The Great American Outdoors Act

On today’s episode, we explore the pending legislation entitled the “Great American Outdoors Act” with Pew Charitable Trusts’ Marcia Argust. The act promises to reduce the $12 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park Service. 

Listen below:


America’s National Parks is part of the RV Miles Network of Podcasts, which also includes the RV Miles and See America podcasts. To learn more visit RVMiles.com.

Connect with America’s National Parks Podcast on social media! You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – just search “National Park Podcast.”

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group – now over 64,000 strong. Visit Facebook.com/groups/americasnationalparks to join.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

National Parks Adjust to a New Normal

This episode of the show was written and hosted by Jason Epperson.

It’s back! National Parks are reopening and that means its time for another “News From the Parks” episode of the America’s National Parks Podcast, where we round up for you the latest info about happenings at America’s Greatest treasures.

Listen below:

As summer begins, the National Park Service is instituting phased reopenings at many parks across the country, allowing visitors various levels of access to amenities. Meanwhile, park officials, concessionaires, and, gateway communities are figuring out how to manage the influx of new travelers amidst a pandemic that is far from over.

The plan for the resumption of operations follows current CDC guidelines for disease prevention in public places and workspaces. It follows a phased approach to reopen park areas, beginning with outdoor spaces such as trails, boardwalks, observation decks, boat ramps, picnic areas, and other open landscapes. Park operations will be flexible, continually evaluated, and adjusted on a park-by-park basis.

As parks transition through phased reopening, park superintendents are coordinating with states, tribes, local governments, partners, concessionaires, and gateway communities to communicate about public health efforts.

More than two-thirds of the 419 units of the National Park System are available to visitors. But what “available” means is different everywhere.

Rangers at Arches & Canyonlands national parks came together to talk about the ways in which park visitors can visit responsibly:

https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=6874D160-AC4B-F639-A39DB1F955888750

Virtually all permits across the NPS system are only available for purchase online, and at many parks, you purchase park admission in advance.

At Rocky Mountain National Park, things have gone a bit further. In order to keep the crowds manageable, the park has implemented a timed entry reservation system. Each private vehicle entering the park will need a reservation for each day the vehicle will be in the park. The person making the reservation needs to be in the vehicle at the time of entry. Reservations are made through recreation.gov, and a $2.00 reservation fee is required, even for pass holders. Reservations are currentyly available through July 31, and will be available on a one-month rolling basis thereafter.

At most National Parks accross the country, accomodations like campgrounds and lodges have yet to re-open, but many plan to open soon. Yellowstone, for instance, will begin opening campgrounds on a staggered basis toward the end of June.

My family had the opportunity to visit Mesa Verde National Park this past week, and we found the situation painless and well-executed.

Upon arrival, the rangers had a virtual visitor center set up with information outside the closed physical visitor center. When driving into the park, the ranger at the gate asked us to read off the number on our park pass instead of taking it in hand to verify. And when we asked for a map, he handed it to us with a grabbing stick, He was also behind a plexiglass panel wearing a mask. As the driver with the window down, I wore a mask for his safety.

Hiking with a mask on isn’t the easiest thing, but we kept them around our necks for when we were near people on the trails. It was a short visit, we didn’t do anything strenuous, and mostly drove to scenic overlooks.

The situation at national parks is constantly changing. The best place for the most current info is each park’s website. There’s a COVID-19 header at the top of each one that you can click on for the latest info. Rangers and park staff are making a tremendous effort to provide a safe environment for all who visit. If you plan on heading to a national park this summer, make sure to return the favor.


America’s National Parks is part of the RV Miles Network of Podcasts, which also includes the RV Miles and See America podcasts. To learn more visit RVMiles.com.

Connect with America’s National Parks Podcast on social media! You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – just search “National Park Podcast.”

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group – now over 64,000 strong. Visit Facebook.com/groups/americasnationalparks to join.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

News from the Parks | March 2020

Welcome to this month’s “News From the Parks,” where we round up for you the latest info about happenings at America’s Greatest treasures.

Listen below:


As travel restrictions, shelter-in-place orders, and closures to all but the most essential services sweep the country, the National Park Service has been caught in the middle of wanting to protect people and places, while providing recreational opportunities for Americans to get out and free their minds in nature.

On Wednesday the 18th, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt directed the National Park Service to temporarily suspend the collection of all park entrance fees until further notice.

“I’ve directed the National Park Service to waive entrance fees at parks that remain open. This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks,” he said.

Other states and municipalities have implemented similar policies waiving fees to parks partly in an effort to support social distancing.

But the measure has a second motive, to keep rangers from interacting with the cash and credit cards of visitors.

At a majority of park locations where it is possible to adhere to public health guidance, outdoor spaces remain open to the public, while many facilities are closed.

But the reality of social distancing in a National Park isn’t as simple as it sounds. Narrow trails require people to pass within close proximity of each other. Scenic overlooks still attract crowds. And visiting an expansive park without access to restrooms and water creates a safety and sanitation problem.

More and more parks are realizing allowing for outdoor recreation during this time is an insurmountable challenge. While the Park Service is heavily encouraging social distancing, some individual parks are seeing a business-as-usual atmosphere among visitors.

Shenandoah National Park posted photos on its social media accounts of overcrowded parking areas at trailheads, saying “We are concerned that Saturday’s visitation patterns were in violation of CDC recommendations. If you are coming to the Park, please choose to visit areas that are not crowded to allow for adequate social distancing. This would include NOT hiking at Old Rag, Whiteoak Canyon, Dark Hollow Falls and other high-use trails. The Old Rag and Berry Hollow area became so congested on Saturday that local authorities had to close the road.”

