Featured Articles on National Parks Traveler

Is The American Pika Really On The Road To Extinction Due to Climate Change?

Less than a month after a conservation group expressed its displeasure with the Obama administration for not providing Endangered Species Act protection to the American pika due to the plight it might face due to climate change, a new study suggests the tiny mammals are more widespread than thought and seem to thrive in a temperature range greater than long thought possible.
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Millar&Westfall-pikas.pdf1.33 MB
Beever-Low-Elevation Pikas.pdf113.78 KB
Beever-Climate-Mediated Extirpations.pdf246.28 KB
Pikas-National Monuments.pdf1002.52 KB

Some Biologists Envision Wolves Controlling Elk in More National Parks, Others Say That's Impractical

There was a paper that zoomed around cyberspace a couple weeks ago, one that roamed far and wide, not unlike a young wolf seeking a territory of its own. It gathered speed as it was flicked around the Twittersphere because it focused on two subjects that captivate more than a few people -- national parks, and wolves.
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Wolves-National Parks.pdf192.89 KB

Will The Long-Desired "Completion" Of Canyonlands National Park Ever Arrive?

View from Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park
From the lip of Grand View Point, an immense ruddy sweep of a landscape in a constant state of decay runs before your eyes. And yet, though you're in the heart of Canyonlands National Park, not all you see is within the park. And for many, that's a problem that should have been corrected long ago.
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Completing Canyonlands NPCA.pdf1.64 MB

15 Years Into Yellowstone National Park's Wolf Recovery Program

Deep in Yellowstone National Park's backcountry, our sleep and the predawn darkness was startled by a sound that long had been alien to the park. But on that mid-September day in 2008 the sound was unmistakable. A lone wolf had raised its muzzle to the sky and released a rich, baritone howl that pierced the inky stillness. A long-missing aspect of the park's wildness had very much returned.

Regulatory Landscape For Guns to Change in National Parks on February 22

Marble Hall in Sequoia National Park's Crystal Cave. NPS photo.
A controversial rule change concerning firearms in national parks takes effect February 22, a change likely to cause confusion and raise concerns over personal safety, but one also that could go largely unnoticed and give some a measure of personal security.
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Reducing The Federal Deficit Is Essential, But Are the National Parks A Logical Place to Cut Spending?

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park. Kurt Repanshek photo
Did you feel the wind in the sails go slack? Barely three months beyond the euphoria raised by Ken Burns’ documentary on the national parks, and just four weeks after 2009 delivered the strongest visitation to parks in a decade, President Obama wants to freeze funding levels of the National Park Service.

Looking To Gain A Little Structured Education On Your National Park Trip?

Can you tell by looking at a wildflower in Yellowstone National Park what the underlying geology is? Or, while hiking through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, can you identify a bird simply by its song? Do you want to get relatively up close to the elephant seals at Point Reyes National Seashore? Here's how you can do all those things and more.

Stepping Into the Icebox: A January Visit To Yellowstone National Park

Rocky Mountain air starts out dry, and then the sub-zero cold of its winters pulls out just about all of whatever atmospheric moisture remains. The result is not just a crystal clear sky, but one that seemingly is magnified. Looking at the constellations above Craig Pass in Yellowstone National Park, it sure seemed possible to reach up and pluck a star out of the night.

Where In the National Park System Will You Venture in 2010?

Winter is a great time for planning national park vacations. These suggestions will help you get started in the right direction, whether your interests are mainstream or nontraditional.

What We'd Like To See Across The National Park System in 2010

A fresh new year is upon us, one still brimming with hope, confidence, and high expectations. So, what better time to sort through our list of things we'd like to see happen across the National Park System in 2010?

2009 Brought the National Park System a Mixed Bag of Goods

Guns in the parks. Budget boosts. New units. The past year brought a mixed bag of goods to the National Park System. Some good, some not so good. Here, in no particular order, are some of the top stories we saw.

"Core Ops" Budgeting in the National Park System Goes Silently Into the Night

A succinct, four-paragraph memo from National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis two weeks ago spurred an outpouring of comments from Park Service employees and marked, potentially, a sea change in how park superintendents go about budgeting for their parks. But is it something the general public should take note of?

Winter, A Season of Discontent When It Comes to Travel in Yellowstone National Park

Lone Star Geyser and skiers.
There are times during the hardest of Rocky Mountain winters, when the mercury slides far below zero, that Yellowstone Lake’s heavy mantle of ice grinds and groans under the pressure of shifting flows. Snow can fall so deeply on Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming’s northwestern corner that workers at times must clamber onto the rooftops of lodges and cabins to shuck off the fluff so it doesn’t collapse the roofs.

National Park Lodging Rates, On Average, Stay Ahead of Inflation

Regular guests of national park lodges have undoubtedly noticed persistent increases in room rates. Although we no longer have the receipt, it seems that we paid $225 per night during our 1996 stay in Yosemite National Park’s Ahwahnee for a room that now goes for approximately $500 per night. It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn that during the past decade lodging rates in national parks have risen faster than the Consumer Price Index.

A Hike To LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Is Just Part of the Adventure

I am a social hiker. For me, one of the highlights of hiking is meeting friendly and energetic people on the trail. That’s why I love the camaraderie at LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lodge, which can only be reached by foot, is luxurious considering it’s located on top of Mt. LeConte at 6,593 ft. Groups come here for family reunions and some people train for weeks before attempting the trip because it’s the only hiking they do all year.

