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Traveler's Five Picks For New National Parks

Pretty enough to be within a national park. Green River Lakes, Wind River Range. Photo by G. Thomas via Wikipedia.

Creating national parks doesn't happen every day. Lately, it seems the quickest way to create one is to legislatively redesignate a national monument as a national park (See Pinnacles National Park). But it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

Here are five picks from the Traveler for new national parks. We offer up these nominees without consideration to fiscal impact because once you start to consider the costs -- mainly economic costs, but also political -- the possible can become impossible. With that understood, we view the following locations as truly spectacular places that should be preserved for future generations.

* Wind River Range, Wyoming

The Wind River Range in west-central Wyoming visibly defines spectacular. With 40 peaks that soar above 13,000 feet, including the state's highest point at 13,809 feet, glaciers, grizzlies, elk, bighorn sheep, lakes and trout streams, this craggy range runs roughly 100 miles north to south and 30 miles east to west.

Currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the range contains officially designated wilderness and is one of the country's premier hiking and backpacking areas. The range also harbors the headwaters of the Green River.

You can lose yourself in the Winds for days on end, spot North America's largest herd of bighorn sheep, find challenging climbing routes, or fancy yourself as a latter-day mountain man.

* Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

This 756,000-acre NRA long has been considered for inclusion in the National Park System. Indeed, back in 1911 a group of women in Idaho called for such a move, according to a history of the NRA's creation.

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Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth NRA. Photo by Fredlyfish4  via Wikipedia.

In 1960, then-U.S. Sen. Frank Church introduced legislation to have the area considered for park status, and six years later even introduced a bill calling for Sawtooth National Park, but local opposition derailed it.

This wide expanse of wild lures river runners, climbers, backcountry skiers, anglers, backpackers and more. Cyclists challenge themselves on attacking the highway over Galena Summit, while families carry on long traditions of camping at Redfish Lake.

* Maine North Woods, Maine

New England needs another national park, and the one proposed for the North Woods would not just be gorgeous, but would benefit wildlife species such as Canada lynx, Atlantic salmon and the eastern timber wolf threatened with extinction for lack of habitat and protect the "wild forests of New England."

The hardwood forests, lakes, and rivers would help build a strong recreation sector that would pump money into the surrounding towns. The streams and lakes here long have been plied by canoeists.

Talk of creating such a national park extends back over two decades. Proponents, along with pointing to the natural resources that could be protected, believe the cachet of a "Maine North Woods National Park" would bolster the region's economy through businesses that cater to park visitors.

* Ancient Forest National Park, California and Oregon

With climate change under way, protecting migrational routes, and providing migrational routes, for wildlife and even plants is vital to help ensure their survival.

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The boundaries of the proposed Ancient Forest National Park run from Oregon south into California.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis back in August of 2011 called for establishing "a national system of parks and protected sites (rivers, heritage areas, trails, and landmarks) that fully represents our natural resources and the nation's cultural experience." He also cited the need for creation of "continuous corridors" to support ecosystems.

The proposed 3.8-million-acre Ancient Forest National Park spanning parts of southern Oregon and northern California would meet those goals.

Within its proposed borders there already exist officially designated wilderness and roadless areas, places perfect for both recreation and wildlife.

The proposal is to set aside a solid block of land 3.8 million acres from the Rogue River in Oregon to the Eel River in California. It will forever allow the free migration of species from the coast and Redwood National Park to semi arid inland canyons. The park would include already established wilderness areas and already designated critical wildlife areas along with about 1 million acres of unprotected inventoried roadless areas.

* San Rafael Swell, Utah

Talk of turning the Swell into a national park has simmered for decades, going back to the 1930s when local officials proposed a "Wayne Wonderland National Monument." The proposal went nowhere, for the Swell, but is pointed to as an impetus for Capitol Reef National Park.

Nevertheless, the wondrous landscape of colorful reefs of rock, deep canyons, and sandstone walls bearing ancient pictographs remain. So, too, do the tales of outlaws such as Butch and Sundance losing possees by galloping into the maze of canyons. Within the Swell you can find ancient granaries, stone arches, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, feral horses and mules, homesteader cabins, and old mining operations. There are opportunities for canyoneering, river running, backpacking and day hiking and more.

