The most popular National Parks in the United States – part 1
The National Parks are a major feature of tourism in the country. They have been created to protect the nation’s most unique natural environments and in doing so they have also enabled tourists a route-way into some of the most remote places in the country and even on the earth.
The first park to be created in the country was Yellowstone Park that was created in 1872. This was then followed by another 59 parks, and in all 29 States have a National Park within their boundaries. California has 9 Parks, Alaska 8, Utah 5 and Colorado 4. The largest 4 parks are found in Alaska which is as a result of the fragile environments that are located in the region. Yellowstone Park was created as a result of it being home to some of the most impressive geological features in the country. Vast areas of mountains, valleys and lakes provide homes for many rare species of plant and animals with many being endangered.
The region has been severely affected by past volcanic activity with the Yellowstone Caldera being the largest volcano on the continent. It measures 34 by 45 miles and is found at 9,200 feet above sea level. In the centre is Yellowstone Lake which is one of the highest lake in the country.
Although the volcano is not active there is still geothermal activity in the park. Two thirds of the world’s geysers are found here with “Old Faithful” being the most popular. Every 90 minutes it erupts shooting volumes of water into the air. It is not however, the largest in the Park as the Steam boat Geyser is the largest in the world, throwing water as high as 300 feet into the air.
Tourists are also attracted to many of the 290 waterfalls that are found in the park. The region is unique as it has been sculptured by both glacial and volcanic activity, which has left vast vertical changes in topography for rivers to flow down which explains the spectacular waterfalls. Over 4 million visitors enter the park each year which offers tourists over 2000 camp sites that they can use. The landscape gives the visitors great views and many of the original animals that have been found in the area roam freely. The park is home to the largest herds of Bison in the country, plus there are huge numbers of grizzly bears, elk and wolves in the region.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is located in North Carolina and Tennessee has the most visitors and in 2016 attracted over 11.3 million people. It is one of the largest park on the Eastern United States and its location, with US Highway 441 running through the centre of it, makes it easily accessible and goes some way to explaining why it is so popular.
The land was first occupied by the Cherokee Indians but the miners and tree fellers arrived in the area and started to rapidly deforest the region. The creation of the park in 1932 put an end to this and currently 95% of the park is deciduous forest, with 36% being old growth.
The region experiences high humid temperatures and one of the highest rainfall rates in the country. This explains the rapid forest growth and the Park is home to over 10,000 species of plants and animals. Many of the animals roaming freely in the park are those associated with deciduous temperate forest with their being abundant populations of bears, beaver and deer. Many historical features in the Park have been preserved with log cabins, churches and barns proving popular to sight seers. Hiking in the park, particularly along the Appalachian Trail, also attracts many participators. The routes are comfortably manageable and give great views across the park as well as the walkers experiencing the natural flora and fauna.
Camping is really popular but this has been controlled by organized campsites. Many people come into the park to fish as the waters with in the region are home to some of the healthiest populations of trout in the country.