The Coronavirus scare and park visitation is a particular problem for gateway communities outside of parks, which may operate limited healthcare facilities and emergency services.

Moab, Utah, and the surrounding three counties are a popular jumping off point for several National Park Service sites like Canyonlands and Arches. Local officials have enacted an order to close off to tourists. All overnight and short-term lodging facilities are required to be rented or leased only to primary residents of Carbon, Emery and Grand counties.

Brady Bradford, Moab health department director, said during a facebook streaming conference
“I feel like if we don’t take action now, our residents will suffer, our health care system will suffer,” he said. “If we take enough action now we will spread out the impact of the disease over many months.”

Bradford’s order includes dispersed camping on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land, and says that no camp can be located within 200 yards of another camp and no camp can host more than 10 visitors. “At this point we are asking people to suspend their visits,” he said, adding that new reservations for any type of lodging are restricted to residents or people in the region for work purposes.

The area hosts millions of visitors a year, but the Moab Regional Hospital has only 17 beds, no ICU and minimal capability to care for critical respiratory patients.

The virus also led nearby Zion National Park officials to announce suspension of shuttle service indefinitely, but that’s caused the park to be flooded with vehicles.

Many park service sites across the country have, in fact, closed or partially closed. Shortly after the State of California announced a shelter-in-place order, Yosemite announced a total closure.

White Sands National Park is closed, as is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and most of Hawai’i’s other National Park Service Sites. Much of the most visited park in the nation, Great Smoky Mountains, is closed, and The Everglades are closed for most land visitors, but access via water remains available.

In Colorado, officials pleaded to close Rocky Mountain National Park, where the mayor of gateway community Estes Park and the County’s public health director sent letters to the Department of the Interior making the request.

“On behalf of the Town of Estes Park, I am requesting the immediate closure of Rocky Mountain National Park, to assist our community, our county, and our state in addressing the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.” he wrote.

Traffic in the park had been increasing as spring breakers were coming to Colorado, and as people who would otherwise be at the now-closed ski resorts headed to the park.

The mayor wrote that groceries and emergency services must be available to residents who live in the town, and a continued influx of visitors presents a grave public health concern to Estes Park and the surrounding communities. Estes Park’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was announced last week. Friday, Rocky Mountain National Park announced that it would close entirely, indefinitely.

Most small park service sites are closed, especially those that are indoors, and additional closures are constantly announced. The best resource for National Park Service closures, whether it be entire parks or campgrounds and activities is National Parks Traveler’s article detailing the latest updates. It’s the featured article on their homepage at https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/.

All of us at the America’s National Parks podcast would like to encourage you to get out and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible while practicing social distancing. But now isn’t the time to travel. Enjoy outdoor spaces in your local community. Take a scenic drive, a bike ride, or a hike. But remember that most visitor centers and restroom facilities in these spaces will be closed.

On a personal note, it’s hard to grasp the enormity of our current situation.

This time in our lives will certainly be remembered in a similar fashion as the days surrounding 9/11, or the Challenger explosion, or the Kennedy assassination. This time will be a guidepost in the story of all of our lives, especially for many of our children who are experiencing their first brush with this type of difficult situation.

Tragedies spawn innovation. Hopefully, 2020 will be remembered as the year before a biotech revolution. Before our healthcare system was reformed, and before sweeping innovations in emergency preparedness.

Half of all Americans misremember where they were and what they were doing on 9/11, only 19 years ago. Make sure to keep photos, notes, messages …anything to remember this time when we couldn’t shake hands, meet in person, or visit our most special places. Those memories will surely be appreciated fifty years from now.

Soon it will be time to Find Your Park again. Until then, remember that the primary purpose of our National Parks is not our enjoyment, but to protect the world for generations to come.

This will be our last “news from the parks” episode for a while. We’re going to return to only sharing stories of beauty, courage, hope, and life from our nation’s treasures next week. We hope you’ll continue to join us.


America’s National Parks is part of the RV Miles Network of Podcasts, which also includes the RV Miles and See America podcasts. To learn more visit RVMiles.com.

Connect with America’s National Parks Podcast on social media! You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group – now over 37,000 strong. Visit Facebook.com/groups/americasnationalparks to join.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #BeanOutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

News From the Parks | February 2020

Welcome to February 2020’s “News From the Parks,” our monthly series where we round up for you the latest info about happenings in America’s Greatest treasures.

Listen below:


2019 Visitation Numbers:

This month the National Park Service released its visitation numbers for 2019. Confirming that the parks continue to be a popular destination, 2019 was the fifth consecutive year that recreation visits exceeded 300 million, with a total of 327.5 million visitors – The third highest since record-keeping began in 1904. Additionally, visitation in 2019 surpassed 2018 by more than 9 million, a 2.9 percent increase. 

2019 also saw Thirty-three parks setting new recreation visitation records in 2019, with two parks breaking long-standing records – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with 432,818 recreation visits surpassed a record held since 1976, and Capulin Volcano National Monument broke a 1968 record with 81,617 recreation visits in 2019.

Of the 419 National Park Service sites, three parks had more than 10 million recreation visits giving them the top spots of the year – Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From there, 11 parks had more than five million visits, and 80 parks had more than one million.

After Golden Gate, Blue Ridge the third through seventh most-visited sites in 2019 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gateway National Recreation Area, the Lincoln Memorial, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway – retained their 2018 order.

Visitation to the Natchez Trace Parkway finished just ahead of visitation to Grand Canyon National Park for the eighth most-visited site.

