Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.
The Channel Islands
Image description: One of the many coves on the Channel Islands. Photo from the National Park Service.
The Channel Islands sometimes referred to, as the “North American Galapagos” is an incredible national park off the coast of southern California. Comprised of five distinct islands, this park offers a one-of-a-kind experience because of wildlife not found anywhere else in the world.
Each island in the park offers something unique that you can discover:
Anacapa Island: A great place to view the Winfield Scott shipwreck from land, also one of the best islands to snorkel through the beautiful kelp forests.
Santa Cruz Island: A fantastic place to visit if you like to swim, kayak or dive. Lucky bird watchers may be able to spot the scrub jay, only found on Santa Cruz Island!
Santa Rosa Island: Whether you decide to hike through Black Mountain or stay along Water Canyon Beach, Santa Rosa provides breathtaking views no matter where you decide to go.
San Miguel Island: This island contains an abundance of wildlife. Harbors are bountiful with gulls, pelicans and auklets. You can also watch the western meadowlark, rock wren and sound sparrow in their natural habitat.
Santa Barbara Island: An island in recovery, Santa Barbara is home to a number of different rare plant and animal life. If you dive off the coast of this island you may just find sea stars, sea urchins and gorgeous Garibaldi fish.
The Channel Islands are a great place to visit during the summer because of the many whale watching opportunities. Throughout the summer you can view the largest animal in the world, the endangered blue whale, off the coast of the islands! Other whales, such as the humpback and the orca, can also be seen in the summer months.
You can see the marine animals from on high points throughout the islands as well as through telescopes located outside the visitor’s centers.
Whale watching boating trips are also available if you want a close-up view. For more information, please check out island transportation. You can find a full list of guided tours on the schedule of events.
Whether you are visiting the islands for the wildlife or for the number of outdoor activities, the Channel Islands provide a rare insight into the southern California landscape.
From the U.S. Department of Interior:
Not all of our public lands are far from urban areas. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area chronicles two hundred years of history, from Native American culture, the Spanish Empire frontier and the Mexican Republic, to maritime history, and the California Gold Rush. It also provides some pretty killer views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.
Photo: Justin Kern
Image description: Top photo: the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.
Bottom photo: San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington
On Monday, President Obama established five new national monuments across the country. The monuments protect natural resources and preserve rich history and lush landscapes in five different states: Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington.
From the White House:
The monuments are:
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio: The monument will preserve the home of Col. Charles Young (1864–1922), a distinguished officer in the United States Army who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of Colonel.
First State National Monument in Delaware: The monument will tell the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the colony of Delaware, as well as Delaware’s role as the first state to ratify the Constitution. The park is comprised of three historic areas related to Delaware’s rich history: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the courthouse, Green and Sheriff’s House), and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland: The monument commemorates the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad who was responsible for helping enslaved people escape from bondage to freedom. The new national park, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as a slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad.
Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico: Located northwest of Taos, the Río Grande del Norte contains stretches of the Río Grande Gorge and extinct volcanoes that rise from the Taos Plateau. The area is known for its spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities – like rafting, fishing and hiking – and serves as important habitat for many birds and wildlife.
San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington: Home to bald eagles, orca whales, harbor seals and other rare species, the San Juan Islands is a chain of 450 islands, rocks and pinnacles. Located in Washington State’s Puget Sound, the archipelago provides an opportunity for visitors, campers, kayakers and birdwatchers to experience the natural beauty of the undeveloped, rugged landscape.
Learn more about the five new national monuments.
View more pictures of Rio Grande del Norte and San Juan Islands national monuments.
Photos from the Bureau of Land Management.
Visit Recreation.gov to plan your outdoor activities at federal lands across the United States.
You can search for locations that offer the activities you enjoy—including hiking, biking, boating, horseback riding, and climbing—and make reservations for camping, lodging, picnic areas, permits, and tours.
Enjoy America’s great outdoors this summer!
If you enjoy visiting America’s beautiful national parks and recreation areas, consider buying an annual pass.
The $80 pass lets the you and your accompanying passengers (or up to four adults at sites where per-person fees are charged) enter more than 2,000 federal recreation areas.
The National Park Service offers other kinds of passes such as:
- Senior Pass — $10 lifetime pass for U.S. citizens who are 62 years and older
- Access Pass — Free lifetime pass for permanently disabled U.S. citizens
- Volunteer Pass — Annual Pass awarded to volunteers who contribute 500 or more hours
Learn more about the annual pass and what it covers.