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Landmark Highlights 2021

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Figure 1. Lanphere and Ma-le'l Dunes NNL in northern California, photo by Andrea Pickart.

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Welcome

Similar to 2020, 2021 had people continuing to look to the outdoors for ways to safely recreate, connect with each other and find some peace and solace to counteract the stressors associated the continued uncertainties of the world at-large. Anyone who has spent time in nature knows and understands the benefits of such activities through direct experience; however, a study published in the journal Emotion in 2020 details the range of emotional benefits of taking “awe walks,” 15-minute walks where attention is purposefully focused outward. Indeed, natural places offer up opportunities to awaken all the senses for those who are willing to engage. And while there is no substitute for the real thing, we hope a virtual “awe walk” through the stories shared from National Natural Landmark (NNL) sites across the country will spark curiosity and provide inspiration for exploring our natural world in the year ahead.
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Figure 2. (L) Bear Rocks and Allegheny Front Preserve NNL, WV, photo by Kent Mason; (M) Sulphur Cave and Spring NNL, CO, photo by Norm Thompson; (R) Lanphere and Ma-le'l Dunes NNL, CA, photo by Andrea Pickart.

New Landmarks

In January 2021, then Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt designated the following three new sites as NNLs, making them the first new sites in four years and bringing the total number of NNLs in the U.S. to 602.

  • Bear Rocks and Allegheny Front Preserve, West Virginia
  • Sulphur Cave and Spring, Colorado
  • Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes, California
Bear Rocks and Allegheny Front Preserve is the best example of a plateau within the Appalachian Plateaus Province. This stunning high-elevation plateau provides a vantage point from which to view the surrounding lands for miles. It also supports a diverse ecology, including cold-adapted, wind-swept spruce trees normally found much farther north.
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Figure 3. A month after designation, Colorado Governor Jared Polis highlighted the unique critters behind the NNL designation of Sulphur Cave and Spring, CO.
Sulphur Cave and Spring is a superb example of a cave formed solely by sulfuric acid, an extremely rare process of cave formation. The cave’s toxic underground environment would typically preclude life; however, Sulphur Cave contains a flourishing bacterial community that actually aids in the cave’s development, and a recently discovered blood-red worm that is unique to this Colorado cave, found nowhere else in the world.

Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes is one of the most diverse and highest quality remnants of coastal dunes habitat in the North Pacific Border physiographic province. This site is located west of Arcata in northwestern California within the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Ma-Le’l Dunes Cooperative Management Area. It includes a diverse array of native vegetation and is known for several species of rare flora. This site is very scenic and affords the public an inspiring view of a natural coastal ecosystem that was once common along the western coast.

Each of these sites help to more fully illustrate the basic geological and ecological story of America as told through representation at NNL sites. They also offer additional opportunities to collaborate for conservation. With these sites, the NPS welcomed in new partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, the City of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation, and the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are the stewards of these sites, respectively. Welcome aboard! Learn more...
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Figure 4. Gray seal pups, photo by NOAA Fisheries

Science and Conservation in Action

Muskeget Island NNL, off the western end of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts has been at the center of gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) recovery in U.S. North Atlantic waters. In the 50 years since passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, the seals have gone from nearly absent in U.S. waters to now 3,000 to 4,000 pups born annually on Muskeget. It is the oldest and largest pupping colony in the U.S. with a 30-year data set demonstrating a steady and significant increase in gray seals. Informally called "horse heads" due to their large, curved noses, female gray seals weigh in at 300-400 lbs and males are up to 800 lbs. Travelling from Canadian waters, the seals have reoccupied historical habitat and established multiple, growing pupping colonies off the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts. Muskeget has proven to be an attractive and successful pupping site, likely due to its isolation and distance from the mainland and constantly shifting shallow shoals that provide a buffer from disturbance and predators. Monitoring of gray seal recolonization and recovery in the U.S. began on Muskeget in 1988 and now includes nine known pupping colonies.