Winter: The Perfect Time To Plan Your Long-Distance Trek Along National Scenic Trails

Winter is a season for planning. How better to pass some of those long, cold, snowy nights than before the fire or a the kitchen table with guidebooks and maps, calculators and checklists? And if you’re thinking of tackling one of the country’s long-distance hiking trails, planning is definitely not over-rated. Here’s a look at some of the trails that pass through parts of the National Park System, and what planning assistance is out there.

Firefighter's Death Underscores Need For Promise Of Swift Evacuation From Fire Lines

Homer. The writings of Sun Tzu, a 6th-century Chinese military strategist. Midnight walks through Rome after a night at the opera. These are hints of who Andrew "Andy" Palmer was at just 18, an age of transition in life, a point where youth transforms to adult and begins to chart a path through life.

A Firefighter's Death Leads to Internal Analysis Of Protocols By National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service

It would appear from reading the investigative report into the death of an 18-year-old Olympic National Park firefighter could have been prevented on a number of fronts. What lessons did the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service take from this incident?

Report Details Errors That Led to The Death of A Young National Park Firefighter

Fighting forest fires is one of the most dangerous occupations to partake in. And yet, many of those who fight these blazes are energized by the danger they encounter. You might say they get an adrenalin high battling the flames. And some firefighters die, more often than not because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That appears to have been the case when a young firefighter from Olympic National Park died on the fire lines in 2008.

What Would Teddy Think?

Tetons with Jackson Lake. Kurt Repanshek photo.
What should we think of a congressman on a national parks subcommittee who endorses a resolution “recognizing that country music has made a tremendous contribution to American life and culture,” and yet opposes legislation that would create hundreds of thousands of acres of official wilderness across the National Park System?

Curing Society's Disconnect With Nature Could Be As Easy As A Walk In the Woods

For the past four years, since Last Child in the Woods hit bookstores, there has been a greatly heightened concern over how society connects with nature. Across the United States there has been hew and cry from many corners that society is losing not just its comfort in the outdoors, but also its concern for it. A new study indicates that while there should be reason for concern, perhaps the solution is as simple as a walk in the woods.
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Outdoor_Foundation-Survey_Trends.pdf131.92 KB

A Conversation With Jon Jarvis, the New Director of the National Park Service

Jon Jarvis is swapping emergency sirens outside his West Coast office for emergency sirens outside the Interior Department building in downtown Washington, D.C. And no doubt he'll be picking up the sounds of quite a few figurative sirens from a National Park System struggling with wildlife issues, climate change, morale woes, and competing user demands.
Gloryland: A Novel In his first novel, Gloryland, Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson comes full circle.

The Desert Queen: Death Valley National Park's Furnace Creek Inn

Perched on a rise in the middle of one of the world’s driest and hottest deserts sits what is surely a mirage. At least, it must seem that to first-time Death Valley visitors who are unfamiliar with elegant Furnace Creek Inn. The inn, an AAA Four-Diamond resort, endures and continues to welcome visitors with luxurious accommodations in what can only be described as an unusual setting where summer temperatures average over 100 degrees and frequently soar above 120 degrees.

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

National parks represent a spectacular legacy handed down to today’s generations, but it is one that also carries a hefty responsibility of stewardship. That becomes quickly obvious in Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. This notion of responsible stewardship is not new at all. In many ways it’s trite.

Trial Over What Constitutes a "Road" In Canyonlands National Park: Vestiges of Sagebrush Rebels

There long have been pockets of disgust over federal land ownership in the West, and perhaps nowhere are those sentiments stronger than in Utah, where roughly two-thirds of the landscape is federally managed. While the "Sagebrush Rebellion" mightily reared its head some three decades ago, its waning vestiges are on trial this week over whether a creek bed constitutes a road in Canyonlands National Park.
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Salt_Creek-Amicus_Brief.pdf81.59 KB
Salt_Creek-NPS_Motions.pdf294.07 KB

On Canyoneering, Politics, and Teens Studying Climate Change in the National Parks

Slipping from the top of the arch into the abyss below was a difficult move that rattled my psyche. Even though the sandstone band I was perched on was not much more than 4 feet wide, it was stable. Putting my faith into the rope cinched to my climbing harness and dropping into the 100-foot void went completely against my desire for self-preservation.

Proposed Power Lines at Everglades National Park Highlight Several National Issues

What would you think of a utility building a lengthy power-line transmission corridor through Everglades National Park on land that's highly valuable for restoring the "River of Grass"? And what would you think if such a project set a precedent that could jeopardize other National Park System lands across the nation?

On Politics, Bureaucracy, and "Glamping" In the National Park System

The National Park Service's National Leadership Council met in Ohio last week. The meeting of the agency's top management was supposed to be the first under the direction of Jon Jarvis as Park Service director. Political gamesmanship, and apparently a dose of bureaucracy, unfortunately left Mr. Jarvis wearing his Pacific West Region director's hat.

Just Down the Hallway: Saving Money at a National Park Lodge by Choosing a Room without a Private Bathroom

Even experienced travelers often are surprised to learn that some national park lodges still offer rooms without a private bathroom. In fact, in making a reservation at one of the lodges you might discover there is no choice other than a room that requires use of a community bathroom. While European visitors are not surprised and might even expect rooms without a private bathroom, many U.S. travelers don’t look kindly on the need to use a bathroom that is just down the hallway.