America's National Parks - Voice of America Learn English as you read and listen to news and feature stories about world events and politics. Our daily stories are written at the intermediate and upper-beginner level and are read one-third slower than regular VOA English. Everything is free. America's National Parks - Voice of America en 2016 - VOA 60 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 06:31:57 +0000 Pangea CMS – VOA Virgin Islands National Park: America's Paradise The Virgin Islands National Park sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on a small island. It is rich in beauty and history. Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:57:02 +0000 Level TwoFeatured StoriesAmerica's National Parks Glacier Bay: A Land Reborn   This week in our travels through America’s national parks, we revisit the state of Alaska. The northernmost state is home to eight major national parks. Today, we visit one of its most famous parks – Glacier Bay. This huge park in the southeastern part of the state covers more than 1 million hectares of Alaskan wilderness. It includes mountains, glaciers, fjords, and even rainforests. Glacier Bay supports hundreds of kinds of animals, including many species of birds, fish, bears, whales and sea lions. As its name suggests, much of Glacier Bay National Park is covered by glaciers. A glacier is a large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley, or over a wide area of land. Glaciers cover more than 5,000 square kilometers of the park. Glacial ice has shaped the land over the last seven million years. The glaciers found in the park today are what remains from an ice advance known as the Little Ice Age. That period began about 4,000 years ago.   A land reborn During the Little Ice Age, the cold weather caused the ice to grow and advance. That growth continued until the 1700s, when the climate began to warm. The hotter temperatures caused the ice to start melting. That melting led the huge glacier to separate into more than 1,000 different glaciers. The extremely tall and jagged mountains seen in Glacier Bay National Park were formed by the ice advancing and then melting over time.  The melting of the ice also created water that filled in and created the many fjords within the park. Fjords are narrow parts of the ocean that sit between cliffs or mountains. The huge amounts of water from the melted ice killed off many kinds of plants. Vegetation returned to the area over the next 200 years. The regrowth in plants also brought back many animals to the land. This return of life to Glacier Bay is why it is sometimes called “a land reborn.” A people of tradition There is evidence that people have lived in the area for several thousands of years.  Glacier Bay is the homeland of the Huna Tlingit people.  The Tlingit are an Alaskan Native tribe. They live throughout southeastern Alaska.  They began settling in the Glacier Bay area after the last ice age, once the glaciers began to retreat.  Today, the Tlingit people live a modern life. But they also practice traditions unique to their culture.  In the past, the Huna Tlingit harvested gull eggs every year. Gulls are large gray and white birds that live near the ocean. Gull eggs are an important type of food for the Huna Tlingit. Family harvest trips served as a way to keep ties with their homeland and to pass on stories, moral codes, and cultural traditions to the younger generation. In the 1960s, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act forced them to stop collecting gull eggs.  Together with the National Park Service, however, they have worked to create a sustainable way for them to continue practicing this tradition. Discovery and protection One of the first major expeditions to the area took place in 1794. Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey arrived near Glacier Bay aboard the HMS Discovery, a British Royal Navy ship. The expedition was led by Captain George Vancouver. At that time, the bay was still almost completely filled with ice.  The crew described the scene as “a compact sheet of ice as far as the eye could distinguish.” In 1879 the naturalist John Muir visited the area to do research.  He found that glacial ice had melted back almost 50 kilometers, and had formed a bay. After his visit, Muir and other conservationists urged Congress to protect this special area.  In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge made Glacier Bay a national monument. It did not become an official national park, however, until 1980. In 1992, Glacier Bay became part of a huge World Heritage Site along the border of Canada and the United States.  The 9.7 million-hectare site is the largest internationally protected area in the world. Coastal wildlife One-fifth of Glacier Bay National park is ocean water. And, no point within the park is more than 50 kilometers from the coast. Most animals living here depend on the water or shoreline. Glacier Bay is home to brown bears and black bears.  They are found in the forests, as well as along the coastline.  They feed on berries and plants found in the woods. They also feed on the fish found in the waters. Humpback whales also feed on fish in Glacier Bay’s waters. Whales are large mammals that live in the ocean. Humpbacks can weigh more than 35,000 kilograms.  They come to Glacier Bay every summer for one main reason: food.  They feed on small fish in the water.  They eat more than 450 kilograms of food each day.  