Our Best Idea

Hawai'i_Volcanoes_National_Park_HAVO1837Here’s a question for you: In the U.S., what is as large as the United Kingdom (the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and was visited by more than 300 million people last year?

The answer: our 59 national parks.

A few days ago, we celebrated the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS), which is responsible for taking care of our national parks and other national sites (important places). One 20th-century historian (someone who studies history) called our national parks “the best idea we’ve ever had.” Many would agree.

Our national parks are as diverse (very different from each other) as the people who live in the U.S. You’ll find rocky cliffs (side of a mountain that drops straight down) and waterfalls in Yosemite. Seven small islands surrounded (to be all around) by clear blue water in Dry Tortugas.  Wooded (full of trees) hills in Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah. The lowest, hottest, and driest place in the U.S. in Death Valley. Rain forests in Olympic, one of the wettest places in the U.S. Some of the world’s largest trees in Sequoia and King’s Canyon. Wetlands, crocodiles, and Florida panthers in Everglades. Glaciers (slow-moving sheets of ice) with deep crevasses (cuts in the ice) in Kenai Fjords. The deep, colorful walls of the Grand Canyon. A palace (home for an important person) built by early American Indians in the side of a cliff in Mesa Verde. A quiet path along a slow-moving river in Cuyahoga. Fiery volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes. Trees that are different than any trees you’ve ever seen in Joshua Tree. Trees that have been dead for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years in Petrified Forest. And that’s just a sample (part of the whole group).

There’s no better way to explore the parks than to visit them. But if you haven’t, or can’t, the Internet is a good place to get a taste of them. I invite you to take some time, look around, and discover them for yourself. Here’s how you can do it.

For an overview (quick look) of the national parks, watch See all U.S. National Parks in One Minute (Note: there’s a short advertisement at the beginning.). You may want to watch it more than once! And to whet your appetite (make you hungry) for more, look at Mark Burns’ beautiful new black and white photographs.

Next, look at the short National Geographic Best of… videos from the five most popular parks – the links are below. You’ll enjoy the scenery, see some unusual animals, and pick up (learn) some new “park” vocabulary (Note: there’s a short advertisement at the beginning of each one.).

For a closer look, the NPS website is the best place to go. Here are the NPS home pages for the 10 most popular national parks. When you get to the home page, click on Plan Your Visit > Places to Go to explore the park.

Here they are:

If you want to visit other parks, you can use the NPS Find a Park page to find their home pages.

My favorites from this list are Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain (I used to live next to it), and Acadia. Which do you like?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor and coach. My website is Successful English.

Photo from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Note: For a list of all the national parks we’ve discussed on our English Cafe, see here.

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10 Responses to Our Best Idea

  1. emiliano says:

    Watching the BBC English television, one of the best in my opinion, Cuca and me have seen several movies about
    national parks all over the world.
    Evidently the USA parks are incredible beautiful and we have seen nearly every one of them as the BBC repeats
    their movies once and again, but we never get tired of watching such records.

    Here in the Spanish television there is a chanel, the second, were emit all kind of these videos about Nature, wild
    animals in Africa, Asia or America.
    Usually the best videos are made by the BBC, France Television or German Television and they made these videos
    absolutely well made, with nice and beutiful sights or wild avetures.
    Yes, Cuca and me have enjoyed them lot of times as other chanels of television usally emit rubbish and more rubbish.

    By the way here in Spain we have 15 Natural Parks but I think it is not enough, we need more, but our size is not as big as other coutries round the world.

    I would like to see some of the USA National Parks mentioned by you Warren, but traveling to EE.UU. is really too much expensive and my resources are limited, beside I am too old to do such a kind of trips that I´ll like to do in other
    different conditions.
    Dreams have not limits.


  2. emiliano says:

    There is a man “David Frederick Attenborough” to whom I admire absotutely.
    He is best known for writing and presenting the nine Life series, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit
    and He has given his voice and His efforts to produce nine incredible videos about LIFE and Nature in the Earth.

    One of these serials is “Earth Planet” to me one of the best ever made. With ten long videos touching everything about
    Earth lands and animals.
    Every one of his videos are a model of how we have to treat our Planet, admiring ITS beauty.

    Congratulations Mr. Attenborough I really admire you and your work.
    By the way his brother Richard also made some of the best movies I have seen for instance
    Ghandhi “A Chorus Line” or hte anti-apartheid drama “Cry Freedom”.


  3. emiliano says:

    I can´t believe.
    Please, only two comments of emiliano, that´s not enough, we need more blogers
    writing here.
    I don´t want to be the only one who writes here, but if it is necessary I will be.

    Be sure about that.


  4. emiliano says:


    Where is the sun,
    where is the sky,
    where is my love.
    where she has gone.
    Far away from home
    you need to go
    what can I do
    when you be not.
    Too much to feel
    too much to think
    not now but soon
    she will be not home.
    Without you I must go
    extrange I will feel
    inside these walls
    when you will be not.
    with me any more.

    Sooner or later Cuca will be not here at home with me, I try not to think too much about it, but ahead it is the real fact.
    What will I do, not any idea but it is sure that the house will be not home any more.
    Multiple Sclerosis is making it´s bad work inside her and after resisting me for a long time at last it has been necessary to ask for a nursing where she could receive a good care.
    Doctor said me that once and again, so finally after talking with the social assistant and listening to her I gave my arm twisted and have done what they told me.
    May be a year of waiting, six months, I don´t really know but little by little my mind is accepting the idea of letting her going out home.
    In some way it is possible she could be better than here but not me that start to miss her before the fact happens.

