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National Park Quiz 33: Colors

Geothermal features at Yellowstone National Park. The top photo, which depicts Mammoth Hot Springs, is by Mila Zinkova via Wikipedia. The bottom photo, which depicts Grand Prismatic Spring, is a National Park Service photo by Jim Peaco.

1. The first of the two photos accompanying this quiz shows Mammoth Hot Springs, one of the major tourist attractions of Yellowstone National Park. The basic mineral forming these colorful terraces is travertine that is deposited from mineral-laden ground water. Beautiful shades of orange, pink, yellow, green, and brown are imparted to the mineral deposits by ______ in the water.
a. microorganisms and bacteria
b. vermiculite and kyanite
c. sulfur and copper
d. hematite and magnetite

2. What feature of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is sometimes referred to as “black tears”?

3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park protects a 12-mile section of the Gunnison River in Colorado. Why is this section of the Gunnison River corridor called Black Canyon?

4. The Blue Ridge Parkway takes its name from the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are named for their misty bluish color when seen from a distance. What accounts for this bluish color?

5. Visitors flock to Rocky Mountain National Park each autumn to enjoy the spectacular gold color of the aspens. Why do all of the trees in an aspen grove typically turn that bright gold color at the same time?

6. Which national park is located in West Orange, New Jersey?

7. True or False? The “last spike” used in the ceremony commemorated at the Golden Spike National Historic Site is a solid gold spike now on display in the park museum.

8. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is famous for its outstanding red rock landscape. The rocks are red due to the presence of
a. trace amounts of uranium
b. marsite and molybdenum
c. hematite
d. hemoglobin

9. Some people ride the tramway in Pipestem Resort Park on their way to visiting Bluestone National Scenic River, which protects a 10.5-mile long section of the Bluestone River in
a. southeastern West Virginia
b. northern Wisconsin
c. eastern Tennessee
d. southern Missouri

10. There’s probably at least one water body somewhere in the National Park System that’s called Green Spring, but there’s also a Green Spring unit of ______ whose feature attraction is the archeological and architectural remains of Green Spring Plantation.
a. Pea Ridge National Military Park
b. Colonial National Historical Park
c. Greenbelt Park
d. Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

Extra Credit Question:

11. The second (bottom) photo accompanying this quiz is an aerial view of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring. What accounts for the intense blue color of the water in the center of this hot spring?

Super Bonus Question:

12. Why is the rim of Grand Prismatic Spring pool multi-hued instead of deep blue like the middle?


(1) a – As mineral-laden ground water reaches the surface, carbon dioxide escapes from the solution and forces the deposition of travertine, a form of calcium carbonate. . If travertine were deposited in its pure form, it would be white. However, microorganisms and bacteria in the water impart various other colors to the travertine deposits.

(2) The USS Arizona had 1.4 million gallons of bunker oil aboard when it was sunk on December 7, 1941. Over 60 years later, this fuel continues to slowly leak to the surface at the rate of a little over two gallons a day. Some Pearl Harbor survivors and others refer to the oil droplets that bubble to the surface as "black tears" shed for the 1,177 lives lost when the ship blew up and sank.

(3) The Black Canyon is so named because the canyon walls are normally in deep shade and appear black. That’s because the canyon it is so deep and narrow (only 40 feet wide in one place) that direct sunlight rarely penetrates very far down the canyon.

4) A natural form of air pollution produces the visual effect. Trees (especially conifers) release hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, and theses substances interfere with incoming solar radiation to produce the characteristic blue or blue-green appearance of the mountains.

(5) All of the trees in an aspen grove share the same interlinked root system. This means that they are, at least technically speaking, a single organism.

(6) Edison National Historic Site is located in West Orange, New Jersey.

(7) False. The “last spike” used for the ceremony on May 10, 1869 is not solid (24 carat) gold and is not on the park premises. The ceremonial golden spike, which is engraved on all four sides and the top, is made of 17.6 carat gold and weighs 14 ounces. It's on display at the Stanford University art museum in Palo Alto, California.

(8) c – Hematite is the mineral form of iron oxide, formed when trace amounts of iron interact with oxygen in the atmosphere to cause what is essentially “rust” on sandstone, a common rock in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area landscape.

(9) a – West Virginia's Bluestone National Scenic River, which is administered by nearby New River Gorge National River, is essentially only accessible through the West Virginia state parks at either end -- Pipestem on the south and Bluestone on the north.

(10) b – Located about five miles west of Williamsburg, Green Spring Plantation was the 17th century plantation home of Sir William Berkeley, a two-term governor of Virginia in the Colonial era.

(11) The intense blue color of the water in the center of Grand Prismatic Spring can be attributed to the fact that sunlight penetrates deeply into the clear waters. The water readily absorbs the long-wavelength light (reds, oranges, and yellows), leaving shorter-wavelength visible radiation (blue and violet) to be reflected to our eyes. Blue dominates because the color rods in the human eye register blue much more readily than violet.

(12) Single-celled photosynthetic bacteria called cyanobacteria form dense bacterial mats on the edges of Grand Prismatic Spring where water temperatures are below 161°F (the upper limit for photosynthesis). The different colors of these mats results from variations in biological pigments. Some are chlorophylls that generate energy from sunlight, while others protect the cells from the sun’s high-energy ultraviolet radiation.

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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