Gulf Islands National Seashore was number 10.

Of the 62 Congressionally Designated National Parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 12.5 million and Grand Canyon National Park with 5.97 million continue to hold the first and second most-visited national parks in the United States. Rocky Mountain National Park held on to third place and set a new visitation record at 4.67 million. Zion National Park stayed in fourth place, and Yosemite National Park recovered after a drop in 2018 due to wildland fires to move past Yellowstone National Park for fifth place. The remaining top 15 spots go to Yellowstone, Acadia National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Olympic National Park, Glacier National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Indiana Dunes National Park, and Gateway Arch National Park. 

If you’d like to read even more 2019 numbers check out this article from RV Miles:


Mount Rainer Closes:

With heavy snowfall and life-threatening mudslides and flooding, Mount Rainer National Park closed indefinitely early February. As of last Monday, the entrance on State Route 706 east of Ashford opened again, allowing visitors access to the Longmire and Paradise areas. Essential staff remained within the park during the closure, maintaining emergency access and services, as well as securing critical water, wastewater, electrical, and drainage infrastructure inside the park. 

Flooding within park boundaries caused damage to roads, trails, and historic structures, including the National Park Inn and other nationally-significant buildings within the Longmire National Historic Landmark District. Several buildings in Longmire lost critical systems as sump pumps were unable to keep up with water intrusion.

Elsewhere in the park, access to the Carbon River area is blocked due to a washout on Pierce County’s Fairfax Forest Reserve Road, and SR 410 is currently blocked by four slides near the park entrance. These roads will remain closed until they can be cleared of water and debris. 

Pierce County is projecting the Fairfax Forest Reserve Road will require a long-term closure and is assessing a detour route for future use.


COVID-19 May Impact Yellowstone Tourism Revenue:

As COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines, a major drop in tourism to Yellowstone is expected 2020, as the coronavirus continues to devastate mainland China, and the US tries to stave off its spread stateside.

About a quarter of all foreign visitors coming to the park are from China or nearly 10% of all visitors. 

Near Yellowstone, the hardest-hit gateway community will be West Yellowstone, Montana. Almost half of all visitors come through the West Entrance, and according to a recent article from rocketminer.com, a publication serving Southwest Wyoming, businesses who have invested heavily in advertising to Asian populations will be impacted the most in the coming season, including tour bus companies, hotels, and gift shops.

The impact could be devastating for some vendors inside and outside the park. 

And while businesses are focused on the economic issues, the World Travel & Tourism Council is worried that any Asian tourists who do visit the United States may face discrimination. In a Salt Lake Tribune article, Tiffany Misrahi, vice-president of policy for the organization, expressed concern that the mainland China travel ban will only promote a stigma and increase discrimination, while doing nothing to protect against the virus saying, “evidence indicates that travel restrictions directed at individual countries are unlikely to keep the virus out of a nation’s borders while exacerbating the outbreak’s social and economic tolls.”

How long the effects of the coronavirus outbreak may last is uncertain, but its effects are far-reaching. “It is critical that during such challenging times the world comes together to promote a message of peace and tolerance, rather than discrimination and stigma,” Misrahi said. A Yellowstone spokesperson noted that visitors from China would be “treated like any other visitors to the park.” The tourism season for Yellowstone begins late spring and continues through early fall. 


The National Park Service has announced Jennifer Flynn, a 29-year veteran of the NPS, will step into the role associate director for visitor and resource protection beginning April 12th.

As associate director, Flynn will serve as the senior official responsible for 30 service-wide programs, 850 employees, and a budget exceeding $200 million. Her areas of responsibility will include law enforcement, security and emergency services, fire and aviation management, risk management and occupational safety, public health services, regulations, and special park uses, wilderness stewardship, the NPS component at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the U.S. Park Police. 


National Park Releases New Short Video to Honor Black History Month:

The National Park Service marked Black History Month with a variety of new tours, exhibits, and digital media honoring and acknowledging the struggle, resilience, and beauty of the African American experience as reflected in America’s national parks.

As part of Black History Month, the NPS released a new short video titled Twenty & Odd.  Using vocal and artistic imagery to advance messages of African American empowerment, remembrance, education, inspiration and engagement, and featuring Dr. Maya Angelou’s recording of her poem “Still I Rise,” the video and its online companion guide were developed to encourage dialogue about racial equity, representation, and change within the social system.

The piece was filmed on location at more than a dozen National Park Service sites that highlight aspects of African American history and culture, including New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, African Burial Ground National Monument and Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.

https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=B530727E-F4CF-0576-2CF3D9C841B5F662


This month, several NPS sites celebrated birthdays including Jewel Cave National Park, Bandelier National Monument, and Death Valley National Park. 


America’s National Parks is part of the RV Miles Network of Podcasts, which also includes RV Miles and See America. To learn more visit RVMiles.com.Paragraph

To see the full collection of America’s National Parks Podcasts visit NationalParkPodcast.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group – now over 37,000 strong. Visit Facebook.com/groups/americasnationalparks to join.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #BeanOutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

News from the Park | January 2020

Welcome to the January 2020’s “News From the Parks,” our monthly series where we round up for you the latest info about happenings in America’s Greatest treasures.

Listen Below:


Wolves in Yellowstone:

Twenty-five years ago this month, trucks carrying wolves arrived at the North Entrance and marked the beginning of the species’ restoration in Yellowstone. The wolves would spend the next ten weeks in pens, acclimating to their new surroundings. On March 21, 1995, they were released–making it possible to see a wild wolf in Yellowstone for the first time in nearly 70 years.