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Figure 5. Aerial look at gray seals scattered across Muskeget Island NNL, photo by Doug Lindley.

NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center and its partners study the abundance, distribution, and health of gray seals along the New England coast. Conducting their field work in January, estimated to be the peak of the December to February gray seal pupping season, researchers employ satellite and acoustic tags to monitor dispersal and survival and drones to assess seal distribution and abundance. They also routinely take to the air by plane to conduct aerial surveys from the Canadian border to Long Island, NY to monitor recolonization of habitats and estimate range-wide population numbers. Results of their work suggest that the healthy source population from Canada, the species' propensity for dispersal combined with protection from harassment or hunting, and the availability of habitat on Muskeget and other New England islands, has led to recovery of the gray seal in U.S. North Atlantic waters.

Designated an NNL in 1980, Muskeget Island is part of the terminal moraine marking the maximum extent of the last glacial ice sheet to reach the northeastern coast. It is the only known locality where the Muskeget beach vole (Microtus breweri) is found and is one of the southernmost breeding areas for gray seal. The island's private and municipal owners provide stewardship to keep Muskeget forever wild. More information about gray seal recovery and monitoring is available at NOAA's website (Researchers Return to Study Gray Seal Pups in New England | NOAA Fisheries; Aerial Surveys Monitor Growing Gray Seal Populations off the Northeastern United States | NOAA Fisheries) and in a 2020 Journal of Mammalogy article (Rates of increase in gray seal (Halichoerus grypus atlantica) pupping at recolonized sites in the United States, 1988–2019 | Journal of Mammalogy | Oxford Academic (oup.com)).

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Figure 6. (Top) 3D cloud map of Grand Caverns NNL in VA; (L) James Madison University team collecting mapping data via LiDar; (R) JMU mapping team; all photos by Dr. Angel Garcia Jr.

Grand Caverns, located in Augusta and Rockingham Counties, Virginia, was designated an NNL in 1973 for its unique cave features including shield formations, draperies, flowstone, stalactites and stalagmites. The town of Grottoes manages the cave, and in April 2021 they partnered with Dr. Angel A. Garcia Jr. and his students from James Madison University (JMU) to create a 3D map of the cave. Using a handheld LiDAR scanner, the team was able to quickly and accurately capture and review data without the need for GPS or other complicated setups. The resulting 3D point cloud is being used to help measure speleothems, monitor the human impact on the cave, as well as print 3D models of the cave, providing an awesome way to connect people with this amazing, complex underground world. This project also provided a fantastic hands-on opportunity for the JMU undergraduate students to learn and test out cutting-edge equipment, and see first-hand the value of the resulting data for management, education and inspiration.

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Figure 7. Citizen scientist collecting data as part of the Garret Mountain Reservation Bioblitz, photo by Sany Sorkin (FoGMR).

Friends of Garret Mountain Reservation (FoGMR) and Passaic County Parks and Recreation sponsored a Bioblitz at Garret Mountain Reservation (part of the Great Falls of Paterson-Garret Mountain NNL) and nearby Rifle Camp Park. For 24 hours on June 11-12, citizen-scientists recorded as many species as possible using iNaturalist and eBird, documenting over 200 total species, including 51 bird species. Expert-led walks and other educational and wildlife-themed activities were offered by FoGMR, Torrey Botanical Society, Montclair Bird Club, Lokai Rose, and the NJ Watershed Ambassador. Bioblitz data will inform future management plans and provide an ecological snapshot to monitor changes over time. Recommendations included posting no-mowing areas where milkweed was detected, enhancing turtle habitat, restoring over-browsed forest understory, and removing documented non-native plant species. Several areas were identified as hot spots or priority areas for protection, including Barbour's Pond and Slippery Rock Brook, the latter found to host a great diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Full Bioblitz results are available on the iNaturalist project page at: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/garret-mountain-reservation-rifle-camp-park-n-j-bioblitz-2021

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Figure 8. ‘Ōpaeˋula pond located within the Makalawena Marsh NNL on the big island of Hawaiʻi.

