National Parks and Lake Superior
GOING NATURE’S WAY
By Kate Crowley
We have spent much of the summer leading groups of people from all over the country on tours of the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan shores of Lake Superior. These trips have been a combination of hiking trails and going out on boats, while having the comfort of a hotel for the night. We are happy to be able to share this Great Lake with others who are less familiar with it. It has already been six years since Mike and I walked all the way around this vast body of water, but we never grow tired of its beauty and changing nature. People from as far away as Texas, California and Florida have joined us for these trips and without exception they find themselves in awe of the size of the Lake, as well as its clarity.
Besides showing these folks this marvelous natural resource we have introduced them to both the State Parks of these three states and the National Park of Isle Royale. I would imagine most Minnesotan’s can say they have visited Gooseberry State Park, since it is the Most Visited State Park in the state. However, I would wager that very few people from the three states can say they have visited Isle Royale National Park. It is the least visited of all the National Parks in the system.
On this date (August 25) in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau responsible for protecting the then existing 35 national parks and monuments and for those yet to be established. For the past eight months, we as a country have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of our great National Parks. As Americans we are incredibly lucky to have such a system, unparalleled by any other country in the world. Europeans especially come here with a desire to see the lands we have set aside just for the pleasure and education of its citizens.
Our presidents who had the foresight to create these parks deserve praise. President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law on March 1, 1872. This was the world’s first national park. Two American Presidents deserve the greatest honors when it comes to this incredible legacy we enjoy. They are Theodore Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I knew how important the first Roosevelt was in terms of our National Park system, having established five, including Yosemite. In fact, during his time in office he managed to protect 234 million acres of wild land.
Two decades later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt set about expanding the legacy started by Teddy, by protecting the Everglades, Joshua Tree, the Olympics, Big Bend, Mammoth Cave and the Channel Islands, as well as the slickrock wilderness found in Utah. On top of that he created the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, which not only put young, unemployed men to work, but gave our country some of its most enduring infrastructure in the Parks and Parkways. Looking at some of the stone structures, walls and bridges built by these young men should serve to remind us of just what Americans can achieve when working towards a common goal.
Our 405 National Parks this year were visited by a record-breaking 292 million people, the most since 1999. Some of that was due to special free entry days during this year of celebration. Even when you do pay a fee it is minimal considering the opportunities available to you once in the Park. The maximum is $30 per vehicle full of people in some of the biggest parks, and it goes down from there. Our own Voyageurs National Park is free to all visitors.
As taxpayers, we all support the Parks and we must be sure that our elected officials know our concerns about their future existence. Preserving these irreplaceable landscapes on our is the best legacy we can leave to our descendants; a legacy that we appreciate today and one they will appreciate even more in the future, as the world population continues to expand.
We will soon return to Isle Royale National Park, whose remoteness makes it difficult to reach, but it is out there waiting for you and any other adventurous Americans who want to see first-hand the beauty and wildness of the public lands they own. Set a goal to visit at least one National Park per year and you will create memories to last a lifetime - there are five US National Parks and one Canadian on Lake Superior.