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National Parks You Can't Miss

Updated on October 16, 2016

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The United States has the largest and most extensive national park system in the world. Some might argue the most beautiful, as well. From the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California, to Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine, every state has natural beauty that has been recognized as worth preserving. But, these parks aren't just for the preservation of the landscape or for the animals within to have undisturbed land, they are maintained by the National Parks Service for us to visit and appreciate.

These parks are not all trees, lakes, and campgrounds. Every National Park has something unique to offer. This November 11th, all 398 U.S. National Parks will waive their entry fees. Here in Oregon there are quite a few parks, each one will provide a very different experience, and only for the price of gas.

Lewis & Clark National Historical Park

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon, is a relatively new park, although the individual attractions have existed for much longer. Fort Clatsop, within the park, was the encampment of the Lewis and Clark expedition during the winter of 1805 - 1806. A replica of the encampment was built in 1955, and rebuilt after a fire in 2006. Here you can see the fort wall made of tree trunks, and the cabins the men would have lived in.

While there be sure to check out Fort Stevens State Park, inside the National Park jurisdiction. Here you can find the wreckage of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted ship bound for Portland to pick up a shipment of wheat for Britain. In 1906, caught in a heavy fog, the ship ran aground. Now, only the bow and a few ribs remain. In these areas, surrounded by trees, sand, and the remnants of visitors from of 100 years ago, it’s hard to remember that the modern coastal town of Astoria is bustling along just a few miles away. This park is perfect for those who want to know the history of the United States settling the Northwest.

Nez Perce National Historic Park

The beauty of the Nez Perce National Historic Park is unrivaled, with its rolling hills and open prairies. This was the homeland of the largest tribe on the Columbia River Plateau, with over 6000 residents living in permanent villages. Spread over many locations around the Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana borders. You can hike many short trails that will lead you around former village sites of the Nez Perce people. You can also explore the legends that tribes passed down to the younger generations, through historic placards placed on the trails. Or you can view petroglyphs (rock paintings) made by the people who lived here hundreds of years ago.

This park also remembers the tragedies of the past at Bear Paw Battlefield and Big Hole Battlefield, where you can learn about the clash of cultures as U.S. soldiers destroyed the villages of these people. You can follow trails and see step-by-step battle maneuvers of the U.S. soldiers. It is sobering how tragic an act could have happened on such beautiful land.

While the battlefields are an important part of American history, this park celebrates the culture of the Nez Perce people. You can see artifacts of pottery and weaving from 150 years ago, or the work of today's Nez Perce community.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is one of the most famous locations in the United States, if not the world, and it can be found in south-central Oregon. In July, its peak season, you can expect to see tourists from all nations in awe of this great natural formation. Once a volcano, Mount Mazama is now the deepest lake in the United States. If you prefer nature to history, Crater Lake is a great destination as there are not many indicators of a long human history. Instead you will find numerous viewpoints, hiking trails, and scenic drives. Check out Garfield Peak for a panoramic view the lake and surrounding mountains. Or take the Rim Drive around the lake for a closer view. Remember to go clockwise around the lake, as it is a one way road. Whatever you do here, you will absorb the stillness and magnitude of this natural wonder.

These parks are vastly different in what they provide; from natural beauty, to history of our people and the natives before us. And you can’t beat the price of free this November tenth through twelfth. All of these parks are found right here in the northwest, but around the country there are hundreds more waiting to be explored. They are a way for you to step back in time,and see these places as they were hundreds of years ago. Take the time to plan a trip because you never know what you might end up appreciating once you are there.


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