They remain in Glacier Bay for about five months each year. There are also 281 species of birds in Glacier Bay.  These include gulls, guillemots, puffins, murrelets, and cormorants. Many of these birds make nests on cliffs. They eat small fish and other sea life. Other animals found in the park include moose, mountain goats, Stellar sea lions, Harbor seals, Harbor porpoises, and sea otters. Exploring the Park Glacier Bay is a popular place for people searching for adventure.  Some visitors choose to explore the park by kayak. The small, narrow boats offer visitors a chance to experience the park’s many fjords and its hundreds of kilometers of coastline. Hiking and camping are also popular activities in the park. But, hikers and campers must have respect for the harsh and remote environment.  Weather and water conditions can be extreme.  Food can also be limited in this area.  There is only one official campground, located in Bartlett Cove.  But camping is permitted along any of the shores or forests found in the park. This kind of camping is called backcountry camping. Another popular way to visit the park is by boat or ship. Cruise ships and tour boats make regular trips into the park. Passengers are able to see the park’s glaciers up close. These glaciers are always changing. Visitors may witness huge pieces of ice breaking apart from the glacier. This is known as “calving.” When the ice falls into the water, it creates a loud, thunder-like noise. From glacial fjords to mountain peaks, Glacier Bay holds some of the continent’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders. It is a land reborn, and a place that continues to change with time. I’m Phil Dierking. and I’m Ashley Thompson Phil Dierking wrote this report for Learning English, with materials from the National Park Service. ­­­­­Ashley Thompson was the editor. Who do you think should control public lands? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. _____________________________________________________ Words in This Story bay – n. a large area of water that is part of an ocean or lake and partly surrounded by land compact – adj. closely or firmly packed or joined together fjord  - n. a narrow part of the ocean between cliffs or steep hills or mountains glacier – n. a very large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley or over a wide area of land inspiring – adj. causing people to want to do or create something or to lead better lives jagged – adj.  having a sharp, uneven edge or surface kayak – n. a long narrow boat that is pointed at both ends and that is moved by a paddle with two blade naturalist – n. a person who studies plants and animals as they live in nature retreat – v. the act or process of moving away species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants unique – adj. something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else vegetation – n.  plants in general Fri, 25 Nov 2016 21:10:58 +0000 Level TwoFeatured StoriesAmerica's National Parks Risks and Rewards at Zion National Park The state of Utah is home to five major national parks. They are among the most famous parks in the United States. This week, our national parks journey brings us to the southwestern part of the state. Here, you will find narrow canyons, steep cliffs, and hidden river valleys. Welcome to Zion National Park! Zion sits within a desert landscape. The 260-kilometer-long Virgin River runs through it. It provides water for more than 1,000 kinds of plants to grow and 100 kinds of animals to live, including the desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, and mountain lions. River water has also carved out the area’s spectacular canyons and gorges. One of them, called Zion Canyon, stretches more than 20 kilometers through the park. In some places, it is more than 600 meters deep. At its most narrow point, it is just 6 meters across. Zion is one of the 10 most visited parks in the country. Travelers from America and around the world come here to explore its canyons, climb its steep walls, and walk its dramatic trails. ​ Zion’s extraordinary beauty affected early Mormon settlers. Members of the religious group came to the area beginning in the 1850s. They thought it looked like heaven. They named the land after a place from the Bible - Zion. “Zion” means “sanctuary” or “refuge” in ancient Hebrew. Mormons were not, of course, the first people to explore the area. Experts say humans first arrived around 12,000 years ago. They hunted very large animals like mammoths, giant sloths and camels. Climate change and overhunting caused these animals to die out about 8,000 years ago. Humans changed their methods. They hunted smaller animals and gathered other food. Some 2,000 years ago, a culture centered on what we now call Zion began to form. Scientists know these people as the Virgin Anasazi. They settled in the area and grew crops. They used the water from the Virgin River and depended on the rich diversity of native plants and animals. Over time, many Native American groups called the area home, including the Southern Paiute. The Southern Paiutes called the area “Mukuntuweap.” In their language, the name meant “straight canyon.” The United States Congress moved to protect the area beginning in the early 1900s. In 1909, it became a national monument. It was called Mukuntuweap National Monument. President William Taft established the national monument. He described the land as a “labyrinth of remarkable canyons with highly ornate