Waterfall Wonders

ny-trip2014-037I am not sure when my fascination with waterfalls began, but it certainly has grown over the years as I have seen so many through my travels. The granddaddy of them all, Niagara Falls State Park in New York was established in 1885 and is a popular destination averaging over 28 million tourists annually. Niagara Falls are made up of three sets of waterfalls that are on the border between Canada and the United States. The Falls can be viewed by both the American and Canadian sides and each side offers a different perspective.

Any landscape is beautifully enhanced with the addition of a waterfall.  Just think, almost any park you visit one of the “key” features, and a photographers delight, is the viewing of a waterfall.  Whether they are big or small, the inherent beauty of them is always a pleasure to view, and the serenity that the flowing water provides is an added bonus.  Just think of all those little desk-top fountain to help you get your Zen on. I am more relaxed already.

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Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley N.P.

Frequently, waterfalls are tucked away in the woods and require a hike to get to. Yet, that just enhances the excitement, because  as you walk….you can hear the water “woooshing”.  We must be getting closer….. When you get there it suddenly appears and WOW! Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio) has a beautiful waterfall with excellent viewing platforms over the falls. Brandy wine Falls cascades over sandstone cliffs creating a dramatic  main waterfall, then several smaller ones. The photo opportunities are endless in this beautiful area of the park.

Many factors of course, determine the size, pathway and occurrence of waterfalls.  The source of the water, precipitation levels, topography and geological features all define the distribution of waterfalls. If you want to view waterfalls in your own area, it is encouraging to know that there are significant waterfalls in all 50 states except Delaware and North Dakota.  An interesting site to explore that shows the location, and names of American waterfalls is:http://geology.com/waterfalls The site has an overview of the United States, with major waterfalls tagged in each region.  You can select a specific state and find out the number of falls in that state. Then you can take it one step further and find out the name and locations of each waterfall.  Really fun site to poke around on and to plan you next “Falls watching” venture.

Another important consideration when hoping to view waterfalls at their peak, is the time of year.  For some locations, the season does not matter, but for others timing is everything and the melting snows and spring rains really delivers a showcase of stunning waterfalls.  For example, a few years ago I visited Starved Rock State Park in Illinois during the early part of October.  The foliage was wonderful at that time of year but alas, it had been a dry Fall and the waterfalls in the Park (they say there are 14 in the various canyons) were barely a dribble.  It was still a great trip and the hikes around the canyons were terrific, but I was disappointed in the emptiness of the canyons….they seemed too still without the sound of cascading waters.  I hope to go back sometime in the spring, when the Falls in the park would be more robust.  It really is a beautiful park.

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Bridal Veil Falls, Alaska

Sometimes a walk in the woods is not required for viewing beautiful cascading waterfalls.  Depending on where you are, waterfalls are frequently spotted roadside, making the drive quite scenic. On the road to Valdez, Alaska there are several falls that can be seen along the drive and several turnouts are there to help you safely photograph them.  This particular collection of waterfalls in Alaska is not very large, but they are so incredibly scenic with the surrounding vegetation, rock formations and the beauty of Alaskan wildflowers. Depending on what time of year you are there, in the summer months the roadsides are filled with the Fireweed flower blossoms.  Fireweed is easily spotted by its bright pink or light purple flowers.  Here is a photo I took of Bridal Veil Falls along the Richardson Highway east of Valdez.  One little lone Fireweed in the foreground.

