Tag Archives: National Parks Service

Bless the National Parks System


This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, S.D. — Many of us gripe about some aspect — or perhaps all aspects — of the federal government.

I intend here to sing the praises of the National Parks System.

We arrived at Badlands National Park packing what’s called a “Senior Pass.” What does it do? It gets us into any federal park site for free. We’ve had these passes for some time now, but it’s a serious blast being able to wave one of them at a park ranger, enabling us to enter one of these parks without paying a fee.

We came to Badlands to see a site we’d seen more than 40 years earlier. We blasted through the region in the summer of 1973 with my wife’s mother and stepfather, and our then six-month-old son.

It was hotter ‘n hell the day we came here then. It was in mid-July, after all.

We walked into the visitors center at the eastern end of the park. I told the ranger behind the counter that the park was “more beautiful than I remembered. That was more than 40 years ago.”

“Well, the park has eroded one inch per year since your last visit,” he said. I did the math quickly in my head and responded, “So, we saw 43 inches less of it today than we did back then. Is that about right?”

Yep, he said. “How long will it be before the park disappears?” I asked. He answered, “It will take about 50 million years for that to happen,” he said. “Fine, then I’ll see you on the other side when that happens and we’ll talk about how beautiful the Badlands used to look,” I said.

Full-time retirement’s arrival will allow us to partake even more of these sights on our journey through North America. If only the Canadians would allow us into their national parks for free.

Palo Duro Canyon ‘National Park’? Who knew?


You learn the most amazing things just picking up magazines and browsing through their pages.

Take what I found out today when I opened a copy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

It was that in the 1930s, Palo Duro Canyon came within a whisker of being designated a national park. Is it possible that the jewel of the Texas Panhandle could have joined Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains national parks?

The magazine noted that the canyon was “considered a prime candidate for one of the nation’s first ecosystem parks, a National Park of the Plains.”

Big Bend became a national park in 1944; Guadalupe Mountains earned the designation in 1972.

I know we have a couple of federal parks in the Panhandle: Lake Meredith National Recreation Area and Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument; both were created in 1965. They’re fine attractions and provide a great escape for those seeking to enjoy the splendor of this part of the world.

Palo Duro Canyon was considered, though, to be “too similar” to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. But as the magazine noted, when did “being too similar to the Grand Canyon become a problem?”

The magazine article prompts me to ask: Is it too late for the federal government to make such a designation?

Much of the canyon now is part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. It is a state park and is considered to be one of the premier parks within the state’s enormous park system.

It’s expensive, of course, for the federal government to set up these national parks. But think of this: A huge chunk of Palo Duro Canyon already is in public hands. Couldn’t the state deed this spectacular piece of property to the federal government, which then could designate the canyon as a national park?

It’s not as if the National Park System has stopped creating these parks. The most recent was created in 2003, when Congaree National Park was set aside in South Carolina.

Every visitor we’ve taken to Palo Duro Canyon has been aghast at its scenic splendor when we arrive there. It opens wide along the vast prairie and it sneaks up you when you approach it.

Is it reasonable to ask: Is it too late to reconsider Palo Duro Canyon for a national park designation?

I won’t hold my breath. Still, I am posing the question out loud.