 million year long geologic process. Some of the most famous rock arches include the Crawford, Kolob, Double Pine, Jughandle, Chinle Trail, and the Hidden arch. With features like these, it’s no wonder how this national park manages to generate millions of dollars in revenue every year.

Despite the thriving appearance of Zion’s attractions, the park has still been influenced by the pollution of humans. Because of increased tourism, air pollution has been a problem in this area. Carbon monoxide from cars, nitrogen, and ozone all contribute to the pollution of the park. Furthermore, some areas that tourists visited most had the predator-prey relationship impacted. For instance, cougars began to avoid areas with lots of people, which led to the overpopulation of mule deer and overgrazing.

Zion’s scenery can be kept as breathtaking as ever as long as a conscious effort is made to preserve the natural features and keep the park clean. Insurance groups and others have volunteered for hazard fuel clean up and other duties around the park in the spirit of preservation. We can only hope that other national parks receive the same attention.

Yellowstone National Park

Whether you’re from San Francisco, California on the west coast or Boston, Massachusetts on the east coast, you have probably heard of Yellowstone National Park. As one of the United States’ most famous and well known parks, Yellowstone is an exciting destination for millions of visitors every year. This vast expanse of lively nature is located in what some might call a “quiet” part of the country, with most of the park’s acreage lying in Wyoming and some parts extending into Idaho and Montana, but upon further investigation, there is nothing “quiet” about this park.

Established in 1872, Yellowstone’s beauty extends over almost 2 million acres and sits on top of a dormant volcano. Including this volcano, the park is home to the world’s largest concentration of geysers and thermal features, possessing approximately 50 percent of the world’s hydrothermal features. This extremely unique feature of Yellowstone makes the park a prime location for hydrothermal research that could certainly have the potential to help with energy production in the future.

Abundant wildlife is an important component that adds to the already extraordinary landscape of this park. Throughout Yellowstone, large North American mammals such as Rocky Mountain Elk, whitetail deer, bison, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats, moose, black bears, and grizzly bears serve hugely as tourist attractions, but they play a larger role in their ecosystem. What is fascinating about Yellowstone is that all parts of the park are interconnected, not just the animals. While the grizzly bear may rely on a thriving whitetail deer population for food, other organisms are supported by the climate and vegetation in the park. For instance, the park’s terrain is covered in snow for a large part of the year, allowing it to support forests dominated by lodgepole pine trees. Sagebrush steppe and grasslands provide essential winter forage for elk, bison, and bighorn sheep. Yellowstone is a living landscape, with every factor working together in order to keep thing running smoothly.

Home to countless attractions, Yellowstone’s most recognizable and famous attraction is certainly Old Faithful, a cone geyser located in the park. This natural phenomenon erupts with water shooting to heights between 106 feet and 185 feet every 45 minutes to 125 minutes. It is the most famous of the nearly 500 geysers in Yellowstone, and was awarded its name based upon its frequent eruptions. Although Old Faithful has remained unchanged and consistent through its years, other parts of Yellowstone are not so impervious to human activity.

Yellowstone’s ecosystem has been bombarded by humans for years. Human presence in the park has led to many animals becoming vulnerable to disease, which has unfavorable effects on populations. Whiring disease, an illness originating in Europe, is one example of this.  Cutthroat trout are very susceptible and can transfer this disease to bears and other predators. Littering, which gives animals the opportunity to eat unsafe trash, and vehicle use, which can affect air quality, are also examples of human activities that impact Yellowstone’s environment negatively.

Since 1872, Yellowstone has been a wonderful destination for visitors of any age. In today’s superficial culture, this national park stands as place one can escape to in order to see some natural beauty, and if an effort is made to keep the park healthy, this beauty will last far longer than anything we can imagine.


National Parks: Introductions

As climate change becomes increasingly influential on the environments and ecosystems around our world, it has become important to know where you can find places in which you can truly appreciate nature. National parks provide you with the chance to take in the unique landscapes created by Earth’s natural processes which could hopefully instill in you a motivation to do your part in keeping these feats of nature clean and healthy.  Throughout this blog, I will be examining the many lifeforms and landmarks in specific national parks, and I will detail any environmental damage caused to the area by human activities. These parks represent some of the most scenic places in the United States and the world, and appreciating them is a large step towards ensuring that these areas are kept beautiful.

Up first on the list is Yosemite National Park in California. Yosemite’s landscape has been taken in by many, starting with the Ahwahneechee Native American tribe that lived there for generations. The Europeans followed in the mid-1800s, but visitation to the parks remained fairly low until the early-1900s when the Yosemite Valley Railroad was built and eased the journey. This increased visitation and began the progress that has led to the roughly four-million people that enter the park’s gates annually today.

Yosemite’s forests and rivers are teeming with all kinds of animal and plant life that play an interconnected role in keeping their ecosystem healthy. American black bears, Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcats, and coyotes are only a fraction of the wildlife that constitute this national park. Each animal plays a crucial role in the ecosystem, such as the bobcats’ controlling of rodent populations in the park. If influenced on any level by human activity, this ecosystem could sustain a large amount of damage.

Gorgeously scenic attractions throughout Yosemite serve as the reason many people make  the journey to this national park. Anywhere you look, you are sure see some naturally formed masterpiece that has been in the making for thousands of years. Among these attractions is Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America and sixth highest in the world. Besides other waterfalls, you can also see the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in which sequoia trees over 3.000 years old live. The many amazing sights available in this national park show how incredible nature can be and why an honest effort should be made to protect these areas.

While this national park appears appears to be extremely healthy on the surface, a plethora of human-driven environmental problems influence Yosemite continuously. Invasive species, introduced to the area by humans, like the New Zealand mud snail create problems in the ecosystem by completely covering stream beds. Soundscape disruption is another problem, as increased noise from people can change wildlife behavior. Along with these environmental issues, air pollution and wildfires are also prominent concerns in the park.

By making a conscious effort to be more environmentally friendly with our use of resources and attempting to keep national park areas healthy, we can ensure that these landmarks are available to be enjoyed by generations to come.