 

 

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Weeping Wall @ Glacier National Park, Photo by I-Ting Chiang on flickr

In Glacier National Park, Montana there are several alpine waterfalls within the park that can be seen in several different “formats”.  Many are small little waterfalls in the streams surrounded by mountain pines. Others are larger and more dramatic coming off the face of a mountain. Yet, one of the most unusual waterfalls is seen on the main road that traverses thru the park: the “Going to the Sun Road.” On this  twisting and winding road you come upon the “Weeping Wall”.  Several cascading falls on the side of the wall as you pass by.  I can understand why they close this road in the winter, where it turns to torrents of ice. Even in the beauty of a summer day, the mountain road is a very winding and treacherous. That is why I was glad that my husband and I left the driving to the experts on a “Red Bus Tour” as seen in this photo.  It was a great tour that allowed us to relax, take pictures and enjoy the ride. However, I have to confess…there were a few curves and drop offs on the road where I just had to shut my eyes and hold my breath. We made it back alive to tell the tale.

 

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Shoshone Falls-Idaho

Another joy in photographing waterfalls is the inherent possibility of capturing a beautiful rainbow highlighted within the picture.  Sometimes it is deliberate, sometimes like magic they appear in the frame. Well…lots of water, sun and….Voila…rainbows frequently appear.  Shoshone Falls, a stunning waterfall in Idaho, is frequently photographed and rainbows are  captured in those photos.  At 212 feet high, Shoshone Falls are actually higher than Niagara. Here is a photo with the beauty of the Shoshone Falls and a stunning rainbow framing them.

Anytime I am exploring a new area, I am on the look-out for the photo-ops of a stunning waterfall. So tell me, what is one of your favorite waterfalls? Can’t wait to visit another.

Put your traveling shoes on. JES

A Tribute to a true lover of the Parks: Theodore Roosevelt.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park– South entrance near Medora, N.D.

As  one drives through the rugged terrain of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you appreciate the beauty of the rugged cliffs and eerie colors formed by the diversity of minerals found in this land. Land that has remained untouched by plows or backhoes for centuries, only modified by the wind, the sun and torrential rains. Included within the park are a diversity of landscapes and geological formations, such as the Petrified Forest and Painted Canyon.  The park consists of three separate units: the South unit (right off I-94), the North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Unit.  Each portion of the park offers an abundance of  things to explore and opportunities for viewing wildlife.  Since the South unit is easily accessible (Exit #24 and #27 from I-94) near Medora, ND and also has two Visitor’s Center to help plan your adventure within the Park, it has a tendency to be the more frequently visited area of the Park.  The Visitor’s Center also has a really interesting museum about the man, the legends and some of the “naked truths” about this fascinating man who became our  26th President.  I was saddened to learn that Roosevelt lost both his mother and his wife on the same day: Valentines Day, 1884.  I can’t imagine the overwhelming grief.  He did seek solace in the lands that he so loved in the hills of North Dakota.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located on the western side of North Dakota, is a more low-key National Park and does not boast huge mountains or erupting geysers, but nevertheless it is an amazing landscape that has been called “The Badlands of the North”.  Not only does it help to protect this unique area of land, it also pays homage to a man who played a huge role in the development of the National Park Service that we know today.quote-i-have-always-said-i-would-not-have-been-president-had-it-not-been-for-my-experience-theodore-roosevelt-105-74-46 It is fitting that North Dakota was chosen as the site for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This land truly inspired him and helped him grow and toughen his resolve, both physically and mentally. He first came to North Dakota in 1883 to “bag a buffalo” and later become involved in ranching.  Through a series of both bad luck and severe weather killing the majority of his livestock, he gave up the ranching life. However, the lessons he learned in the wilderness and with cattle ranching helped to strengthen his resolve and also helped to solidify his conservation ethic. He was quoted as saying: “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”

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Roosevelt and John Muir at Yosemite

Theodore Roosevelt was sometimes referred to as the “conservation President”.  He was responsible for establishing five National Parks and also created a system for the President to preserve lands and monuments by the creation of  The Antiquities Act of 1906. Roosevelt signed the act into law, which gives the President of the United States the authority to, by presidential proclamation,  create national monuments, protect public lands and to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. Roosevelt’s first use of the Antiquities Act was to declare the unique feature of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming a National Monument. The Act has been used over a hundred times since its passage. Its use occasionally creates significant controversy, usually instigated by differences of opinion between Congress and the President.