and beautifully colored walls, in which are plainly recorded the geological events of past ages.” In 1918, the national monument became a national park. And in 1919, Congress changed its name to “Zion,” the name used by the Mormons. Visiting Zion National Park Today, almost 3 million people visit Zion National Park each year. Driving is restricted in much of the park during busy months. Instead, visitors travel in small buses that take them to areas where they can walk on paths into the wild areas. Walking is the best way to explore Zion. The park offers visitors many different kinds of paths. Some are short and easy. One easy walk is almost two kilometers. It takes hikers to a clear pool of water and waterfalls. Other hikes take most people all day to complete. Some are not advisable for people who are afraid of high places. A hike called Angels Landing is considered one of the most exciting hikes in America. The trail leads to the top of a rock formation that stands more than 450 meters above the canyon floor. Toward the top of rock, the walking path becomes extremely narrow. On both sides are very steep cliffs. Hikers can hold onto a rope for increased safety. Most hikers say the views from Angels Landing make the difficult and dangerous experience worth it. Some visitors favor the lower parts of Zion National Park. One popular area is known as The Narrows. The Narrows is the narrowest part of Zion Canyon. The area has extremely tall canyon walls and unusual “hanging gardens.” These green areas of wildflowers, ferns, and mosses grow out of the sandstone walls. ​ If you want to explore The Narrows, you must be ready to get wet. Hiking in The Narrows means walking next to -- and even in -- the Virgin River. If water levels are high, walking in the river can be extremely difficult. Sometimes, hikers may be waist-high in water. Even near the canyon floor, hikes at Zion can be dangerous. The great amount of rock in the area does not absorb water. As a result, sudden floods, called “flash floods,” are a serious threat. People can help prepare themselves as much as possible for the dangers of Zion National Park at the visitor’s center. But the risks come with great rewards. As the famous American pilot Amelia Earhart once said, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” I’m Caty Weaver.  And I'm Ashley Thompson.  ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   steep - adj. almost straight up and down cliff - n. a high, steep surface of rock, earth, or ice landscape ​- n. ​an area of land that has a particular quality or appearance​ spectacular - adj.​ causing wonder and admiration : very impressive​ gorge ​- n. ​a deep, narrow area between hills or mountains​ dramatic - adj. ​attracting attention​ heaven  ​- n. ​the place where God lives and where good people go after they die according to some religions​ diversity ​- n. ​the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc​ labyrinth ​- n. a place that has many confusing paths or passages​ remarkable - adj.​ unusual or surprising : likely to be noticed​ ornate - adj.​ covered with fancy patterns and shapes waist  ​- n. ​the middle part of your body between the hips and chest or upper back that is usually narrower than the areas above and below it Fri, 18 Nov 2016 21:51:14 +0000 Level TwoFeatured StoriesAmerica's National Parks Shenandoah: A Western-Style Park in the East   This week on our national parks journey, we visit a mountainous landscape on America’s east coast. Within the park are rocky peaks, rolling green hills, and spectacular waterfalls. It is also home to hundreds of black bears. Welcome to Shenandoah National Park in the state of Virginia. Shenandoah sits in the heart of Blue Ridge Mountains. The mountains are part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range. The park’s hiking trails, waterfalls and wildlife appeal to nature-lovers and adventurers.         Driving on top of the mountain Shenandoah National Park is perhaps best known for the road that goes through it: Skyline Drive.  Skyline Drive runs nearly 170 kilometers north to south. It is the only road in the park. There are more than 70 overlooks along the way, where people can pull their car off the road. These overlooks provide visitors with beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley. The road was built in the 1930s, at a time when the automobile was becoming popular. Shenandoah’s north entrance lies less than 120 kilometers from Washington, D.C. Early planners wanted a major national park like those in the American West here on the East Coast, close to big cities. In fact, Shenandoah was described as “an Eastern park in the Western tradition.” And, early park planners wanted Skyline Drive to be “the single greatest feature” of the park. Denise Machado is a park ranger at Shenandoah. She explains that the park soon became a place for people to escape the noise -- and heat -- of big cities. “It was created just so people could kind of get away, a place to escape the big city hustle and bustle. Pre-air-condition days, this was the place to be. The temperatures were about 10 degrees cooler up here on the mountain.” But, Shenandoah’s history is not without controversy. To create the place that park planners envisioned, many families were forced to leave behind properties in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shenandoah National Park was formed from more than 3,000 individual land purchases. They were presented to the