The United States of America is graced with numerous natural wonders, the focus of its many national parks. Many of these incredible places are world-famous as well. Although there are some areas which stand above the rest, it is nevertheless difficult to narrow the many wonders down to seven. Here is my list. Look for a photo album to follow.
1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. This unbelievable gash in the Earth’s crust was created by the Colorado River, now appearing as a narrow stripe at the bottom of the canyon. The river dug the canyon as the western part of the US rose in a major uplift, created by the North American Plate climbing over the Pacific Plate in a dramatic example of Plate Tectonics. At present, the canyon is over 200 miles long, ten miles wide and a mile deep, the largest canyon on Earth.
2. Niagara Falls, New York (shared with Canada). One of the largest waterfalls in the world, and certainly the most accessible, Niagara Falls has been a major destination for tourists for hundreds of years. Engineering projects to shore up the falls, which are continually eroding, have stabilized things for the time being, but this area will definitely change over time.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. This incredibly diverse national park is most famous for its geysers, especially Old Faithful, whose regular eruptions are witnessed daily by thousands of park-goers. A stroll through these thermal areas reveals much more than Old Faithful, however. There are multi-colored terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, beautiful thermal pools, mud cauldrons known as the fountain paint pots, and thousands of other geysers, some even more regular than Old Faithful. When visiting, be sure to check out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a dramatic chasm with colorful walls and a blue-green ribbon of water, the Yellowstone River, below.
4. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawai’i. Kilauea Volcano, the world’s most active volcano, is the draw here. Visitors can witness fresh lava flows since Kilauea’s latest eruption has been active since 1993. Also, visitors to the island of Maui will find Haleakala volcano, a dormant cousin to Kilauea.
5. Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona. Here is the classic Western landscape, immortalized in numerous films, especially those of John Ford. The fanciful shapes and dramatic examples of erosion are known as buttes and mesas by geologists.
6. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. This thoroughly fanciful and unusual place is characterized by the presence of "hoodoos," tall monoliths of stone, eroded into strange shapes and sizes which punctuate the landscape. Trails allow visitors close-up access to many.
7. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. Here visitors will find the eerie beauty of the underworld. This UNESCO World Heritage Site preserved an immense limestone cave system. The park also features an evening flight of thousands of Mexican Free-tail Bats for their nightly forays.
Other sites considered:
Death Valley National Park, California.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Everglades National Park, Florida
Arches National Park, Utah
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Haleakala National Park, Hawai’i
Mount McKinley, Denali National Park, Alaska.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Arizona.
Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Glacier National Park, Montana