Recently, President Obama used his Presidential power through The Antiquities Act to proclaim  87,000 acres in Maine as a National Monument in north-central Maine. The area has been christened as: the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.  I believe that you can’t help but be inspired and uplifted viewing this video and thinking of the preservation of this beautiful tract of land in Maine.

 

So here’s to those that help to preserve the beauty of our America and hopefully we can all get out there and  “Find your Park”.  For more information on the Find Your Park program, check out the National Park Service website at: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm

Put your traveling shoes on. JES

It REALLY needs to be on your “Bucket” list: Glacier National Park

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St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park

During the centennial year for the National Park Service, they have been running a campaign called “Find Your Park” encouraging visitation to the many choices available in our national park system.  I feel it is hard to narrow your choice to just one favorite park, but nevertheless I have “Found my Park“: Glacier National Park in Montana.  The only thing I can see wrong with the park is for me it has become an obsession…I can hardly wait to return.  It was originally on my “Bucket List”, and I am so very happy I was able to visit the Park, but I really hope to return again someday.  I leave the park with a desire to return because it is so vast and with an abundance of adventures, that you really can’t experience Glacier all in one trip.

glacierwaterton-mapGlacier National Park is located in the northwestern corner of Montana, bordering Canada.  The Park was originally established in 1910 and encompasses over 1,500 square miles. The range of topography in the park, including mountains, crystal clear lakes, glacial feed streams and forested valleys,  provides not only a photographer’s dream but also numerous other recreational pursuits.  The park is home to 762 lakes and several waterfalls-both big and small. In addition to kayaking, canoeing and fishing, there are 151 maintained trails in Glacier for many different hiking experiences. The Park also supports a large population of both plant and animal life. Bears, both black bears and Grizzly, are among the mammals found here. An abundance of Big horn sheep and mountain goats are also found grazing on the highest peaks.

Another unique feature of Glacier National Park is it has been declared the world’s first International Peace Park. At the northern boundary of Glacier, the border into Canada connects with Waterton Lakes Park. The two parks together share over 1,800 square miles of breathtaking summits, glacial terrain and shimmering waterfalls.  I had hoped to see Waterton as well on my trip.  My husband and I both took our passports (yes, required) however we ran out of time.  Perhaps on my next trip. Also, the area is home to many Native American tribes and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is on the east side of the Park.  There is much to learn about the history of the Blackfeet people in this area, that in itself warrants another blog post on the topic.

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Red Bus Tours

A very good place to start at Glacier, to get an overview of the entire park, is the iconic “Going to the Sun Road”.  The road bisects the park, traverses up and over mountains and crosses the Continental Divide.  It was a monumental task to complete and took 10 years build; the road opened in 1933. Personal vehicles are allowed on the road, but I recommend leaving the driving to the experts: the drivers that are familiar with all the sharp turns and heart stopping drop offs.  If I had to drive it myself I would have been “white-knuckling” it  the entire way and would have not been able to enjoy the views.  If you are a seasoned mountain driver, go for it…I’m from the Midwest: a true flat-lander when it comes to driving.  So my husband and I decided to take a “Red Bus Tour” and it was incredibly well worth it.  The Red Buses themselves are a staple in the Park and have a rich history. Since 1914 the Red Bus Tours have been operating in Glacier and providing for visitors  “unparalleled experiences touring through one of the most spectacular parks anywhere, and they have done it with the elegance and grace that has become synonymous with these unique vehicles.” I thought it was a nice touch that all the drivers wore a dress shirt, tie and a “motoring cap”.  The buses themselves were made by the White Motor Company around 1936 and then refurbished by Ford Motor company. Logos for both companies are on each vehicle.  Several different tours are available: some 3 to 4 hrs, others all day (8 hrs). If you are visiting Glacier I would highly recommend a Red Bus Tour and I stress the importance of a reservation.  It is a pretty popular activity in the Park and they get booked.  For more information, their website is: http://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/red-bus-tours 