federal government by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Shenandoah officially became a national park in 1936. Today, most of the buildings and structures that once stood in the area are long gone. But, you can find some signs of the past. A log building called Corbin Cabin still stands. George Corbin, who built the log structure, was forced to leave the land in the late 1930s, just after the creation of the national park. Today, the cabin is operated by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. The club permits people to rent the cabin. Hiking Shenandoah Shenandoah National Park has more than 800 kilometers of hiking trails. They take visitors to rocky mountain peaks, grassy meadows, and forested canyons. Hikers are especially drawn to the park’s famous waterfalls. “The waterfalls are definitely the most popular. We have nine waterfalls. Dark Hollow Falls is our most popular. It’s a beautiful waterfall, it's a 70-foot waterfall. It 1.4 mile hike round-trip. It follows along a stream. And you’re right at the base of the falls and you’re looking up and you can feel the spray. It’s a really great experience.” Grace Williams hiked to Dark Hollow Falls with her daughter on her birthday. “My daughter’s gift for me to bring me to the national park. And it’s on my bucket list. I always love falls, I like the sound. The water is refreshing. So, they did tell us it's kind of like a moderate hike. I do have knee problems, but I just wanted to challenge it, and I’m glad I came. It’s beautiful.” Another of Shenandoah’s famous hikes is called Old Rag. It is almost 15 kilometers long. To get to the top of Old Rag Mountain, hikers must scramble up large rocks. It is a long and difficult hike. But, the views from the top bring hikers from all across the country and world. Because it is close to many big cities, Shenandoah’s trails are often crowded with people. More than 1 million people visit the park each year. Although Shenandoah was created to be an easy escape from big East Coast cities, today it sees visitors from all over the world. “It's amazing how many people you meet that come from far-flung countries and corners of the world. We've had people from Africa. We get a lot of people from Germany, France, Sweden, Netherlands, so you  just never know where they're going to come from."    Machado says summer and fall are the most popular times to visit the park. While summer is a good time to enjoy the waterfalls, the fall brings beautiful autumn colors. In the middle of October, the trees begin to lose their leaves. The leaves change from green to different shades of yellow, orange, and red as winter approaches. On weekends in October it can take up to two hours just to get into the park. Shenandoah’s black bears Visitors to Shenandoah National Park have a good chance of seeing a black bear. The park is home to between 400 to 600 black bears. It has one of the densest black bear populations of any national park. Denise Machado knows a lot about these black bears. In fact, her nickname is “the bear lady.” “Well, I am known in Shenandoah as the bear lady. I see a lot of bears every season. I'm in the park early in the morning and late in the evening. I see anywhere from 400 or so bears every year. And, it's wonderful to see. I never get tired of seeing them. They are all different and they are all special.” Machado gives visitors advice for what to do if they see a black bear. “So, if you see a bear, you want to clap your hands, you wanna say ‘Hey bear! Hey bear!’ They really don’t like to be startled. You don’t want to try to sneak up on them to get a photo or anything. You want to make sure that they are totally aware you are there.” Malachi and his older brother Brent visited Shenandoah National Park with their parents. The family traveled here from Cincinnati, Ohio. The family hiked the Little Stony Man Trail. Along the way, they came upon a black bear. “I really liked how we could see the animals. We saw a really big bear. And he was really friendly and he didn’t do anything. And he was just eating.” The park’s bears and other wildlife are a big part of what attracts so many visitors to Shenandoah. Carol Bair and her husband visited the park from York, Pennsylvania. She said visiting Shenandoah is “like a breath of fresh air.” “It's just quieter. You hear the birds. You look at trees different. The wind blowing through the fields, it's just really neat.”        I'm Ashley Thompson.  And I'm Adam Brock.    Ashley Thompson reported and wrote this story. Adam Brock was the editor.  _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   peak - n. the pointed top of a mountain spectacular - adj. causing wonder and admiration hustle and bustle - expression. busy and noisy activity meadow - n. a usually flat area of land that is covered with tall grass canyon - n. a deep valley with steep rock sides and often a stream or river flowing through it bucket list - n. a number of experiences that a person hopes to do in their lifetime moderate - adj. average in the level of difficulty scramble - v. to move or climb over something quickly especially while also using your hands recreation - n. activities done for enjoyment dense - adj. having many of something in a certain area startle - v. to surprise or frighten suddenly sneak up - phrasal verb. to approach (someone) quietly and secretly in order to avoid being noticed Fri, 11 Nov 2016 21:17:39 +0000 Level TwoFeatured StoriesAmerica's National Parks