Tag Archives: National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument

Overview

South of Canyonlands National Park is isolated Natural Bridges National Monument.  First established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, it was not accessible by road until uranium mining developed this part of Utah in the 1950s.  As you may recall from our post on Arches National Park, bridges are created by flowing water, unlike arches that are primarily carved by wind.

Highlights

3 huge natural bridges, scenic views, ruins, hiking, stargazing

Must-Do Activity

The monument is home to 220-foot tall Sipapu Bridge, which is second only to Glen Canyon’s Rainbow Bridge as the largest in the world.  Kachina Bridge, at 210 feet and growing, may catch up to it someday.  Perhaps the most visually striking of the three standing bridges is the 180-foot span of Owachomo Bridge that is only nine feet thick at its center.  Handicap accessible overlooks are available along Bridge View Drive.

Best Trail

A nine-mile loop hike connects all three natural bridges, which are also accessible by shorter trails from the rim drive.  Do not attempt this rugged trek if you are not prepared; it is a rocky canyon bottom at high elevation with little shade.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Owachomo Bridge is the oldest of the three standing natural bridges in the National Monument.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/nabr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

The secluded nature of this region and its elevation of 6,500 feet were factors in naming it the first International Dark Sky Park in 2007.  If you make it out this far, you might want to spend the night under the stars at the campground.

Related Sites

Rainbow Bridge National Monument (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

Explore More – In 1992, how many tons of rock fell from Kachina Bridge (the youngest of the three)?

Petroglyph National Monument

Overview

Bordered by the suburban neighborhoods of Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument is a nice place to take a walk and enjoy some intricate artwork.  The petroglyphs were chipped into the patina of volcanic rocks in a long-populated region of the Rio Grande Valley.  Some of these images may be up to 3,000 years old, with most believed to be carved between AD 1400 and 1700.  A few were added by Hispanic settlers and explorers through the 1800s, but the National Park Service (NPS) politely requests no aspiring artists add any more.

Highlights

Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon Trail, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, Volcanoes Day Use Area

Must-Do Activity

There are multiple areas of this National Monument established in 1990, some literally in Albuquerque residents’ backyards.  At Boca Negra Canyon, you will find interesting depictions of humans, snakes, and even parrots from Central America, as well as many puzzling illustrations.  Use your imagination to try to guess what the original carver was trying to display. 

Best Trail

Volcanoes Day Use Area offers loop trails around three volcanic cones on the West Mesa with incredible views of the Sandia Mountains and Rio Grande Valley (but no petroglyphs).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Rinconada Canyon Trail is 1.25 miles one-way and starts at a small NPS parking lot in suburban Albuquerque and accesses an area with thousands of petroglyphs.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/petr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but be prepared for stoplights, especially on the main connecting road Unser Boulevard.

Camping

There are private campgrounds around Albuquerque, New Mexico, or you can look for options in the Cibola and Santa Fe National Forests.

Related Sites

Pecos National Historical Park (New Mexico)

El Morro National Monument (New Mexico)

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument (New Mexico)

Explore More – How many petroglyphs are estimated to be protected within this National Monument?

Boca Negra Canyon contains thousands of petroglyphs and fascinating volcanic rock formations.

Some petroglyphs are more difficult to interpret.  I think this one depicts a yucca fruit.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Overview

The ruins of this four-story pueblo in Coolidge, Arizona were originally protected as Casa Grande Reservation in 1892, the first time an archaeological site was given this designation by the federal government.  The National Park Service (NPS) took over management in 1918 when it was named a National Monument and in 1932 a protective cover was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to prevent further erosion.  It is hard to believe when looking around the desert today, but the Hohokom farmed the Gila River Valley for over a thousand years until abandoning the area in the mid-1400s.  To accomplish this feat, they dug nearly a thousand miles of irrigation canals measuring 10 feet wide and 10 feet in depth.

Highlights

Museum, film, ruins

Must-Do Activity

Its name means “Big House” in Spanish and you will see why when you take the short, flat walk (handicap accessible) around the multi-story ruin and ballcourts.  Built in the early 1300s, the pueblo was only inhabited for about a century.  The NPS runs an excellent museum at the site that shows an introductory film.  The nearby Hohokam Pima National Monument shows up on NPS maps (and is counted in the 420+ units in the NPS system), but the O’odham do not allow access to the site on their reservation.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

There are pigeons instead of ravens at this NPS site.

Peak Season

Winter

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cagr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

No camping at the NPS site, but options are available nearby in Tonto National Forest and Picacho Peak State Park (right off Interstate 10).

Related Sites

Tonto National Monument (Arizona)

Tuzigoot National Monument (Arizona)

Saguaro National Park (Arizona)

Explore More – In 1694, who was the famous Jesuit priest that became the first European to see Casa Grande?

African Burial Ground National Monument

Overview

When excavating a federal office building in New York City in 1991, construction workers came upon a massive cemetery forgotten since it closed in 1794.  Archaeologists eventually found the remains of 419 bodies from a time when Africans were not allowed to be buried inside the walls of the Dutch city of New Amsterdam.  There are believed to be about 15,000 people buried in the original six-acre cemetery.

Highlights

Museum, film, Circle of the Diaspora, Ancestral Libation Chamber

Must-Do Activity

After passing through security, check out the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center that opened in 2010.  It has interactive exhibits about the thousands of captive and freed Africans that lived in the city in the eighteenth century.  Outside, a memorial made of Verde Fontaine green granite from Africa was completed in 2007 with the 24-foot high Ancestral Libation Chamber symbolizing the depth at which the bodies were discovered.  Nearby the 419 bodies were ceremonially reinterred in 2003.  Call ahead to schedule your place on an NPS ranger-led tour of the site.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The symbolic “Door of Return” is part of the outdoor memorial, which was entirely covered by scaffolding to protect it from a construction project during our visit in 2019.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/afbg/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Take public transportation!

Camping

Check out our blog post on Gateway National Recreation Area for information on camping in the New York City area.

Related Sites

Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site (New York)

Stonewall National Monument (New York)

Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Explore More – What does the Sankofa (a West African heart-shaped symbol) mean?

George Washington Carver National Monument

Overview

In southwestern Missouri is 210-acre George Washington Carver National Monument where the artist and inventor was born into slavery.  Near the end of the Civil War, raiders captured he and his mother (who was never seen again), but he was returned to his older brother and they were both raised by the Carver family.  He went on to earn a master’s degree in botany from Iowa State University in 1896 and work at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for 47 years.  His most influential legacy is arguably his outreach work marketing peanut and soy plants, helping to turn them into the widespread agricultural products they are today.

Highlights

Museum, films, bronze sculptures, 1881 Moses Carver House, Williams Pond

Must-Do Activity

The National Monument has an excellent museum with interactive exhibits and examples of Carver’s paintings.  A self-guided 0.75-mile trail passes several bronze sculptures and interpretive signs.  It leads through the forest to Williams Pond and a house that dates back to 1881.  George Washington Carver’s spirit lives on at this site, inspiring future generations to great aspirations despite humble beginnings.

Best Trail

The self-guided 0.75-mile trail loops from the visitor center and is partially wheelchair accessible.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Williams Pond is a nice place to sit and contemplate what each of us can accomplish regardless of how we start.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/gwca/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are private campgrounds around Joplin, Missouri and 50 miles away is Roaring River State Park.

Related Sites

Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site (Alabama)

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (Missouri)

Explore More – When was the year the National Monument was dedicated, which was the same year Carver died?