13 Sustainable Travel Destinations in the United States
The United States has some of the most incredible natural heritage in the world. From sea to shining sea your freedom can be discovered in a multitude of eco-systems that contain an abundant wonder of natural landscapes. The smoky mountains line the East coast, the Grand Canyons stand with stoic wisdom in the Southwest, while the Redwoods stand lovingly on the West Coast reminding us that we are stronger together than apart. All together the 13 natural heritage sites embody some of the most incredible secrets that can offer you awe, adventure, transformation, and peace. Where to start that journey? That’s up to You!
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
The more than 120 limestone caves within Carlsbad Caverns National Park are outstanding and notable world-wide because of their size, mode of origin, and the abundance, diversity and beauty of the speleothems (decorative rock formations) within. On-going geologic processes continue to form rare and unique speleothems, particularly in Lechuguilla Cave. Carlsbad Caverns and Lechuguilla Cave are well known for their great natural beauty, exceptional geologic features, and unique reef and rock formations. The Permian-aged Capitan Reef complex (in which Carlsbad Caverns, Lechuguilla and other caves formed) is one of the best preserved and most accessible complexes available for scientific study in the world.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is the largest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve on the North American continent. Its juncture at the interface of temperate and sub-tropical America, fresh and brackish water, shallow bays and deeper coastal waters creates a complex of habitats supporting a high diversity of flora and fauna. It contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie and the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is among the earth’s greatest on-going geological spectacles. Its vastness is stunning, and the evidence it reveals about the earth’s history is invaluable. The 1.5-kilometer (0.9 mile) deep gorge ranges in width from 500 m to 30 km (0.3 mile to 18.6 miles). It twists and turns 445 km (276.5 miles) and was formed during 6 million years of geological activity and erosion by the Colorado River on the upraised earth’s crust. The buttes, spires, mesas and temples in the canyon are in fact mountains looked down upon from the rims. Horizontal strata exposed in the canyon retrace geological history over 2 billion years and represent the four major geologic eras.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a major North American refuge of temperate zone flora and fauna that survived the Pleistocene glaciations. The park includes the largest remnant of the diverse Arcto-Tertiary geoflora era left in the world, and provides an indication of the appearance of late Pleistocene flora. It is large enough to allow the continuing biological evolution of this natural system, and its biological diversity exceeds that of other temperate-zone protected areas of comparable size. The park is of exceptional natural beauty with undisturbed, virgin forest including the largest block of virgin red spruce remaining on earth.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains Mauna Loa and Kilauea, two of the world’s most active and accessible volcanoes where ongoing geological processes are easily observed. This property serves as an excellent example of island building through volcanic processes. Through the process of shield-building volcanism, the park’s landscape is one of relatively constant, dynamic change.
Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek
The Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek national parks and protected areas along the boundary of Canada and the United States of America contain the largest non-polar icefield in the world as well as examples of some of the world’s longest and most spectacular glaciers. Characterized by high mountains, icefields and glaciers, the property transitions from northern interior to coastal biogeoclimatic zones, resulting in high biodiversity with plant and animal communities ranging from marine, coastal forest, montane, sub-alpine and alpine tundra, all in various successional stages. The Tatshenshini and Alsek river valleys are pivotal because they allow ice-free linkages from coast to interior for plant and animal migration. The parks demonstrate some of the best examples of glaciation and modification of landscape by glacial action in a region still tectonically active, spectacularly beautiful, and where natural processes prevail.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave is the most extensive cave system in the world, with over 285 miles (458 km) of surveyed cave passageways within the property (and at least another 80 miles [128 km] outside the property). The park illustrates a number of stages of the Earth’s evolutionary history and contains ongoing geological processes and unique wildlife. It is renowned for its size and vast network of extremely large horizontal passages and vertical shafts. Nearly every type of cave formation is known within the site, the product of karst topography. The flora and fauna of Mammoth Cave is the richest cave-dwelling wildlife known, with more than 130 species within the cave system.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park features a spectacular coastline, scenic lakes, majestic mountains and glaciers, and a magnificent virgin temperate rainforest. Olympic National Park has a wealth of geological formations – including rocky islets along the coast formed by a continuously receding and changing coastline, deep canyons and valleys formed by erosion and craggy peaks and beautiful cirques sculpted by glaciation. Olympic National Park is also the lowest latitude in the world in which glaciers form below an elevation of 2000 meters and occur below an elevation of 1000 meters. The park’s relative isolation, high rainfall, strong west-to-east precipitation gradient, ten major watersheds and rugged topography have combined to produce varied and complex life zones – from coastline to temperate forest to alpine meadows to glaciated peaks. As a result, the park is rich in biological diversity and has a high rate of endemism.
Redwood National and State Parks
The parks’ primary feature is the coastal redwood forest, a surviving remnant of the group of trees that has existed for 160 million years and was once found throughout many of the moist temperate regions of the world, but is now confined to the wet regions of the west coast of North America. The parks contain some of the tallest and oldest known trees in the world. Rich intertidal, marine and freshwater stream flora and fauna are also present in the two distinctive physiographic environments of coastline and coastal mountains that include the old growth forest and stream communities.
Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has a distinctive climate, physiographic setting, mountain-prairie interface and tri-ocean hydrographical divide. It is an area of significant scenic values with abundant and diverse flora and fauna.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a protected area showcasing significant geological phenomena and processes. It is also a unique manifestation of geothermal forces, natural beauty, and wild ecosystems where rare and endangered species thrive. As the site of one of the few remaining intact large ecosystems in the northern temperate zone of earth, Yellowstone’s ecological communities provide unparalleled opportunities for conservation, study, and enjoyment of large-scale wildland ecosystem processes.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park vividly illustrates the effects of glacial erosion of granitic bedrock, creating geologic features that are unique in the world. Repeated glaciations over millions of years have resulted in a concentration of distinctive landscape features, including soaring cliffs, domes, and free-falling waterfalls. There is exceptional glaciated topography, including the spectacular Yosemite Valley, a 1 kilometer (1/2 mile) deep, glacier-carved cleft with massive sheer granite walls. These geologic features provide a scenic backdrop for mountain meadows and giant sequoia groves, resulting in a diverse landscape of exceptional natural and scenic beauty.
Papahānaumokuākea is the name given to a vast and isolated linear cluster of small, low lying islands and atolls, with their surrounding ocean, extending some 1,931 kilometres to the north west of the main Hawaiian Archipelago, located in the north-central Pacific Ocean. The property comprises the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which extends almost 2000 km from southeast to northwest.