Thursday, May 22, 2014

Riding Our National Park Systems: Introduction

Riding Our National Park Systems

by Lenice Basham

PairADice Mules, Belle, Mo.

*If you have a National Park System you would like to see featured in this segment, or have photos of you and your family riding in a National Park System, send your photos/suggestions to


According to Wikipedia, a National Park is defined as “… a reserve of natural or semi-natural land, declared or owned by a government, set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, animal and environmental protection and restricted from most development.” I define National Parks as a fantastic place to take your next mule vacation. There are approximately 84 million acres in the United States that have been declared as a National Park. There are National Parks in every state as well as in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.

The first attempt to protect land was in 1832 when Andrew Jackson set aside land around Hot Springs, Ark., to protect the thermal springs. In 1864, President Lincoln signed an act of Congress ceding Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to California. This would later become Yosemite National Park. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the first “real” National Park because there wasn’t a state government to cede the land to, like there was in California. The federal government took over the responsibility of care of the land. Theodore Roosevelt enacted the Antiquities Act in 1906 which allowed the federal government to take over ownership of historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest and proclaim them to be national monuments and under the supervision of the federal government. (President Carter and President Clinton have also used this act.) Roosevelt used the act to add Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, Chaco Canyon National Monument in New Mexico, the Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona and the Grand Canyon to the list of National Parks. There are currently 400 parks in the National Park System. Not all of these are sites for a mule vacation, of course. There are 100 National Parks that allow mule riding and mule camping. Each park has similar horse/mule camp regulations. Advanced reservations are required.

There are many internet sites that can help you with your vacation planning at the National Park System. There are reviews available, maps of the areas and photographs that you can view of the trails. Many of the National Park sites have GPS data available and trail information you can download to your GPS or Smartphone.

Our family has had the opportunity to camp in several National Parks. With gas/diesel prices soaring, you may want to look at campgrounds in your state for a mini vacation. I encourage everyone to look to your National Parks this summer for a fantastic experience.

Click on the "Riding Our National Park System" label to see the full series.

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