Project and Site Planning

Makalawena Marsh, located on the Island of Hawaiʻi north of Kona, was designated an NNL in 1972 as one of two remaining ponds in Hawaiʻi that support a resident population of endangered, nonmigratory Hawaiian stilt. ‘Ōpaeˋula pond (also referred to as Kapoʻikai pond), is also a principal nesting site for the unique nonmigratory Hawaiian coot and the only known breeding site for the black-crowned night heron on the Island of Hawaiʻi. The site is also rich in cultural resources, including the wall of an ancient Hawaiian fishpond that remains beneath the surface of the ‘Ōpaeˋula pond. Kamehameha Schools, who own and manage the site, are currently undertaking a long-term planning process to create an Integrated Resources Management Plan (IRMP). The IRMP will provide a road map to balance land management, stewardship, and educational activities, while revitalizing and strengthening the site’s historical and cultural resources and identity. Seeking public input and greater clarity of the regulatory permitting requirements early in the planning process has enabled the planning team to shift and adapt where needed, such that the final result will be a plan that is both implementable and endorsed by all stakeholders. Protection and conservation of natural and cultural resources remain a cornerstone of the IRMP and as the planning process moves forward, the plan continues to emphasize the importance of the nationally significant values for which Makalawena Marsh was designated an NNL.

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Figure 9. Attendees at the garland cutting ceremony for Garret Mountain Reservation's new butterfly garden, photo courtesy of Passaic County.

Collaboration and Connected Conservation

Collaborations

A month after the Bioblitz, a garland cutting ceremony was held in July 2021 at Garret Mountain Reservation's new 30 x 80 butterfly garden. The collaborative effort was planned and coordinated by the Friends of Garret Mountain Reservation (FoGMR) and funded by Bergen County Audubon Society, Passaic County Board of County Commissioners/City Green, and FoGMR. Deer fencing around the garden was built by Passaic County Parks and Recreation, plants were donated by NJ Dept of Environmental Protection Master Gardeners, and FoGMR volunteers did the planting. Their work resulted in an educational showcase garden providing new habitat that will attract more butterflies and species to Garret Mountain. Garret Mountain, one of Passaic County’s most frequented parks, is part of the Great Falls of Paterson-Garret Mountain NNL, designated in 1967 for its excellent illustration of jointed basaltic lava flow. In addition to its significant geology, this site is a prime location for increasing public awareness of the plight and import of pollinators.
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Figure 10. (L) Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) member sampling at Ell Pond NNL, August 2021, photo by RINHS; and (R) up-close look at a dragonfly larva from sampling at Lilley Cornett Woods NNL in KY, photo by Eastern Kentucky University.

Connected Conservation

2021 marked the fifth year NNL sites have participated in the Dragonfly-Mercury Project. Appreciation goes out to staff and volunteers at Bear Meadows Natural Area, PA, East Inlet Natural Area, NH, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, MD, Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, TX, Lilley Cornett Woods, KY, and Ell Pond, RI for their time and efforts to contribute important data points to this long-term, collaborative project. And a special shout-out to Bear Meadows Natural Area and East Inlet Natural Area that have participated in all five years! All years of dragonfly mercury summary data are now available at https://wim.usgs.gov/geonarrative/dmpdatadashboard/ and additional project information, including an interactive story map, can be found here https://www.nps.gov/articles/dragonfly-mercury-project.htm.

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Figure 11. Bartholomew's Cobble NNL, with its diversity of habitats, signs onto the Upper Housatonic Valley's Pollinator Resolution, photo by Jeffrey Sotek.