Wolves were intentionally eradicated from the region in the early 1900s to protect cattle, a dispute that still exists with ranchers today. From 14 wolves reintroduced in 1995, there are now 14 packs in the greater Yellowstone area.

Norovirus Outbreak:

An outbreak of the Norovirus at Yosemite National Park has triggered a massive clean-up and sanitation of concessionaire services provided by Aramark. Since early January, 170 people who visited or work at the park have reported Norovirus symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.

Norovirus spreads very easily, including through direct contact with an infected person, touching a surface or object contaminated with it, or eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated. Symptoms of norovirus usually begin 12–48 hours after exposure.

The virus appears to be eradicated, but the Park continues to undertake extensive cleaning and enhanced sanitation protocols.

Trespassing on Old Faithful:

Two men were recently sentenced for trespassing on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser. Eric Schefflin, 20, of Lakewood, Colorado, and Ryan Goetz, 25, of Woodstock, New York pleaded guilty to the violation of thermal trespass. On September 10, 2019, at about 8:30 p.m., employees and visitors witnessed the pair walking on the cone of Old Faithful Geyser and reported it to park dispatch.

Sentencing for each included:
10 days of incarceration
$540 in restitution
Five years of unsupervised probation
Five-year ban from Yellowstone National Park
Chief Ranger Sarah Davis said that “Visitors must realize that walking on thermal features is dangerous, damages the resource, and illegal. Law enforcement officers take this violation seriously. Yellowstone National Park also appreciates the court for recognizing the impact thermal trespass can have on these amazing features.”

The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface. Visitors should always remain on boardwalks and exercise extreme caution around thermal features.

Yellowstone Visitation Drops, Smoky Mountains Soars:

In other news from Yellowstone, visitation to Yellowstone the Park in 2019 was at the lowest level in five years. The park recorded over 4 million visits, a 2.3 percent decrease from 2018 and a 5.6 percent decrease from the record-breaking year in 2016. The decrease is likely partially due to the closing for the Fishing Bridge RV park for renovations. Fishing Bridge hosts 350 campsites, the only in the park with RV hookups. It’s scheduled to re-open for the 2021 season.

Meanwhile, a record 12,547,743 people visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2019. That’s 1.1 million more than in 2018 at America’s most visited park.

The park’s three primary entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend and Cherokee all had increased use, accounting for about two-thirds of the total park visitation, a news release from the National Park Service said. Secondary park entrances experienced tremendous growth, due primarily to the new section of the Foothills Parkway. More than 1 million visitors enjoyed the new scenic driving experience.

Sharks in Mammoth Cave:

Scientists were floored to have identified the remains of 15 to 20 different species of sharks deep in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, including part of the head of a great white-sized shark that’s partially protruding from a wall.

The sharks lived about 330 million years ago when much of North America was covered in ocean. Their remains were encased in sediment that eventually became the limestone where the cave formed.

Mammoth Cave scientists Rick Olson and Rick Toomey were mapping a remote part of the cave when they started seeing shark fossils.

The fossils were found in a remote part of the park that people can’t visit without special permission, but they don’t want to reveal the exact location.
Eventually, they’ll display the fossils in the park and online. But, the project is just getting started, and it’s difficult to study fossils in a cave without damaging the cave environment.

Thurston Lava Tube:

The Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park could reopen within a month if a final repair project is successful. Thurston Lava Tube was one of several attractions at the park that were closed indefinitely after a volcanic eruption which began in May 2018 and destroyed more than 700 homes on the Big Island.

Scientists and engineers wanted to confirm the tube was structurally sound after thousands of earthquakes rattled the park during the eruption.

The park must repair and bury an electrical line, which could take two to four weeks. When the tube reopens, there will be updates such as monitoring equipment to detect possible changes in cracks.

Restoring Native Plants:

A pair of U.S. senators believe restoring native plants in national parks around the country could help beautify and improve some of America’s most beloved public places. The effort is led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington. They’ve called the bill the Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act and say it would encourage the National Park Service to increase the use of native plant materials on land the service stewards. The use of native plants would benefit wildlife, human health, and the environment, Collins and Cantwell said.

Improving Lake Mead:

A $5.6 million pavement preservation project to improve roads within Lake Mead National Recreation Area will begin in early February.

The project will include cleaning, patching, resurfacing and re-marking roads and parking areas at Katherine Landing, Temple Bar, Eldorado Canyon, South Cove, and the park headquarters and warehouse complex.

The work is scheduled to take place during daylight hours on weekdays through April. During construction, visitors may experience short delays along the roadways, and parking areas may be closed for a limited time.

Funding for this project is provided by the Lake Mead National Recreation Area cyclic maintenance fund and Federal Lands Transportation Program. This is the second phase of the park’s overall pavement preservation project. Phase one, which was around $5 million, was completed in 2019.

Delta Air Lines and MLK Jr. NHS:

Delta Air Lines has committed $400,000 to the National Park Service to provide for upgrades and renovations at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta.
This contribution will significantly improve the lighting and electrical systems at the promenade and visitor center. The expected completion date is 2021.

In 2019, The Delta Air Lines Foundation provided a grant to the National Park Service to keep the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park open and operating during the federal government lapse in appropriations. Following Delta’s grant, the park saw a record number of visitors during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

Celebrating 100 Episodes:

We’d like to thank you for joining us for this, the 100th episode of the America’s National Parks Podcast. For nearly two years we’ve been bringing you stories from the parks, and we’re looking forward to many many more. Thanks for coming along for the ride.