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Lobby of Glacier Park Lodge

Another historic and stunning feature of Glacier, are the historic lodges of the Park.  When planning a stay near Glacier, there are an abundance of lodging opportunities available from bed & breakfasts, camp grounds and several hotel chains. Even if you choose to stay somewhere other than the classic Lodges you’ve just got to go see these beautiful iconic lodges. Go have a cup of coffee or lunch or just peruse the little gift shops. (I did alot of perusing, ask my husband…) There are four beautiful historic Lodges at the Park: Glacier Park Lodge (built 1913), Many Glacier Hotel (1914), Lake McDonald Lodge (1913) and St. Mary Lodge and Resort (built early 1930’s) All of the Lodges were built in the grand, old style of a mountain resort with huge pillars, taxidermy mounts and several windows  to take in the views of beautiful mountains and pristine lakes.

Originally named Glacier National Park, back in 1910 there were about 100 glaciers, sadly that number has diminished to 37.  It is a changing world we live in and Yes you can blame it on Global warming, partially. However, in the bigger picture the climatic changes we experience are also evolutionary changes on our fragile planet.  Whatever the case may be, I highly recommend going to Glacier National Park and soaking up all the beauty you can experience there…get there before they all melt. It may be sooner than we realize.  Put your traveling shoes on. JES

#GlacierNationalPark,#RedBusTours, #LodgesatGlacier,#GoingtotheSunRoad

Happy Birthday National Park Service!

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Yellowstone National Park–Wyoming/The very first National Park

Today is the day! It is the centennial of the founding of the National Park Service! As an American citizen, you own the Parks and we all have great reason to celebrate.   There is so much diversity, beauty and breathtaking landscapes to explore and as cliche as is sounds: there truly is something for everyone.

So on this day August 25, 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau created to manage and protect the national parks and monuments in our country.  At that time, there were only 35 parks and monuments that held the status as National park or monument. In the 100 years since the establishment of the National Park Service, that number has grown to encompass more than 400 sites, 411 to be exact.  As of this writing, President Obama recently added the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine to be #411 on that list.  A list that encompasses not only unique and awe inspiring lands, but also includes hundreds of places across this country that tell the stories of those that came before us. There is both natural history and beauty and the also histories of man in the many monuments found within the National Park Service.  The more than 20,000 National Park Service employees help to care for and preserve the local histories of each site. Visitors to a National Park or Monument know they can come away from their experience refreshed from the recreational opportunities available, but also knowing a little more about the unique history of the area and the lay of the land.

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Horseshoe Lake-Denali N.P. Alaska

So many people talk about experiences they are determined to achieve and say, “It’s on my bucket list”.  So many times those bucket lists include one of our many beautiful National Parks.  I myself have been to so many, and look forward to many more. You hear of folks that have traveled to ALL the parks; now that would be quite an adventure.  If you are counting just National Parks (and not monuments) there are currently 58 National Parks.  I honestly don’t think I will live long enough to visit them all, but it sure is fun to try.  All those stamps in my National Parks “passport” are fun to collect! See my blog explaining the passport program: https://travelingamericablog.wordpress.com/seek-out-your-passport/

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Brandywine Falls-Cuyahoga Valley N.P.

Sometimes people get caught up in just the most well-known parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but it is amazing what you can find in the “unexpected places”.  I live in the Midwest and found it very interesting that a beautiful park exists within a days drive of our home: Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland, Ohio.  We visited the park in June and were amazed at the scenic trails and several cascading waterfalls within the park. Here is a view of the Brandywine Falls.  The Cuyahoga River runs thru the park and provides the back drop for many interesting tales of the history of the canal system.  What a neat place to visit, it wasn’t on my “bucket list”, but so glad I went!

