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National Park Quiz 24: Old, Older, Oldest

Grand Canyon rock strata are displayed in this interesting exhibit at Heritage Square in Flagstaff, Arizona. Can you name the oldest rock layer exposed by erosion? Photo by Americasroof via Wikipedia.

1. The photo accompanying this quiz shows the rock strata of the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park. The lowermost (“basement”) rock is the oldest. Downcutting by the Colorado River in the canyon’s Inner Gorge has exposed the ______, which was long thought to be the oldest rock visible anywhere on the surface of this planet.
a. Bright Angel shale
b. Hermit shale
c. Vishnu schist
d. Kaibab limestone

2. Which of the following national park hotels is older than all of the rest?
a. El Tovar Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park
b. LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
c. Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park
d. Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park

3. All of the following National Historic Sites have military forts or fort ruins on their premises, but ______ has the oldest.
a. Fort Bowie National Historic Site
b. Fort Davis National Historic Site
c. Fort Laramie National Historic Site
d. Fort Smith National Historic Site

4. Evidence of aboriginal use has been found in all of the following parks, but the oldest artifacts have been found at
a. Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona
b. Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia
c. Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa
d. Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

5. Which of the following structures is oldest?
a. the Gateway Arch at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
b. Buckstaff Baths in Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs National Park
c. the Wawona Tunnel in Yosemite National Park
d. the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park

6. The oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy is berthed in
a. Boston National Historical Park
b. Colonial National Historical Park
c. War in the Pacific National Historical Park
d. San Francisco Maritime national Historical Park

7. Which of the following national parks preserves the oldest lighthouse?
a. Acadia National Park
b. Point Reyes National Seashore
c. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
d. Gateway National Recreation Area

8. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site commemorates a fort that was
a. constructed in the late 1850s and destroyed in 1864
b. situated along the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and Mexican settlements
c. built of upright sycamore logs laced together with wire cable
d. constructed by the U.S. Army to intimidate the southern Plains Indians

9. The oldest restored tallgrass prairie in the National Park System is at
a. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas
b. Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota
c. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Montana
d. Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska

10. Which of the following lists national parks in the order of their establishment, from oldest to youngest?
a. Yosemite National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Glacier National Park
b. Isle Royale National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park
c. Mammoth Cave National Park, Acadia National Park, Redwood National Park
d. Hot Springs National Park, Big Bend National Park, Sequoia National Park

Extra Credit Question:

11. Each of the following is a National Park that was initially a National Monument. The oldest National Park System unit of the bunch is ______ because it was established as a National Monument before any of the others.
a. Grand Canyon National Park
b. Capitol Reef National Park
c. Joshua Tree National Park
d. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Super Bonus Question:

12. Suppose that you were to visit each of the national parks listed below. In which would you be able to view the oldest tree – that is, a tree older than any tree you could find in the other parks?
a. Sequoia National Park
b. Grand Canyon National Park
c. Yosemite National Park
d. Great Basin National Park


(1) c – The oldest exposed rock layer in the Grand Canyon's inner gorge is the Vishnu schist, a mica-rich metamorphic rock at least 1.2 billion years old. Rocks over 4 billion years old have been found in Australia and Canada. Geologists believe that the earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

(2) c – Old Faithful Inn was constructed under extremely difficult conditions during the cold and snowy winter of 1903-1904. The other structures were completed in 1905 (El Tovar Lodge), 1926 (LeConte Lodge), and 1927 (Ahwahnee Hotel).

(3) d - Fort Smith was the site of one of the first forts to be built on the western frontier after the Louisiana Purchase. This installation served as a base of operations for enforcing federal Indian policy from 1817 to 1896.

(4) b - Ocmulgee National Monument in central Georgia preserves archeological and historical resources tracing around 12,000 years of occupancy from Ice Age Indians to the historic Creek Confederacy.

(5) b - Buckstaff Baths, the only remaining bathhouse in Bathhouse Rouse that is still used as a bathhouse, was completed in 1912. The other structures were completed in 1926 (Generals Highway), 1933 (Wawona Tunnel), and 1965 (Gateway Arch).

(6) a – Now the world’s oldest commissioned warship, the U.S.S. Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) is berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston National Historical Park.

(7) d – The Sandy Hook Lighthouse in Gateway National Recreation Area is America’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse. It was put into service in 1764 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

(8) b – Constructed (of adobe) in 1833 by the Bent brothers and their partner Ceran St. Verain, Bent’s Old Fort in southeastern Colorado was at that time the only permanent white settlement of significant size along the entire Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements of the Middle Rio Grande River Valley.

(9) d - Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska initiated its tallgrass prairie restoration project (currently about 100 acres in extent) over 60 years ago. This is the oldest tallgrass prairie restoration project in the National Park System and the second-oldest in the United States.

(10) a - Yosemite National Park (1890), Mesa Verde National Park (1906), Glacier National Park (1910)

(11) a – Grand Canyon National Monument was proclaimed January 11, 1908. The others were created in 1933 (Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument), 1936 (Joshua Tree National Monument), and 1937 (Capitol Reef National Monument).

(12) d - Earth’s longest-living trees are bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva). In Great Basin National Park, there are some isolated groves of bristlecones growing at high elevations just below the treeline. One bristlecone growing just below Wheeler Peak was cut down in 1964 and found to be more than 4,900 years old. (This was done with Forest Service permission before the park was established.)

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.

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