America’s National Parks is part of the RV Miles Network of Podcasts, which also includes RV Miles and See America. To learn more visit RVMiles.com.Paragraph

To see the full collection of America’s National Parks Podcasts visit NationalParkPodcast.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group – now over 37,000 strong. Visit Facebook.com/groups/americasnationalparks to join.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #BeanOutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

National Park Passes Explained

This episode of America’s National Parks was hosted by Jason Epperson, with narration from Abigail Trabue.

Listen below, or on any podcast app:

Connect & Subscribe

You can find America’s National Parks Podcast on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and make sure to subscribe on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group here.

Pick up your own “From Sea to Shining Sea” gear in the America’s National Parks Teespring store.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 69434150_735914166836084_179055030496657408_n.jpg

For great American road trip destinations, give us a listen on the See America podcast, wherever you listen to this one. If you are interested in RV travel, find us at the RV Miles Podcast.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #BeanOutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

News from the Parks | December 2019

By Jason Epperson

Welcome to the December 2019’s “News From the Parks,” our new monthly series where we round up for you the latest info about happenings in America’s Greatest treasures.


Welcome our 62nd Park:

It’s official: The United States now boasts 62 congressionally designated National Parks. New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument became White Sands National Park. On Friday, December 20, the President signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which includes a provision that re-designates White Sands. White Sands National Monument was established on January 18, 1933, by President Herbert Hoover. In addition to containing the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, the park is home to the globe’s largest collection of Ice-Age fossilized footprints.

Entrance Fees on the Rise:

Entrance fees and individual park annual passes are set to increase at many parks across the nation on January 1, including White Sands where an annual pass will go up from $40 to $45. Most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by $5 or $10. The increase was first proposed back in 2017.165 National Park Service sites charge an entrance fee; the other 254 national parks remain free to enter.

The nationwide America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80 in 2020. The Access Pass for people with disabilities remains free. For a breakdown of all the annual pass options, check out our “National Park Passes Explained” video on the RV Miles YouTube Channel. We’ll provide a link in the show notes.

2020 Fee Free Days:

The Park Service has also announced fee-free days for 2020:
January 20 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
April 18 – First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
August 25 – National Park Service Birthday
September 26 – National Public Lands Day
November 11 – Veterans Day

A Grave and Immediate Threat:

America’s national parks are facing a grave and immediate threat: invasive animal species.

The National Park Service has asked a group of experts to help chart a course to handle the problem of invasive species, and those findings were recently published in the journal Biological Invasions. Invasive animal species can be found in more than half of all national parks. Of the 1,409 reported populations of 311 separate invasive animal species, there are management plans for 23 percent and only 11 percent are being contained. They include mammals, such as rats, cats, and feral pigs; aquatic species like lake trout, and reptiles like the Burmese python in Everglades National Park where pythons that can reach 23 feet in length were found thriving and reproducing twenty years ago. The result has been huge declines in native mammals.

Currently, the National Park Service has no comprehensive program to reverse or halt the trend of invasive species, but the study was a first step towards a national strategy.

Assisting Wildfire’s Abroad

The United States is sending 21 wildland fire personnel from the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service to assist in fighting the devastating wildfires currenty plaguing Australia. About 100 fires have been burning for weeks in drought-plagued New South Wales, with half of them uncontained, including a “mega-blaze” ringing Sydney, covering Australia’s biggest city in a haze of toxic smoke.

An extended drought combined with hot and dry weather conditions have elevated wildfire risk, and fire activity is expected to continue for the next several months.

Human Remains Found at Joshua Tree:

On Thursday morning, December 19th, authorities at Joshua Tree National Park were alerted of evidence of skeletal human remains found while analyzing photographs of the park taken last summer. The discovery is in a remote, rocky, steep location away from any trails.

Law enforcement rangers hiked to the reported location where they found the remains, along with the belongings of the victims. There was no personal identification with the remains, which appear to have been in that location for some time. An investigation is currently ongoing, led by National Park Service law enforcement and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department investigators. At this time, the identity of the bodies has not been confirmed, and the manner of death is undetermined. There are no initial indicators of foul play.

National Park Service Seeks Public Assistance:

The National Park Service is seeking the public’s assistance to develop a list of national park lands that would benefit from new or increased access routes. The Park Service and other federal land management agencies are developing a priority list of lands with no or restricted public access. These lists will help the park service priortitize future access projects such as roads and trails.

Public comments will be accepted through January 4, 2020, on the Park Service’s Planning, Environmental and Public Comments website.

Dark Skies at El Morro:

The International Dark Sky Association has named New Mexico’s El Morro National Monument as an International Dark Sky Park. The certification recognizes the exceptional quality of the park’s night skies and provides added opportunities to enhance visitor experiences through astronomy based interpretive programming.

International Dark Sky Park certification promotes public education and astronomy based recreation in parks while improving energy efficiency and reduced operational costs through outdoor lighting upgrades.

The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting polices and public education. El Morro National Monument now joins more than 100 locations that have followed a rigorous application process that demonstrates robust community support for dark sky certification.

El Morro National Monument features one of the most impressive and accessible records of Southwest history, which is exposed on a single rock. Inscription Rock, a sandstone promontory rising 200 feet from the valley floor has more than 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs of many cultures along its sheer cliff face. Monument visitors can gaze upon original markings of pueblo residents, Spanish explorers, early surveyors, and pioneers in symbols, signatures, poetry, and prose right where they were originally carved.