The establishment of  the National Park Service, was not all wine and roses and was not without huge hurdles, both political and economical.  Yet, we have many to thank for their perseverance for making it all happen.  The National Park Service will continue to have issues as it continues into it’s second century, but one would hope that it’s purpose would help to preserve it’s goals, and to preserve our lands.  From the words of the original act signed into law in 1916, we remember why the National Park Service was established in the first place: “…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” 

So say Happy Birthday to the National Park Service for 100 years of commitment to our lands and resources and continued success moving forward.  To find a Park that you would like to visit, check out: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm

Put your traveling shoes on. JES

Truly Great…The Great Lakes

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Map image: Wikipedia

Every young geography student in America probably was taught the acronym HOMES to remember all five names of the Great Lakes.  Even as adults, we use it as a handy little reference: Huron, Ontario,  Michigan,  Erie and Superior. Five truly Great Lakes in the heart of our country.  So what are some of the features that make them so “great”?

I recently saw a fascinating, but scary, documentary about the on-going story of the west’s water crisis: “Killing the Colorado” (River), which makes me realize that frequently Midwesterners take for granted the abundance of water right here. So one of the most important features to remember is that the Great Lakes system is the largest source of fresh drinking water in the world.  About 97% of the world’s water supply is salt water in oceans and seas; water that provides recreation and abundance of food, but not drinkable. So protecting and caring for the life source of water found in the Great Lakes has become of utmost importance for the preservation of their beauty and a resource to us.  Mistakes we have made in the past with pollution, over-fishing and neglect have (hopefully) taught us the extreme importance of the preservation of our Great Lakes.  A wonderful organization: the Alliance for the Great Lakes, established in 1970, helps to “protect and restore the world’s largest surface freshwater resource.”  They help to educate the public on matters of preservation, help to organize beach and coastline clean-ups and assist with the implementation of the control of invasive species.  In recent years the concern of the invasion of the Asian Carp into the Great Lakes has created the need for several programs to stop the destructive elements of these very invasive fish. You can read more about this organization and their work with the Great Lakes at: http://www.greatlakes.org

In addition to preservation of the quality of the water for drinking, the Great Lakes of course provide an abundance of recreational opportunities. The five Great Lakes span 10,000 miles of shoreline making it longer than the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the United States.  Nifty huh!? Sometimes California thinks they have the monopoly on abundant, beautiful shorelines.  Take a spin around the Great Lakes and see the beauty that is here in the middle of the country.

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Port Washington Lighthouse, Lake Michigan

Another superlative that I think is pretty cool is the fact that with all those miles and miles of shoreline, the Great Lakes has the largest concentration of lighthouses in the world. Not just the country, the world.  I think that is pretty cool, something that makes the Midwest stand out shall we say. Plus, I am a lover of  lighthouses to the extent that I consider myself an aficionado. Living in the Midwest, in the heart of all these lighthouses, makes it easy to be interested in them and their histories. So in the Great Lakes region, there are over 200 lighthouses dotting all that abundant coastline.   However, with modern navigation systems, most of the lighthouses are more of architectural and historical significance, and are not actively in use as guidance. So there’s a recreational pursuit for you: go Lighthouse touring. Fishing, boating, beachcombing are all great recreational pastimes in the Great Lakes, so add seeking Lighthouses to the list.

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Lake Huron shipwreck~Ontario

Even with all the lighthouses to guide those ships in the past, tragically however the amount of ship wrecks in the Great Lakes is staggering.  It is amazing that since the 1600’s, that the remains of over 6,000 shipwrecks are in the waters of all the Great Lakes. Looking at pictures of ship wrecks one can just imagine the devastation to crew and product. When ships go down, there was not always loss of life, but nevertheless seeing a ship in its watery grave never fails to bring a shudder and a feeling of sadness. Apparently there is also a certain intrigue and mystery about shipwrecks; there is an abundance of literature and groups of people interested in the topic.  One ship in particular that is very easy to view, even from the shoreline is called “Sweepstakes”.  Pictured here, it was built in 1867 and was used predominately to transport coal. It is one of the most easily viewed ship wrecks today as it lies in only about 20 feet of water in Lake Huron.  Out of all the photographs of shipwrecks that I have seen, this one in particular really gives me goosebumps.  Perhaps it is because it is so clear and it feels as if any minute a corpse could float to the surface.  (Like I said…..Goosebumps)

The beauty, history and  importance of the Great Lakes in our lives continues to be relevant.  Having an appreciation for them encourages our preservation and proper use of them to guarantee a continued legacy for generations to come.

