The National Parks Service celebrates 100 years by encouraging Americans to rediscover the great outdoors.
While the New Year often seems to encourage many to head indoors to their neighborhood gyms and work on their fitness resolutions, the folks at the National Parks Service (NPS) hope you will consider heading back outdoors to join them for a year-long celebration marking the department’s 100th anniversary.
The campaign, Find Your Park, began in 2015 and is purposed with the task of encouraging a new generation of Americans to get out and interact with one of the 408 national parks in the United States. Programs, events and activities will be produced by NPS and its sponsoring partners across the country throughout the year.
Those headed outdoors to create their own national park experiences are encouraged to use the hashtag #FindYourPark as they document their journey. Fortunately for Arizonans, there is no need to travel too far, as the state is home to 22 national parks. Even for the ones you may have visited before, there is most assuredly a reason to go back and discover something new.
Hiking the Human Side of Grand Canyon National Park
Often forgotten amongst the visual splendor of the Grand Canyon is the region’s rich human history, which dates back at least 12,000 years and has remained a constant ever since. Much of the archeological evidence still resides down near the banks of the Colorado River, including dwellings and pictographs on the canyon walls themselves.
Hikers of the famed Bright Angel Trail, which leads down into the canyon, are often unaware of the fact that this path was the same one once used by ancient hunters and gatherers who followed animals toward water sources. It is also the same path that was later improved upon by the Havasupai en route to their “Indian Garden,” found five miles below the rim, where they cultivated and maintained crops.
Exploring Montezuma Well at Montezuma Castle National Monument
The well is an often overlooked part of the monument, located in an isolated area 11 miles north of the more famous cliff dwellings. With trails that weave through a shaded forest, Montezuma Well has its own Sinagua dwelling that dates back to the 1300s. The highlight, however, is the more than 1.5 million gallons of 74-degree water that consistently flows into and out of the well every day. The water was harnessed by an irrigation ditch dating back more than a thousand years, and is still used by local residents to provide for gardens and livestock.
Historic Camping at Tumacacori National Historical Park
After 157 years, the last missionaries were driven from Tumacacori in 1848, but the abandoned Jesuit structure and its surroundings remained a waypoint for travelers, prospectors, cowboys and troops for years after as they sought to escape the desert sun or a torrential seasonal monsoon.
Campers can share those same experiences from the late 19th century through a family sleepover program complete with traditional meals, the construction of period-style memory books, and ghost stories by candlelight in the abandoned church. Bedrolls can be slept in within the shelter of the church’s walls or outside under the Sonoran stars.
Quitobaquito Spring at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Accessible by a scenic road just a few hundred yards away from the U.S.-Mexico border is a hidden oasis in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. One of the few reliable resources of water in the region, this fragile ecosystem is home to a handful of species unique to the park, including the Quitobaquito pupfish and the Sonoran mud turtle. Archeological evidence found around the springs suggest that it is also the oldest location of human settlement within Organ Pipe National Park.
For more information on the National Park Service’s centennial celebration of stewardship over America’s national parks or the Find Your Park campaign, visit FindYourPark.com. All other information on the national parks system can be found at NPS.gov.