Protecting The Narrows at Zion:

The iconic Narrows Trail at Zion National Park, is now permanently protected from closure and development. The route follows the Virgin River into a deep slot canyon with sculpted sandstone walls soaring more than a thousand feet overhead. For much of the 16-mile trek, the canyon is so narrow that hikers are literally immersed in the river, with nowhere to walk but in the rocky streambed itself.

Part of the route has always crossed private land. Public access to the Narrows has depended on informal agreements with local landowners. The Trust for Public Land has guaranteed public access to both private properties forever. They won a conservation easement for the Simon Gulch ranch, guaranteeing permanent public access to the last at-risk section of the Narrows Trail.

Internation National Park News:

In International National Park news, beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, foreign and national tourists who visit many of Costa Rica’s national parks will be covered by an insurance policy. It’s a new way to help convince tourists to follow the rules through positive reenforcement. Visitors who enter the national parks through the official entrances and adhere to posted rules will be covered in case of injury or death. Vehicles parked in official lots will also be covered for damage or theft.

The insurance policy will be automatically included in the price of the ticket for all visitors. The parks will also improve signage throughout protected areas in order to adequately inform visitors of the areas they may or may not visit within the park, and if rules are not adhered to, the tourist will be at their own risk.

A New NPS TV Drama:

Last month we told you about a new TV drama in development about National Park Service rangers, well now, there’s another. Kevin Costner is developing a one-hour drama titled ISB that will focus on the Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch for ABC. ISB will follow elite special agents who end up having to solve some of the most complex and heinous crimes committed within the National Parks of the ISB’s Pacific West region.

A National Park-themed Bar:

Nashville Tennessee is about to get a National Park-themed bar. It’s called “Camp,” and it will feature a national park-inspired setting involving indoor trees, boulders, a fish tank, and elaborate drinks, including cocktails served in terrariums named after 10 different parks. Drinks will come with pamphlets featuring information about the corresponding park. At month’s end, the bar will donate to each park according to number of each drink sold.

Happy Birthday to Sleeping Bear:

Finally, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020. The park is planning a year of honoring the past, celebrating today, and planning for the future, starting with a kick-off celebration on Saturday, January 18.

Sleeping Bear Dunes hugs the northeast shore of Lake Michigan. The park is known for the huge scalable dunes of the Dune Climb and its two islands, beaches, farmsteads, and forests.


America’s National Parks is part of the RV Miles Network of Podcasts, which also includes RV Miles and See America. To learn more visit RVMiles.com.

To see the full collection of America’s National Parks Podcasts visit NationalParkPodcast.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group – now over 37,000 strong. Visit Facebook.com/groups/americasnationalparks to join.

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #BeanOutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

A Prescription for Fire

This episode of America’s National Parks was hosted by Jason Epperson, with narration from Abigail Trabue and video’s from the National Park Service. Links are provided below for all videos used in this episode.

Listen below, or on any podcast app:

From a seed no bigger than one from a tomato, California’s coast Redwood may grow to a height of 367 feet and have a width of 22 feet at its base. Imagine a 35-story skyscraper in your city, and you have an inkling of the trees’ ability to arouse humility.

Some visitors envision dinosaurs rumbling through these forests in bygone eras. I’m Jason Epperson, and this is California’s Redwood National Park.

It turns out that picturing dinosaurs roaming through the forest is a perfectly natural thought. Fossil records have shown that relatives of today’s coast redwoods thrived in the Jurassic Era 160 million years ago. And while the fantastic creatures of that age have long since disappeared, the redwoods continue to thrive in the right environment.

California’s North Coast provides the only such environment in the world. A combination of longitude, climate, and elevation limits the Redwoods’ range to a few hundred coastal miles. The cool, moist air created by the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees continually damp, even during summer droughts. These conditions have existed for some time, as the redwoods go back 20 million years in their present range.

Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive. The trees can reach ages of 2,000 years and regularly reach 600 years.

Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown, and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires.

The Redwoods’ unusual ability to regenerate also aids in their survival as a species. They do not rely solely upon sexual reproduction, as many other trees must. New sprouts may come directly from a stump or downed tree’s root system as a clone. Basal burls — hard, knotty growths that form from dormant seedlings on a living tree — can sprout a new tree when the main trunk is damaged by fire, cutting, or toppling.

The coast Redwood’s environment recycles naturally; because the 100-plus inches of annual rainfall leaves the soil with few nutrients, the trees rely on each other, living and dead for their vital nutrients. The trees need to decay naturally to fully participate in this cycle. 

But while these trees enjoy robust and hearty features, they have been threatened by humans. 

When Euro-Americans swept westward in the 1800s, they needed raw material for their homes and lives. Commercial logging followed the expansion of America as companies struggled to keep up with the furious pace of progress. Timber harvesting quickly became the top manufacturing industry in the west.

When gold was discovered in northwestern California in 1850, the rush was on. Thousands crowded the remote redwood region in search of riches and new lives. These people were no less dependent upon lumber, and the redwoods conveniently provided the wood the people needed. The size of the huge trees made them prized timber, as redwood became known for its durability and workability. By 1853, nine sawmills were at work in Eureka, a gold boom town established three years prior. Large-scale logging was soon underway, and the once immense stands of redwoods began to disappear by the close of the 19th century.

At first, axes, saws, and other early methods of bringing the trees down were used. But the loggers made use of rapidly improving technology in the 20th century that allowed more trees to be harvested in less time. Transportation also caught up to the task of moving the massive logs. The locomotive replaced horses and oxen. Railroads became the fastest way to transport the logs to mills.

Land fraud was common, as acres of prime redwood forests were transferred from the public domain to private industry. Although some of the perpetrators were caught, many thousands of acres of land were lost in land swindles.