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Lake Erie~near Sandusky, Ohio

Put your traveling shoes on.  JES

 

Sources:

  • The Great Lakes, Patricia K. Kummer , 2009
  • Great Lakes Lighthouses, John Penrod

 

Inspiration found: Chicago Botanic Garden

Chgo Botanic garden logoSometimes as a gardener,  or even as simply a lover of flowers and plants, one can find oneself “stuck in a rut” with the same old plants year after year and perhaps an unwillingness or trepidation about “thinking outside the box.”  A visit to Chicago Botanic Garden helps to inspire and also to rejuvenate an interest in the wonderful beauty that is found right in one’s neighborhood and very back yard.  The Chicago Botanic Center is located in Glencoe, Illinois and includes 385 acres of land dedicated to showcasing some beautiful plants and innovative landscaping. The garden was opened in 1972 and with over 50,000 members, it currently has the largest membership of any U.S. public garden.DSCN1650

Yes, many of the traditional plants and flowers are there, along with some exotics not found in the Midwest. However, the presentation of them is everything, a wonderful variety of flowers clustered with a multitude of leafy green plants. A Marigold does not just look like another simple Marigold when portrayed in this beautiful landscape. Many of the plants are commonly found in local yards, but when they are paired with other plantings, it gives new insights as to what works well together.  Of course light conditions, soil conditions and moisture needs must all be taken into account and it is great to get recommendations from the expert gardeners there.

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In addition to the botanic showroom, Chicago Botanic Garden has numerous statues and garden artwork throughout the garden enhancing the beauty of the flowers and water features.  The inspiration portrayed by the sculptors is enhanced by the backdrop of lush trees, flowers and several small lakes within the garden.  One sculpture in particular pays homage to the man who is considered the Father of Taxonomic Botany: Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) He created a system for plant classification using both the “genus” and “species.”

Initial impressions of Chicago Botanic Garden lead one to believe that it is just another lovely park with plants, fountains and art work. Yet, this place is also a research and development facility for seed propagation and developing hardy plants for this area of the country.  Several green houses on the premises work year round on botanical production. In terms of educational enrichment, certificate programs offered at the School of the Chicago Botanic Garden include: photography, horticultural therapy, Midwest gardening, professional gardener, garden design and botanical arts.DSCN1673

A  busy day touring the garden can make one hungry and thirsty. Two cafes are available: the Garden View Cafe and the Garden Grille. The Garden View Cafe offers fresh, locally produced ingredients to serve up fresh salads, soups and sandwiches.  The Garden grille offers hamburgers and chicken sandwiches and daily specials. There is enough variety there to please almost any palette.  After renewing your energy at the cafe, don’t forget a stop in the gift shop: “The Garden Shop”.  A wonderful array of all types of “goodies” to choose from including clothing, specialty books, stationary and also children’s items to inspire young gardeners.