Today there are fewer and fewer pristine and preserved areas left in the country, a fact that has the clock ticking on the few remaining places that deserve national park status. While much opposition no doubt exists to each of the above proposals, they could be crafted in such a way to mollify many of the critics.

By creating a "national park and preserve," the enacting legislation could be written in a way to allow some traditional ways of life, whether they involve grazing livestock, hunting, or logging in a sustainable fashion. Communities could remain in place, with the "park-and-preserve" boundaries excluding them. 

What other places do you think should be added to the park system?

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Mike,I guess what your saying then is to turn these lands into Natl Parks so that people don't use them. It appears that you have insider information that I don't understand and frankly don't want to understand.

That's another reason not to put them into the hands of the bureaucracy of the Natl Park Service so that they can say who uses them and who doen't.

Is that the reason that the big parks you mentioned are over used and in my opinion missmanaged.If 99% of the Natl Parks are not being used by the tax payers of this country that's a crime in itself.

You have just anwsered a question that I have thought for a long time as I have visited Natl Parks large and small as well as in Alaska that they are not their for our use but for a few rich people that can afford the peace and quiet and throw a bone to the rest of us.

As a visitor to Custer Park I enjoyed the fredom to move around,maybe tha't why it didn't give me that Natl Park feel.They are simply controlling how many bison are in the park.

The word Natl Park doesn't give me the warm and fuzzy feeling as they did when I first started going to them.I thank you for your honesty on why we should be careful not to rush naming more Natl Parks.

This land is our land

Lance Martin: I agree with you about the Oregon Cascade Range being of national park quality. I was very impressed by the Three Sisters and Mount Jefferson areas. Oregon now only has one national park.

Quiet Please: There are only 59 national parks, so your comment that "If 99% of the national parks aren't being used by the taxpayers..." is pretty silly. I have visited many national parks and found them to be quite easily accessible and well used. Even Channel Islands National Park is accessible by commercial boat service out of Ventura.

Michael Kellett, I see your idea of cared went farther than mine. I was speaking of the roads, Facilities, and campgrounds. As for park management, it would definately be different under NPS for wildlife management. And I agree with your assessment. But the lakes, landscape and history would be great as a national park and the wildlife management would be enhanced as you stated. My point was the State would probably never relinguish their park and it is why I would put it on my wish list.

Hikertom you didn't understand my point I was trying to make in reply to the first person that replyed to my post. That gentleman implyed that if the Natl Park system takes over these area's they would become more restricted to the public in many ways. Less roads and access to area's that we as taxpayer have a right to as long as we don't abuse these lands. Your point of well used is an understatment for the large popular parks. It sad how the Natl Parks system stuff us into small area's and say stay away from that wilderness we don't want you using that.

The Natl Park system was set up to preserve these lands from development and perserve them for our use and enjoyment. Do we need more Natl Parks for the sake of being called a Natl Park. Not if it simply means more rules, restrictions, and money in somebodys pocket. The Channel Islands are one of the less used parks and a joy to visit. If you live nearby you are blessed. Peace!

Quiet please, where exactly does the NPS tell visitors to stay away from?


re "stay away". Try when you have a dog. Love Yellowstone but this years Montana road trip with the wife and dogs will keep us away from Yellowstone. Similar restrictions repel bikers or RVers or boaters. Maybe in some cases those restrictions are warranted but you can't deny they exist.

EC, I'd disagree. National parks aren't like all other public lands...if they were, they wouldn't be the special places they are.

Can you imagine going to Yellowstone or Yosemite or Glacier or Shenandoah and having everyone's dogs running around? Or mountain bikers cruising all the hiking trails? Or boaters on all the lakes and streams? The "restrictions" as you call them, are only restrictions if you insist on bringing your favorite form of whatever into a park where it's not permitted.

Many churches don't allow dogs or bikes inside, yet they don't seem to be lacking for congregants.

Quiet Please: I hike and backpack in the wilderness areas of many of our national parks and national forests in California and Oregon and I have never heard anyone tell me: "...stay away from that wilderness we don't want you using that".

Who told you that and where did you hear it?

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