UNESCO, an arm of the United Nations, has established a list of the World Heritage Sites, the Earth’s most significant places, based on historical, cultural, and aesthetic considerations. These places should be preserved so that all mankind can appreciate their legacy, their significance, and their beauty. The United States is blessed with many (20) places, most of them natural areas, which fit the criteria and are included on the list. I have visited almost all of them and so will present them in three (3) installments.
The southern group of World Heritage Sites focused on natural beauty includes seven (7) of America’s national parks.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico — The premier cave destination in the world is reached by walking (via switchbacks) more than six stories below the Earth’s surface to discover a wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites and other enchanting formations.
The park also features an amphitheater to witness the flight of thousands of bats from their home in the cave to their foraging grounds each summer evening.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado — The United States’ best preserved Native American cliff dwellings can be seen and explored in this fantastic national park.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona — The world’s most dramatic natural feature was carved over millions of years by rivers in the Southwest. The most recent river, the Colorado, is dwarfed by its canyon, ten miles wide, over a mile deep, and 200 miles long.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii — The premier place to see vulcanism in action is here in Hawaii. Kilauea has been erupting for years, slowly adding inches of new land to the island. Nowhere else can visitors get this close to an active volcano.
Everglades National Park, Florida — Referred to as a “river of grass,” America’s supreme wetland is home to an incredible variety of wildlife.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee — America’s most visited national park features Appalachian Mountain scenery as well as history and wildlife in an idyllic setting.