In a land of stark white sand, a little fall color really stands out. White Sands National Monument in New Mexico preserves part the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. Gypsum sand is considered rare because gypsum is water soluble – it dissolves in water like sugar in iced tea. The 275-square miles of dunes are comprised of over 4.5 billion tons of gypsum sand. It is one of the many things that make White Sands a unique and special place. Photo by Jim Langford (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Take a look at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah. The monument is best known for its geologic amphitheater – a brilliantly colored limestone coliseum that plunges a half-mile deep. In addition to enjoying incredible views, visitors can wander among timeless bristlecone pines, stand in lush meadows of wildflower, ponder crystal-clear night skies and experience the gorgeous fall colors of the park’s subalpine forest. Photo courtesy of Gary Fua.
Bandelier National Monument’s human history extends back for over 10,000 years when nomadic hunter-gatherers followed migrating wildlife across the mesas and canyons of New Mexico. Between 1150 and 1550 CE, Ancestral Pueblo erected permanent settlements whose remains give us clues about their lives and culture. Built along the base of a cliff, the homes at Long House stood three to four stories high. The cliff face and remaining structures are decorated with hundreds of petroglyphs showing a variety of subjects. A visit here is like traveling back in time. Photo by Sally King, National Park Service.
Dinosaur National Monument offers a lifetime of places to explore. Depending on your interest and time, you can discover dinosaur fossils, Native American rock art, homesteader cabins, early 20th century ranches, remote canyons, dramatic vistas, peaceful rivers or windswept peaks. Some places are easily accessible from the monument’s roads, while others may require extended hikes or river trips. Looking down hundreds of feet to the Green River as it curls past narrow canyon walls, you’ll know it was worth the exercise. Photo by National Park Service.
The imposing rock formation of Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska rises 800 feet above the North Platte River and the surrounding prairie. For pioneers and travellers, it was visible for several days before they actually reached it and meant the end of the Great Plains and the beginning of the Rocky Mountains. Visitors today can get a sense of frontier time as they look out over some of the the best preserved prairie in the country – gorgeous grasslands relatively untouched by human disturbance. Photo by B. Wagner, National Park Service.
Our nation’s first national monument, Devils Tower was established on this day in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Unforgettable to all who see it, this ancient volcanic column rises above the rolling grasslands in eastern Wyoming like a sentinel. Northern Plains Tribes have lived and held ceremonies near this remarkable geologic formation for thousands of years, and today, many tribes continue to hold traditional ceremonies at the park. The rock tower was called “Bear’s Lodge” and “Bear’s Tipi” by the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Crow and Lakota tribes. Made famous in the 1977 movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the monument holds an undeniable attraction to many people. Photo by National Park Service.
The large trees at Muir Woods National Monument in California are coastal redwoods, the tallest of all living things. Undisturbed, redwoods can grow taller than the Statue of Liberty and live longer than 1,200 years. Looking up at these incredible trees in an unforgettable experience. As John Muir said, “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.” Photo by National Park Service.
A dramatic backdrop of ocean, rocks and islands are hallmarks of the California Coastal National Monument at Trinidad Head. About 30 miles north of Eureka, California, lies the majestic promontory that encompasses several historic sites like the Trinidad Head Light Station, which first operated in 1871. Outdoor adventurers can choose a hike around Trinidad Head for great views of the coastal rocks and islands, stroll along the beaches and marvel at the birds, including cormorants, common murres and tufted puffins. Photo by by John Ciccarelli, Bureau of Land Management.
Bobcats thrive at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in New Mexico but are rarely seen. Mostly nocturnal, they use stealth and excellent night vision to hunt small mammals in darkness. Bobcats are usually tawny with darker spots and streaks on their body and legs, and light-colored undersides. They have short black tufts on their ears and a ruff of longer fur on their face. The kittens may look like ordinary house cats, but they quickly grow to twice the size of domestic cats. Photo by National Park Service.