Pledging allegiance to support pollinators and their habitats, Bartholomew's Cobble NNL, MA joined Housatonic Heritage's Pollinator Resolution in spring 2021. The Upper Housatonic Valley in CT and MA is among a number of National Heritage Areas leading the Operation Pollination initiative in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS). Through public-private partnerships, education, research, and on the ground actions, Operation Pollination aims to collaboratively and strategically protect pollinator species and enhance their habitat. The Trustees of Reservations expressed their commitment to maintain and improve native and host plant diversity, provide nesting and overwintering habitats, and conduct programs and outreach celebrating pollinators and educating visitors at Bart's Cobble and other preserves. Designated in 1971, Bartholomew's Cobble is considered the greatest natural concentration of fern species in the country and hosts a remarkable diversity of habitats and flora. For more on Operation Pollination or Bartholomew's Cobble, please visit: Operation Pollination - Housatonic Heritage, Bartholomew's Cobble - The Trustees of Reservations, National Heritage Areas and Partners Embrace “Operation Pollination” (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

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Figure 12. Webpages and social media posts about NNLs as part of April's Connected Conservation communication theme.
Connected Conservation (C2) was the National Park Service’s monthly communication theme for April 2021. Every day was dedicated to highlighting connected conservation successes and encouraging engagement in actions that contribute to conserving cultural and natural resources across the country. NNLs, and the many partners stewarding these significant sites, were the spotlight for April 3rd. While not all NNL sites are open for public visitation, the majority of them are, and this provided a great opportunity to highlight those NNLs and help connect the public with nearby sites. To discover what NNLs are in your neighborhood, explore this interactive web map (https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/what-are-the-nnls-in-your-neighborhood.htm). All the C2 stories from that month can be found here https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/30-days-of-connected-conservation.htm
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Figure 13. National Fossil Day 2021 logo

Connecting Through National Celebrations

National and International celebrations of the Earth’s various diverse natural features provide a great opportunity to connect sites across the landscape and for sites to share about those resources with their local communities.

National Fossil Day (NFD) has been held every October for 12 years running. Hosted by the NPS and the American Geosciences Institute, the annual event promotes the scientific and educational value of paleontology and the importance of preserving fossils for future generations. The NNL Program was excited to further it’s partnership with the NPS’ Paleontological Program by providing more web presence about paleo resources at NNLs, alongside information about such resources at units of the national park system, providing a more holistic educational opportunity for web visitors. A couple of these new and updated web pages can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/dinosaurs.htm, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/index.htm.

NNL Program staff reached out to owners and managers at nearly 60 NNL sites that contain significant paleo resources to share these websites and paleo educational materials, as a way to encourage and support participation by NNLs in this nationwide celebration. Landmark sites can visit this website https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/get-involved.htm for ideas on how to engage in 2022. Reach out to your regional NNL coordinator for paleo materials or to share your NFD stories.

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Figure 14. NNLs celebrate the IYCK: (L to R) NNL caves booklet made into a poster and displayed around the visitor center at Luray Caverns, VA; Tumbling Creek Cave, MO as showcased over Twitter; and Jan Knox's wining artwork of Natural Bridge Caverns, TX as part of the IYCK art contest.
2021 also brought international awareness to cave and karst resources with declaration of the International Year of Cave and Karst (IYCK). Created by the International Union of Speleologists (UIS), organizations and agencies worldwide joined forces in celebration of the Earth's caves and karst landscapes and to offer opportunities to teach about and connect people to these amazing resources. Similar to NFD, the NNL Program sought to connect and support owners and managers of cave and karst NNLs, reaching out to nearly 50 NNL sites with information about resources to aid participation in this global celebration. Cave and karst NNL sites across the country took up the call to share and find creative ways to connect visitors to these important resources. And, given the continued limitations on events and gatherings due to the COVID pandemic, IYCK organizers have extended the celebration through 2022. Information about IYCK, including finding and announcing events, can be found online at http://iyck2021.org/, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/caves/nps-celebrates-2021-iyck.htm. Reach out to your regional NNL coordinator for cave and karst educational materials or to share your IYCK stories. To explore some of the fascinating NNL caves, visit the NNL caves page, part of the Illustrating America’s Natural Heritage series at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nnlandmarks/nnlartwork_caves.htm.
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Figure 15. Large old-growth tree at Meltzer Woods NNL in IN; photo provided with permission by Shawndra Miller, Central Indiana Land Trust.

