Thursday, March 30, 2017

National Parks 3

   Just a few hours from Seattle, North Cascades National Park is, surprisingly, one of the least visited parks in the system. Just over 21,000 people enter its boundaries each year.  It is full of rugged mountains that make up part of the North Cascade range. If you want to see glaciers in the lower 48 states, this is your park. Over 300 glaciers can be found tucked into the mountains of North Cascade. One reason the park receives so little visitation is due to the amount of snow it receives, since the mountains are located just a few hours from the coast, the maritime climate dumps copious amounts of snow onto the slopes.  This makes road travel difficult into the park to to snow removal and road closures.
   Peak visitation times for this park are from June to September. The park is divided into 2 units, the north and south units. Erosion from glaciers has cut the mountains into steep, jagged peaks, which make it a very beautiful place to photograph. The park contains the most glaciers of any U.S. park outside of Alaska and one third of all glaciers found in the lower 48 states are within it. Most popular with backpackers and mountain climbers, the mountains in the park are still rising, and average 4,000 to 6,000 feet in altitude above the surrounding terrain. The park is home to over 75 different animals and over 200 birds pass through it or use it for a breeding range.

   On the complete opposite end of the the map (and spectrum), Dry Tortugas National Park can be found. About 70 miles west of Key West, in the Gulf of Mexico, this isolated park can only be reached by boat or plane. Most reach its boundaries by charter ferry, seaplanes, or private boats. Since less than 1% of its area is dry ground, most visitors come to this area for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. At a size of just over 100 square miles, most of the park is open water with several small islands.

   One of the major tourist attractions here is Fort Jefferson. Built and used in the 19th century, it's one of the largest remaining forts that you can visit. Here, you can find the park headquarters, campgrond, and visitor center. It's location was used due to the fact that it is found along one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. During the civil war, union ships used the fort to blockade southern ships from reaching their supply points. It was abandoned by the Army in 1874.

Hopefully, someday I'll be able to reach both of these remote parks. It will definitely take a great deal of time, effort, and money to make this happen.

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