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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 30, 2006

National parks offer extra attractions this summer

By Dara Bramson
Knight Ridder Service

The USS Arizona Memorial on O'ahu is part of the national parks system.

Advertiser library photo

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The pueblo ruins in the Canyon of the Ancients are part of Mesa Verde National Park. The Colorado park is celebrating its 100th year, and will open some of the cave dwellings rarely or never seen by the public.

NANCY RICHMOND | Durango Herald via Associated Press

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Crawl through the tunnels and climb the wooden ladders of an ancient Pueblo stone village at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado during the celebration of the site's 100th birthday.

Or examine fossils dating back 40 million years at the new Paleontology Center at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon.

This summer, the 58 national parks and 332 other monuments, coastlines and historic sites managed by the National Park Service are offering special events, new programs and expanded facilities.

"There are so many parks with new programs and events to visit this summer," said Shannon Andrea, media relations manager at the National Parks Conservation Association, an 87-year-old organization dedicated to protecting the park system.

After a decline in park visits last year that officials blamed on hurricanes, this year's attendance is expected to exceed the 273 million mark hit in 2005. The record is the 287 million visits in 1999, but that dwindled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

While the National Park Service anticipates high numbers of visitors at well-known sites like the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Yosemite, some of the most interesting activities this summer will take you to places you might not have heard of.

Some highlights:

  • Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado celebrates its 100th birthday as a park. Such prehistoric cave dwellings as the Mug House, which has never been open to the public, and the Oak Tree House, closed since the 1930s, will open to the public this summer. A free festival June 29-July 2 will feature birthday cake, music, Indian dances, craft demonstrations, lectures and horseback rides.

    Info: www.nps.gov/meve or www.mesaverde2006.org; (970) 529-4465.

  • Lewis & Clark National Historic Park in Oregon marks the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition with guided hikes, ranger storytelling and festivals along the trail throughout the year. Fort Clatsop, a near-replica of the explorers' Oregon campsite, burned down last fall and is being rebuilt for a summer re-opening.

    Visitors can walk, bike or drive the 3,700-mile trail that Lewis and Clark took, weaving from Hartford, Ill., through Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Info: www.nps.gov/lecl or www.lewisandclarktrail.com; (605) 664-5920.

  • John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, in Oregon, has a new Paleontology Center with fossils from the park. Info: www.nps.gov/joda or johnday fossilbeds.areaparks.com; (541) 987-2333.

  • Governors Island Historic Harbor Park, New York City, covers an island that was among the first settlements of the Dutch West India Company in the 1600s. The national park service took over the site in 2003. This summer, there will be free ferry transportation on Fridays and Saturdays, lectures by historians and novelists, re-enactments of Revolutionary and Civil War battles and family entertainment. Info: www.nps.gov/gois or www .govisland.com; (212) 825-3051.

  • African Burial Ground National Monument, New York City, marks its first summer in the federal park system. This newest addition was discovered in 1991 when a construction project on a federal building in lower Manhattan exposed North America's largest and oldest African cemetery known, containing the remains of roughly 15,000 people dating back to the 1600s. President Bush designated the site as a national monument in February. A memorial with pictures and documents is on display. Info: www.africanburial ground.gov. Next door, in the lobby of the Office of Public Education and Interpretation, the public can watch a video and view the burial ground from a large picture window; 290 Broadway; (212) 637-2019.

  • The USS Arizona Memorial memorializes more than 1,000 men who lost their lives during the Pearl Harbor attack.