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National Park Quiz 48: Mysteries

This man died under mysterious circumstances while overnighting on the Natchez Trace in 1809, about two years after this portrait was painted. Do you know who he was? Portrait painted by artist Charles Wilson Peale, photo by Left Hook via Wikipedia.

1. In 1809, the famous man shown in the portrait at the left died under very mysterious circumstances at a site now preserved as part of Natchez Trace National Parkway. Can you name him?

2. The whereabouts of missing ranger Randy Morgenson remained a mystery for five years before his remains were finally discovered in 2001 in which national park?

3. With which National Park System unit is the mysterious word “CROATOAN” most closely associated?

4. Archeologists have not yet unraveled the mystery of who created the ancient rock art at hundreds of sites in ______, but you can inspect many of them from your own boat or by taking a guided walking tour offered at Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site.
a. El Morro National Monument
b. Petroglyph National Monument
c. Amistad National Recreation Area
d. Chattahoochee National Recreation Area

5. The mystery of the grassy balds in ______ has puzzled scientists for many decades.
a. Acadia National Park
b. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
c. Everglades National Park
d. Cape Cod National Seashore

6. For more than a century, boaters on several lakes in ______ have occasionally reported hearing mysterious “water music” that is reminiscent of sounds made by a pipe organ or lightly touched harp.
a. Katmai National Park and Preserve
b. Yellowstone National Park
c. Glacier National Park
d. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

7. The precise meaning or function of the inuksuit found at Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve remains somewhat of a mystery, but it’s very likely that some were used as
a. storm shelters
b. fish traps
c. projectile points or knives
d. navigation aids or reference points

8. Exactly why the Ancestral Puebloans (or Anasazi) abandoned their settlements on the Colorado Plateau and moved south remains a mystery to this day, but evidence uncovered at Mesa Verde National Park clearly shows that they left Mesa Verde around
a. 250 B.C.
b. 850 A.D.
c. 1060 A.D.
d. 1300 A.D.

9. In 2008, a great mystery was solved when the remains of missing tycoon/adventurer Steve Fosset were found at a plane crash site in the High Sierras. In the early stage of the recovery operation and investigation, authorities temporarily closed a trail that led from ______ to the plane crash vicinity.
a. Sequoia National Park
b. Death Valley National Park
c. Devils Postpile National Monument
d. Pinnacles National Monument

10. True or false? Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, the place where heavy rocks mysteriously move across an old lake bed, is almost perfectly flat.

Extra Credit Question:

11. Which national park provided the setting for Nevada Barr’s mystery novel Winter Study?

Super Bonus Question:

12. Recently, researchers who conducted a very comprehensive genealogical analysis of wolves in Yellowstone National Park solved the mystery of why a high percentage of America’s gray wolf population consists of black colored individuals. Can you explain why black is a common color for wolves in America?


(1) Meriwether Lewis, one of the two primaries of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, died of multiple gunshot wounds on November 11, 1809, at Grinder’s Stand (inn) on the Natchez Trace. While his death was ruled a suicide, many believe that Lewis may have been murdered.

(2) Randy Morgenson was a seasonal backcountry ranger in Kings Canyon National Park. His remains were found near a stream in a remote area of the park.

(3) Fort Raleigh National Historic Site preserves remains of a failed English attempt in the late 1500s to establish a permanent settlement on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. For reasons not yet clearly established, the colony disappeared. Searchers found “CROATOAN” and “CRO” carved into wood at the site, and no one knows for sure what these messages/symbols mean.

(4) c – Amistad National Recreation Area has more than 325 pictograph sites.

(5) b -- In the Smokies, “grassy bald” is a term that denotes a highland meadow or unforested clearing. Whether these treeless areas may have resulted from periodic fires (dating to Indian times), grazing, or other factors remains to be convincingly determined. More importantly, and also for reasons unknown, the balds are diminishing in number, quality, and size, and may soon disappear altogether.

(6) b -– “Water music” has been reported by boaters on Yellowstone Lake and Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. A ranger who heard the strange sounds in the late 1930s speculated that they might be produced by nothing more mysterious than wind moving over the water.

(7) d –- An inuksut (plural inuksuit) is a stone landmark or cairn constructed by aboriginal people of the Arctic region.

(8) d -– The Anasazi Collapse (Mesa Verde abandonment) occurred at roughly the end of the 13th century.

(9) c – Authorities who temporarily closed the trail leading from Devils Postpile National Monument to the crash site were concerned that curiosity seekers or others might hike to the crash site and interfere with the ongoing investigation. It would have been a very long hike, indeed.

(10) True. The north and south ends of the elongated Racetrack Playa are nearly three miles apart, but the difference in elevation over that distance is just two inches (the north end being slightly higher.

(11) Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park provided the setting for Nvada Barr's Winter Study. This novel has fictional ranger Anna Pigeon up to her ears in various sorts of trouble while helping scientists study Isle Royale’s wolf population.

(12) Gray wolves can be gray, black, or white. The Yellowstone researchers confirmed that interbreeding with dogs many generations ago introduced the genetic material responsible for the black variant so common in North America.

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.


Very informative and educational. Motivated me to get my NTP atlas and find the places I didn't know. Thanks

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