Admission into the garden is free, but there is a parking fee.  Membership includes free parking daily and you can visit as many times as you want.  A membership also includes discounts at both of the cafes, the Garden Shop and discounts on programs as well. For more information you can call : (847) 835-5440 or click here to link to their website: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/

DSCN1652It’s such a wonderful garden to visit…and hard to see it all  in just one trip.  My friend and I will be going again soon! Put your traveling shoes on. JES

A Midwestern “Gem” of National Parks

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Brandywine Falls~ Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Many people don’t realize it, but there is a beautiful “gem” of a National Park in the heart of the Midwest, just south of Cleveland Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  From the Native Americans word for “crooked river”, it is pronounced “Ka-uh-ogh-ha”. It is a beautiful park with waterfalls, cliffs and valleys, and a rich history about life in the mid-western states. When people think of National Parks, they frequently think of the “classics”: Yellowstone, Acadia, the Grand Canyon. Yet this park in Ohio is a beautiful representation of our National Parks system: preservation of natural beauty and also a link to the past. Looking at timelines, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is very young as a member of the National Park service. It was established as a National Recreation Area in 1974, then became a National Park in 2000. The fact that it is a relatively young National Park is very evident as one drives through the park and sees many residential areas throughout the park that were “grandfathered” in and allowed to remain within the park boundaries. These private residences do not distract from the beauty of the park, however sometimes seem odd from what people consider a “National Park” should be like. There are so many roads that go in and out of the park, and of course the residents that live there have easy access in and out.  It sometimes blurs the definition of the park boundaries.

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Bridal Veil Falls

The park itself preserves 33,000 acres along the Cuyahoga river valley between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. The natural beauty of the park includes deep gorges, waterfalls, cliffs and century old majestic trees that rise high in the skyline. Most of the trees are typical of the Midwest and the deciduous seem to outnumber the pines.  With the abundance of Maples, I would imagine this would be a wonderful place to visit in the Fall to see all the changing colors. A diversity of beautiful wildflowers can be found throughout the park and more than 100 bird species nest in the valley. The many trails within the park are perfect for both hiking and biking. Many cyclists make use of the fantastic “towpath trails” that follow the canal paths throughout the park. Some of the canals have all but disappeared except for a low trench, but others still have water in them and still seem “usable”.  The towpaths where the mules were used to tow boats along the canal, have all been resurfaced and make fantastic bike paths.

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Canal boats pulled by Mules

In additional to the natural features, the park has a fascinating history about the use of the canals. The “canal era” from roughly 1825 to 1913, was a period of time that Americans relied heavily on the use of the canal system for economical transportation of both products and passengers. The Ohio-Erie Canal was built in 1825 and served to connect Lake Erie all the way south to the Ohio River. It helped to provide transportation and increase commerce from 1827 to 1913.  In 1913, a devastating flood occurred that  did extensive damage to the canals. At this time the railroads were also expanding into a major form of transportation and beginning to replace the widespread use of canals. The railroads soon became the primary source of transportation and life on the canal boats became a distant memory. When visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park, be sure to visit the Canal Visitor Center, in the northern part of the park with some fascinating displays and some really interesting historical information about river commerce and lifestyles of the hardworking people who depended on the canals.

Another aspect of the park rich in history, but also providing an adventurous way to get back and forth throughout the park is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The train ticket gives you an all day pass and you can get off at any stop and get back on to explore several areas within the park.  The train also offers meals onboard and “tastings” of beer or wine.  With your tasting, you receive a CVSR commemorative tasting glass! Cyclists can also board the train, with their bikes.  They have the option to bike the towpath trail one direction then take the train the other.  Considering how many lengthy trails there are in the park, this is a terrific option for cyclists if you just run out of steam. Bear in mind that the train does not run 7 days a week.  Unfortunately when I was there it was not running. Generally they run Wednesday through Sunday, but be sure to check their web-site for more detailed information and ticket prices: http://www.cvsr.com

Like many National Parks, the park rangers are so interesting to talk with and have a wealth of information about the attributes of their park and also the area of the country they live in.  I would like to give a “shout out” to Ranger Jan at Cuyahoga Valley National Park~ she was a delight to talk with and shared so much information and history with us.  We ran into her at two different Visitors Centers; so much fun chatting with her! So Hi Jan! We will have to go back again one day, and maybe that time we can catch the train! Put your traveling shoes on. JES