Have you ever been to a National Park? If not, now is the time to go! That is because August marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks. My family decided to take a National Park road trip this summer so I will tell you some highlights that will hopefully inspire you to go visit them for yourself.
The first one was Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota. This is a mountain that has the heads of four presidents carved into the side using dynamite. A father and son designed and carved the monument, with the help of other workers, and it took 14 years! George Washington is on the far left. He was the first president of the United States and also a soldier in the Revolutionary War. At the other end sits Abraham Lincoln, the president who led the Union army to free the slaves in the Civil War. In the middle you have Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. Roosevelt was chosen because he expanded the Naval fleet, worked to create the Panama Canal, and played a big role in the creation of many of today’s National Parks and Monuments. Jefferson earned his spot because he was the main author of the Declaration of Independence.
The next National Park on the list is Wind Cave National Park, not far from Mount Rushmore. This was the first cave ever to be a National Park. Wind Cave was originally found by the Lakota Indians but they never explored it because they said it was too sacred. Later on, a man heard whistling, which was wind blowing through the cave, and found the cave and started exploring with only a candle. The winds can blow up to 70 mph coming out of the cave and it is usually only 40–50 degrees inside the cave, so bring a jacket when you go!
The cool thing about Wind Cave is that it is home to 95% of the boxwork in the world. Boxwork is formed when limestone gets eroded and only thin veins of it survive. Some of the boxwork is older than the cave itself because it exists in the rock before it gets eroded. Another cool thing is that Wind Cave has three levels and the sixth-longest cave in the world. Plus the park isn’t just the cave, it is also the prairie above the cave. The prairie is home to bison, prairie dogs, ferrets and other animals.
The last National Park I went to in this area is Badlands National Park. This place was amazing because you can hike and climb on very crumbly mountains made of silt and clay! It also has a ton of fossils and you can go out on the trails and search for new ones. There are a lot of animals that live in the grasslands part of the Badlands, like bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, prong- horns, and deer.
These places may be amazing to read about, but they are even better to see for yourself. I asked a Park Ranger, Jessica, why she thinks people should visit National Parks and she said, “Come to a National Park to make your own memories and experiences to take with your forever.” So if you haven’t gone to a National Park yet, what are you waiting for?