By the 1910s, some concerned citizens began to clamor for the preservation of the dwindling stands of redwoods. The Save-the-Redwoods League was born out of this earnest group, and eventually, the League succeeded in helping to establish the redwood preserves of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

But still logging continued in those parts of the forests that were privately owned, accelerated by WW II and the economic boom of the 1950s. By the 1960s, logging had consumed nearly 90 percent of all the original redwoods. It wasn’t until 1968 that Redwood National Park was established, which secured some of the few remaining stands of uncut redwoods. In 1978, Congress added more land that included logged-over portions of Redwood Creek. Today, these lands are undergoing large-scale restoration by the parks’ resource managers. Logging continues on privately-held lands nearby and throughout the redwood region.

That’s Eamon Engber, Fire Ecologist at Redwood National Park. He stands in front of a park emergency vehicle with a map taped to it, planning the day’s job as he addresses the crew that will carry it out.

Fire is the life-blood of conifer forests and paries. But as modern development encroaches on these lands, fires have become more dangerous, and too big to rebirth plands without killing others. Forest fires have always been caused by lighting, meaning that they happen during or after rainstorms, and otherwise moist times of the year, keeping their impact minimal, usually towards the forest floor and away from the canopy. When humans cause fires during dry periods, they spread rapidly, consuming everything in their path. 

Using a “drip-torch”, fire crews begin to burn the edges of the planned boundary. This occurs after a small test burn has been competed, and only when the temperature, humidity, wind direction and fuel moisture are within strict parameters.

The burn is accomplishing its task. The next time a massive forest fire comes through, there will be less fuel available to it, but more importantly, invasive species are removed, and small trees that choke the forest are eliminated. This forest will continue to thrive because of prescribed burns. 

Redwood National Park is actually managed as Redwood National and State Parks, a string of protected forests, beaches and grasslands along Northern California’s coast. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park has trails through dense old-growth woods. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is home to Fern Canyon, with its high, plant-covered walls. Roosevelt elk frequent nearby Elk Prairie. Giant redwood clusters include Redwood National Park’s Lady Bird Johnson Grove.

 For thousands of years people have lived in this verdant landscape. Together, the National Park Service and California State Parks are managing and restoring these lands for the inspiration, enjoyment, and education of all.

Here, banana slugs, gray whales, Douglas-fir, black bears, and sea anemones are equally at home with redwoods.

Congress protected lands adjacent to the three California state parks in 1968 with the creation of Redwood National Park. In 1994, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Park Service agreed to manage the four-park area jointly for maximum resource protection.

Today, visitors will find not only old-growth redwood groves but open prairie lands, two major rivers, and 37 miles of pristine California coastline. 

Cabins and developed camping are available through the California State Parks system, and plenty of commercial lodging surrounds the area. 

It’s a large area, with several individual groves to explore, so you’ll want to plan well. Scenic drives, hiking, and biking trails abound. 



Connect & Subscribe

You can find America’s National Parks Podcast on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and make sure to subscribe on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group here.

Pick up your own “From Sea to Shining Sea” gear in the America’s National Parks Teespring store.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 69434150_735914166836084_179055030496657408_n.jpg

Learn More

Links to some of the resources we used and the website links we mentioned in this episode. 

Redwood Area History: https://www.nps.gov/redw/learn/historyculture/area-history.htm

About the trees:  https://www.nps.gov/redw/learn/nature/about-the-trees.htm

The Three Redwoods:  https://www.nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/upload/ThreeTrees-2014-508.pdf

Prescribed Fire Videos used in the episode: 

https://www.nps.gov/redw/learn/photosmultimedia/firevideos.htm


For more great American destinations, give us a listen at our new See America podcast, wherever you listen to this one.
If you are interested in RV travel, find us at the RV Miles Podcast. You can also follow Abigail and me as we travel the country with our three boys at Our Wandering FamilyParagraph

Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.

News from the Parks | October 2019

Welcome to the October “News From the Parks Episode” of the America’s National Parks Podcast, our new monthly series where we round up for you the latest info about happenings in America’s Greatest treasures.

Listen below, or on any podcast app:

Connect & Subscribe

You can find America’s National Parks Podcast on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, and make sure to subscribe on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group here.

Pick up your own “From Sea to Shining Sea” gear in the America’s National Parks Teespring store.


October 2019 News

The biggest news out of the parks this month was a controversial plan by the Department of the Interior’s “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, a group of outdoor and recreation business operators. The plan boasts the parks as quote “excellent candidates for partner management under concessions and leases.” end quote. It recommends everything from turning campground operations to private companies, indexing campground prices to reflect inflation and the market, blackout periods for discounted senior-citizen and disabled camping fees during peak seasons, and even access for food trucks. The committee believes that the plan will help stabilize a park system that is in need or repair and maintenance, while providing relief for a strapped National Park Service. 

Detractors look at the plan as an attempt at a land-grab, pointing to historic problems with large concessionaires at places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, which have not resulted in revenue increases for the park service. It’s also not clear if concessionaires are interested in operating campgrounds in many parks. Often when current contracts go up for renewal, they have few if any bidders. 

But it’s important to note that the plan is just one advisory committee’s proposal, and is far from being adopted by the Department of the Interior.


Researchers have identified a new threat to Wild Lands across the country, human noise.

Anthropogenic noise, it’s called. Scientists from Colorado State University and the Park Service have spent the past decade studying noise on national parks. Researchers analyzed 46,789 hours of audio from 66 parks, and noise made by machines and people are heard in 37% of those recordings.

