Special Edition: National Parks

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, which over 3.5 million people visit yearly, is located in California and was the first green space in the United States to be declared as a protected natural area for public enjoyment. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation that designates the 7-mile-long Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of the giant sequoias a public trust of the state of California. The giant sequoias, which grow in Yosemite National Park, are the biggest living natural entities on the planet. Nevertheless, the seed for the Giant Sequoias are the size of a flake of oatmeal. The oldest Sequoia in Yosemite Park is named Grizzly Giant and is thought to be over 2,700 years old. John Muir, amateur naturalist, once wrote: “No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite”. His popular article on Yosemite published in newspapers and magazines eventually raised awareness on the beauty of the region and contributed to the eventual establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890. 

2. Zion National Park

Utah is home to five national parks—including Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef—however, with approximately 2.5 million people visiting the park each year, Zion remains the most popular. Zion is a Hebrew word that means ‘a place of peace and relaxation.' This was the name given to the canyon in the 1860s by Mormon pioneers. Despite its arid location, Zion is home to over 900 plant species. Cottonwoods, cacti, juniper trees, ponderosa pines, many wildflowers, and even aquatic plants grow throughout the park, making this area a popular meet-up for Utah's plants enthusiasts. In addition to the vegetal world, the park hosts 79 different species of mammals and 289 bird species, in which figures the Californian condor, a highly endangered species. A million years of flowing water has cut through the red and white beds of Navajo sandstone that form the sheer walls of Zion. The geologic heart of the canyon began as a vast desert millions of years ago; almost incessant winds blew one dune on top of another until the sands reached a depth of more than 2,000 feet.

3. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, established as a national monument in 1936 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and given the status of National Park in 1994, is named after the Joshua tree— Yucca brevifolia, native to the park. The Joshua tree, tree in appearance, in facts belongs to the lily family. There are only three subspecies of Joshua trees and there are exclusively found in the Californian National Park. The park lies within an ecological crossroad, where the Mojave Desert meets the Colorado Desert. The park is home to many plants and animals, along with imposing rocks sculpted by time, strong winds, and torrential rains. These surreal geologic features all contribute to the magic of the area, itself also popular for stargazing due to its dark skies, rarely found in the light saturated Californian state. Fun fact: the name of the park dates back to the mid-19th century, when a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert noticed the peculiar shape of the trees, and associated them with the biblical story of Joshua, reaching his hands to the sky, in prayer. 

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Author: Anna Chahuneau//Photography: Jesse Gardener, Ari Rose and Joe Braun

Anna Chahuneau