At the confluence of temperate North America and the tropical Caribbean, Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres of South Florida. Rich with flora and fauna, walk the winding trails and notice the dazzling tropical hardwood forests, sawgrass marshes, cypress swamps, delicate orchids and the presence of wildlife like alligators and anhingas. With multiple visitor centers and both guided and self-guided tours available, explore this vast and open landscape however you chose. Photo courtesy of Paul Marcellini.
This isn’t a scene you’d expect to find in the Nevada desert: pools of Caribbean-blue water supporting a grove of ash trees. Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a unique oasis and an internationally recognized wetland of importance. Nearly 30 species of plants and animals that don’t exist any place else on Earth are found in this isolated wonderland. Springs of fossil water – melted ice buried thousands of years ago – feed the pools. You’ve got to see it for yourself. Photo by Rod Colvin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer.
Decorating the hills of California’s Carrizo Plain National Monument and sprawling as far as the eye can see, the super bloom this year is driving us crazy. Practicing responsible wildflower viewing determines the future of these flowers. The tapestry of color you see represents dozens of species – from Hillside daisies and Munz’s Tidy tips to Great Valley phacelia. For them to re-seed, staying on trails is necessary without exception, even for a quick photo. Remember the monument is an hour from travel services – so come prepared to be self-sufficient with a full tank of gas, plenty of water and other supplies. Photos by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management – California
Rising 8,751 feet, high above the dry plains of West Texas, Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the state. From the top of Texas, visitors can see the wide expanse of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and stand on an ancient reef, born under an inland sea over 250 million years ago. The geology, history and views in this park are all spectacular. Photo by E. Jackson, National Park Service.
If you like strange and colorful landscapes, you’ve got to visit John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon. The yellows, golds, blacks and reds of the Painted Hills are striking and surreal. Changing light and moisture levels drastically affect the tones and hues visible in the hills. The seasons can also change the look of the Painted Hills. Spring often brings wildflowers that grow in between the hills, adding even more color. Photo by Chaney Swiney (www.sharetheexperience.org).
If the colors and curves of Reflection Canyon don’t leave you breathless, the journey to get there will. Deep in the backcountry of Utah’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this secluded wonder requires a 50-mile drive down dirt roads and a 20-mile round trip hike to find. Only experienced hikers should attempt this adventure. Trekking over unmarked, rugged terrain with only the water and shelter you can carry is not for the faint of heart. But we can all enjoy this incredible picture. Photo by Wan Shi (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The ‘Ōhiʻa (pronounced oh-hee-yah), is a small flowering tree with incredible cultural and ecological importance to Hawaii. Once lava cools — before any other life can return — the ‘Ōhiʻa tree grows. It is the lone voyager. It’s bright red blossoms and green leaves can be seen dotting barren lava fields across the big island of Hawaii. Without the ʻŌhiʻa to help bring life back to the land, the cycle of creation after a lava flow would be disrupted. Unfortunately, ʻŌhiʻa are facing an invasive fungal pathogen and we need help identifying it and protecting this important tree. Photo courtesy of J. B. Friday.
One of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a place of natural beauty and living legends. A dry climate, sheltering cliffs and the watchful eyes of local residents protect the distinctive architecture, artifacts and rock imagery. Completely within the Navajo Nation in Arizona, the park’s signature vista is looking down at Spider Rock, an 825-foot-tall sandstone spire that got its name from the Navajo story of the Spider Woman. Rangers and Navajo guides share these stories to connect visitors to this special place. Photo by Nina Mayer Ritchie (www.sharetheexperience.org).
No, this isn’t another planet. The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a rolling landscape of badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery in New Mexico. Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal and silt. The King of Wings – seen here under a stormy sky – is just one example of these amazing works of natural art. Photo by Jim Long (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The peaceful beauty of a winter sunset at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon gives few hints of the landscape’s violent past. For approximately 400,000 years, volcanic eruptions built up a 12,000 foot mountain now called Mt. Mazama. 7,700 years ago, the volcano erupted in a cataclysmic explosion. Fatally weakened, the top of the mountain collapsed and created the hole – the caldera – that we now see today filled with pristine blue water. Photo courtesy of Albert Yang.