For many species, hearing the sounds of their habitat helps manage their safety. It’s often key to their survival and mating patterns. 

Recreational watercraft and trains create the loudest sounds, but the most common are automobiles, aircraft, and human voices.

It’s hoped that the research will lead to possible solutions, including quiet zones, managed construction noise, and limited access to sensitive areas.

https://theknow.denverpost.com/2019/10/20/human-noise-national-parks/226910/

Two mountain lions have been found dead in the Santa Monica Mountains—the cause of death for one of them, a healthy six-year-old male known as P-30, was rodent poison, according to National Park Service biologists.

He is the fifth mountain lion in the long-term study of the species to die from anticoagulant rodent poison, highlighting how an attempt to curb a rat problem can end up negatively impacting a wide range of wildlife.

Since 2002, National Park Service researchers have documented anticoagulant rodenticide compounds in 23 out of 24 local mountain lions that they have tested, including in a three-month-old kitten.

“Just about every mountain lion we’ve tested throughout our study has had exposure to these poisons, generally multiple compounds and often at high levels,” said Seth Riley, an ecologist and the wildlife branch chief for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “A wide range of predators can be exposed to these toxicants – everything from hawks and owls to bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions. Even if they don’t die directly from the anticoagulant effects, our research has shown that bobcats, for example, are suffering significant immune system impacts.”

Mountain lions are likely exposed through secondary or tertiary poisoning, meaning that they consume an animal that ate the bait, such as a ground squirrel, or an animal that ate an animal that consumed the bait, such as a coyote.


How would you like to get paid to go fishing? The National Park Service has approved a plan to protect native fish and other aquatic species in the Colorado River below the Glen Canyon Dam within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park by paying fishermen to catch invasive species.

The Expanded Non-Native Aquatic Species Management Plan includes what’s called an “incentivized harvest,” to reduce the growing population of brown trout in the Lees Ferry area below Glen Canyon Dam. Anglers will be rewarded for brown trout that are caught and removed from the river. The Park Service is working on the details of that program and will notify the public on how to participate once that process is funded and in place.


In other invasive species news, Little fire ants have met their match as Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park gets closer to meeting its goal of eradicating the pests from the popular Steam Vents area off Crater Rim Drive. 

Little fire ant, or “LFA” detections have decreased by at least 99% at Steam Vents since the park began treating the area in February. In 2018, LFA were abundant and readily observed on vegetation. During last month’s surveys, park pest control workers found LFA on just 0.1% of bait stations. 

Treatments will continue until the population is eliminated. “It’s too early to declare victory just yet,” said park ecologist David Benitez. “If we don’t continue our treatments, LFA populations will quickly rebound and could spread to new areas. These pests are a serious concern for human health and also for our natural resources.”


The U.S. is running short of people who can tell the forest from the trees. “Plant blindness,” or the inability of many people, even those in the scientific community, to identify plants is on the rise. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, organizations such as the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management can’t find enough scientists to deal with invasive plants, wildfire reforestation, and basic land-management issues.

Not only are there fewer university botany programs, but those who graduate from them may not be well versed in plant identification, focusing more on commercial applications of plants. 

There is now one botanist on the federal payroll for every 20 million acres of land, many having retired in recent years. 

https://www.memoriapress.com/articles/plant-blindness-why-scientists-who-know-nature-are-becoming-an-endangered-species/?fbclid=IwAR0JaZG8A904Kkkuc_pBAlZzUiYfxzoljV8aqfdQ06lkH4AnTX7isliB4oc

—–

Similarly, A dwindling number of federal officers are patrolling the nation’s forests, parks, wildlife refuges and other open spaces, A GAO report cited a 19% drop in the ranks of officers at the U.S. Forest Service between 2013 and 2018 The Bureau of Land Management saw a 9% drop and now has one officer in the field for every 1.2 million acres the agency oversees.

https://kutv.com/news/nation-world/study-finds-us-public-land-workers-facing-assaults-threats


A reproduction bust of Orville Wright, which was recently stolen from Wright Brothers National Memorial, was found on the beach in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. A visitor called the County non-emergency line to report that the bust was “tucked” into the dunes.

National Park Service Rangers will continue investigating the theft of the bust and the damage to its granite mounting base. Homeowners and business owners in the area of Wright Brothers National Memorial have been encouraged to review security camera footage and report any suspicious activity from the night of October 12th through the afternoon of October 15th.


The National Park Service has begun recruitment for thousands of seasonal jobs. 2020 summer positions have been released on USAJobs website. The parks are recruiting entry-level summer seasonal park rangers all across the country—from the peaks of Mount Rainier National Park to the historic streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The National Park Service is also recruiting for a variety of specialized jobs, including archaeologists, biological technicians, and engineers.

“The uncommon men and women of the National Park Service share a common trait: a passion for caring for the nation’s special places and sharing their stories,” said Acting Regional Director Chip Jenkins. “I hope you’ll consider joining us this summer season to experience your America. You can make a difference by bringing your unique perspective to our work.”


Finally, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park celebrated its 20th birthday this month. The Western Colorado park was established as a National Monument on March 2, 1933, and was redesignated a National Park on October 21, 1999. Its name comes from the fact that parts of the gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day.


America’s National Parks is part of the RV Miles Network of Podcasts, which also includes RV Miles and See America. To learn more visit RVMiles.com.

To see the full collection of America’s National Parks Podcasts visit NationalParkPodcast.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Join the America’s National Parks Facebook Group – now over 34,000 strong. Visit Facebook.com/groups/americasnationalparks to join.

Scroll Up