    Of course this was written thinking on Cuca, my wife.

  5. emiliano says:


    Talking about our world, our Spanish world what can I say now?.
    It is easy, more soon that later we will be again fighting against adversity, that is for sure.
    Nothing good is coming for the year 2016 or even the 2017.
    The wealthy countries of Europe are going to be poor once more.
    The south is being left to their own luck, as a ship that is going deep to the sea, and north European ´s politics are looking to another side, not listening the shouts of help, help, of millions from the south or even people trying to
    be off from their country´s war.

    Why? Who knows.
    The building buble, the banks, the politicians, we, the people spending too much money than money that we could afford?. It could be just a Little of all, we thought the time of being not so rich were over but reality is coming faster every day.
    Here, in my country politicians said continously that it is necessary to follow in the “State of good being”….”El estado del bien estar” but what is that?.
    What is good being?. To have money to spend, to much money than we have? the subject than we have only rights but not any obligations? The rule of the less effort? Just that everything were for free?.

    It seems to me that all these last years we have been living up our real situation. Listening so many lies we thought we were rich and spent too much euros that the amount we have.
    But now we have to pay them.
    Ir is impossible such amount, and we could pay only the interest of the loans, what to do, just to ask for more loans to pay the interest….and so on, year after year…..till when?.
    Who knows, the debts are increasing and the saving decrease too much faster.

    The past years of 2012 to 2015 have been so bad, but I think the year we are living now it could be even worst till the point no body knows, we have not any Goberment, we know nothing about future, the only news thar are coming from Europe or the world are really tragics and very painfully.

    I could not understand how so many young people have to be off from here, it is happening now in Spain the same situation than in South America some years before?.

    More than 45 per cent of young people have not work, that is impossible of support for a country where are so many retired persons.

    They need to go out from here, year after year, the same that I would do if I could be in the same situation.
    But mine now it is completely different, not grandsons, or granddaughters, so the future of my
    family stop with my daughters…, and fortunately till the momment they could work.
    Well, it is too much for today, I am going to bed and I prefer not to think in future.

    Tomorrow will be another day to live, and that is enough for the moment…..just to be alive and going on despite everything looks not so well.

    Now here in my country, Spain, the question is: Do we have a Goverment along this year?.
    But if we look to EE.UU., the question could be another quite different


    We will see but reallity is that the result it is sure could affect all of us, in USA but also in the rest of
    the world.
    It is sure that EE.UU. is the one today and what happens there should be good or bad for other


  6. emiliano says:

    Talking a little more about the subject that Warren writes above
    I could say that here in Spain the Unesco has establised 44 parks
    that is a considerable number for a country not very big and
    what is even better being in Europe.

    I have been walking for some of them just the same like in
    National Parks.
    One of the most visited has been “Sierra Nevada” “Ordesa” and
    “Cañadas del Teide”.
    When Cuca and me celebrated our 25 years of being married
    we were in “Ordesa National Park” walking more than 23 kilometers
    going and returning.
    This park is in The Pirineos mountains and I would like to say that
    for both of us was a splendid day admiring the Nature and this
    beautiful Park.

    Regards, emiliano

  7. emiliano says:

    Sorry not 44 parks, they are designed as “Biosphere Reserves”
    by the UNESCO.
    I think it is just a little different, but I don´t know what is
    the difference.
    May be I have to learn what the difference is. regards again.

  8. emiliano says:

    Parks I would like to know from all the list you have given us?

    Gran Canyon
    Smoky Mountains
    Rocky Mountains
    and not mentioned by you, it is not a National Park, but I want to see Niagara Falls by all means.

    Places in EE.UU. I would like to be and to know.
    It´s clear:

    New York
    San Francisco
    Las Vegas
    New Orleans
    and of course Whasington.

    But I think they are in my mind or in my eyes by so many movies about that
    I have seen, but it´s sure I will not be overthere, too much, too many places
    too much money, and what is even worst too many years allready.

    Thank you Warren your post is really very interesting
    at least for me.


  9. emiliano says:

    Spain has more or less 50 cities that are the capitals of the different
    provinces of the country.
    I could say that I know 46 of them, so yes, I have been traveling a lot
    across nearle all my dear Spain.

    Here in this old nation we have several different climates and landscapes
    which make the country so interesting for millions and millions of visitors.

    In fact 68 millions of tourists visited Spain on the year 2015 but possible
    in this yeat it could be 74 millions of visitors, what make Spain the second
    orthe third country in the world reciving such a number of tourists.

    First is USA or France, I don´t know, but what is true is that Paris, the
    capital of France is the most visited city on the world, followed by
    London and close near them New York.
    I have been in the first two, Paris and London, but I look forward visiting
    New York, my second city after Madrid.

    Regards. emiliano (the only one who is writing in the blog till the moment
    what is really incredible and for me a cringe )

  10. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hello, Warren. Nice topic. I love it. Talking abput nature is always a good thing. Unfortunately men are destroying their home by looking for wealth and the worst is to find out why, if all you have you lewave here. Nothing can be carried into the coffin but your body. Madness? Maybe. Who knows?
    From Brazil

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