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  • Writer's pictureBryan Donoghue

National Park News: November 2021

Native American Heritage Month, Free Entrance on Veteran's Day, New Species Discovered, Doused Wildfires, and more!

a natural rock archway frames a sunset at Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Canyonlands National Park, UT - Photo Credit: Abby Voce


National Park News is a monthly series for the Pathloom blog. Check out last month's edition here. Sign up for Pathloom Beta Access to be added to a mailing list for the latest news, weekly blog updates, and exclusive sneak peeks to upcoming posts.


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a beam of sunlight shines down on a striated mesa in Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, SD - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

There has long been a connection between the Native peoples indiginous to this continent and the National Parks, Forests, Monuments, etc scattered throughout the country - after all, they were here first, and the 85 million acres that constitute designated Park land was taken from them at some point throughout the dark annals of US history. While arguments that stewardship of Park lands should be handed entirely over to indiginous peoples have gone largely unheard, over the past several years the National Park Service has at least been making a modicum of additional effort to recognize the significance that Natives have had on the history of these protected lands.

In honor of November’s dedication as “Native American Heritage Month,” the National Park Service as a whole and many individual National Parks will be hosting a series of events to celebrate the history and traditions of the indiginous people of this land. Check out this calendar to see which parks are hosting events, and to find out more information about the events themselves.


Stark brick walls of Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park off the coast of Florida

Fort Jefferson: Dry Tortugas National Park, FL - Photo Credit: Abby Voce

The final Free Entrance Day for all of America’s National Park Service sites will be this Thursday, November 11th, in celebration of Veteran’s Day. Entrance fees for Parks will be waived for all visitors - which means already crowded Parks will see some of their largest crowds of the year - so if you’re planning to take advantage make sure to arrive early! Many Parks allow for reservations to be made online in advance: consult the specific Park’s website on for more info. As always (well, as of Veteran’s Day 2020, anyway), all active duty military, veterans, and Gold Star Families are never required to pay a fee to access our country’s National Parks, click here for more info on that program.


A jagged cragged mesa in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, UT - Photo Credit: Abby Voce

Scientists recently unearthed what could be a previously undiscovered new species of ‘early reptile relative’ in Canyonlands National Park in Southern Utah. Retrieval of this fossil necessitated a 13 mile backcountry hike by the team of paleontologists, who had to act fast after initial discovery to ensure the specimen didn’t get washed away by flash flooding that frequently impacts the area. Though an exact determination has yet to be made, initial assessment of the fossil estimates it to be as much as 290 million years old!


Thick, voluminous white wildfire smoke looms over an otherwise lush green forest near Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

Wildfire Smoke over Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

After much devastation across the state, which began earlier in the year than most are accustomed to, many of the horrendous wildfires in Northern California are finally reaching safe containment levels - or outright extinguishment. This includes the Dixie Fire, second largest in California history, which ravaged much of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Some officials throughout the region are even declaring an end to Wildfire Season 2021. (Others aren’t so sure - moisture levels in the air and on the ground haven’t quite reached safe levels in many areas).

This comes in the wake of an ‘atmospheric river’ weather pattern that saw historic amounts of precipitation dumped on drought-stricken, tinderbox-flammable areas of the state that had been ravaged by fires for months on end. While most of the danger seems to be in the past for the Northern part of the state, the same cannot yet be said for points to the South - for example the KNP Complex Fire that threatens Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (home of the General Sherman, the largest tree in the world) is still only at 75% containment. But this is still promising news in the wake of a year that brought some of the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.


Subterranean glory in Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park, KY - Photo Credit: Abby Voce

Most visitors come to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky to experience the immense underground network of tunnels from whence the Park got its name. This new designation of the Park by the International Dark Sky Association showcases that Mammoth has plenty to offer up on the surface as well. The IDA certification indicates that the Park is officially one of the best places in the world for stargazing, and was obtained after a long process of retrofitting light fixtures throughout the surface level of the park to ensure minimal light pollution. There are ample ranger-led and self-guided opportunities to take in the bounty of the night sky, at Mammoth and at over 30 other Dark Sky Parks throughout the National Park system.


A brilliant sunset lights up the sky and clouds with orange, yellow, purple, pink, and several unnameable colors over Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - Photo Credit: Chris Blake

National Park Road Closures Beginning in November

Planning a trip to a National Park this winter? Make sure you check their website first! (Honestly, not a bad idea prior to a visit regardless of the time of year). Many Parks shut down roads for the season for general maintenance, snow preparation, or because they become downright impassible once inclement weather hits. In some cases, such as at Rocky Mountain National Park, Lassen Volcanic, or Yellowstone, major thoroughfares will be closed to the public, which could necessitate hours-long detours just to get around the park if not properly prepared for. Most National Parks still have plenty to offer in the colder months - but be advised that additional planning may be required!


National Park News is a monthly series for the Pathloom blog. Check out last month's edition here. Sign up for Pathloom Beta Access to be added to a mailing list for the latest news, weekly blog updates, and exclusive sneak peeks to upcoming posts.


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