NNLs Making a Splash

Honoring Legends

Meltzer Woods, designated an NNL in 1974, is a much-loved nature preserve in Central Indiana. It is one of the few remnant, old growth forests throughout the state, offering a window into what much of Indiana looked like before European settlement. This NNL and preserve is Central Indiana Land Trust’s most visited property, beloved by the community and a destination for many visitors from outside the local area. One of only 12 remaining examples of Indiana’s early natural character, this 60-acre old growth forest remained undisturbed thanks to the dedication of the Meltzer family, whose ownership dates to 1857. Phillip Meltzer, who died in August 2020 at age 94, was instrumental in having the land dedicated as a state nature preserve in 2014.
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Figure 16. E. Lucy Braun, photo from University of Cincinnati historic photos collection. https://libapps.libraries.uc.edu/liblog/2014/12/emma-lucy-braun-pioneer-plant-ecologist/
A local hero to the Central Indiana Land Trust, they are honoring Mr. Meltzer’s legacy through the purchase of 35 acres adjacent to the woods, with plans for restoration through tree planting to create additional habitat for sensitive species like the Eastern box turtle and migratory warblers. https://conservingindiana.org/2020/12/14/a-legacy-of-land-protection/

Meltzer Woods also provided the perfect setting to highlight another forestry hero, E. Lucy Braun. In November 2020 the Land Trust collaborated with the local arts community on a guided hike, “A Giant in Her Field.” Participants came face to face with this foremother of the land protection field, whose 19th-century research and advocacy directly inform the Land Trust’s present-day strategic plan. Sharing the importance of restoring nature’s balance, Braun spoke to the need for protection, stewardship, and expansion of special places like Meltzer Woods. https://conservingindiana.org/2020/11/12/a-giant-in-her-field/
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Figure 17. Guided nature hike during anniversary celebration for Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve. Photo courtesy of Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves.

Celebrating Landmarks

Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve, managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is a high quality, undisturbed loess hill prairie situated near the Mississippi River in southwest Illinois. This site was established as a nature preserve in 1961 and designated an NNL, 25 years later, in 1986. To mark the 50th anniversary of the preserve’s establishment and five decades of protecting and restoring this special landscape, community members and supporters gathered in celebration on October 9, 2021. Superintendent Chris Collins, from nearby Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, joined representatives from the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and other conservation partners to mark the occasion. Representing the National Park Service and the NNL Program, Superintendent Collins spoke about the importance of conserving and recognizing places like Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve. The public enjoyed tours of the site where past and present staff discussed the natural history, management, and restoration efforts. The event was a great opportunity for the public and local conservation partners to connect and hear about the work underway at the site.

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Figure 18. Ceremony held in 1971 celebrating the designation of the Manatee Springs as an NNL.

Quinquagenary Anniversaries

Twenty-two sites were designated as NNLs in 1971 and thus celebrated their quinquagenary anniversary in 2021. All sites were designated by Secretary of the Interior Rogers C. B. Morton, 9 of them in mid-June and the remaining 13 in early October of that year. Happy 50 years!

Hawaii

Kanahā Pond

Kentucky

Lilley Cornett Woods

Missouri

Grand Gulf

New Hampshire

Franconia Notch

New Jersey

Riker Hill Fossil Site

Oregon

Crown Point

Tennessee

Savage Gulf

Washington

Nisqually Delta

Washington

Point Of Arches

Alabama

Shelta Cave

Colorado

Garden Of the Gods

Connecticut

Bartholomew's Cobble

Florida

Ichetucknee Springs

Florida

Manatee Springs

Florida

Rainbow Springs

Florida

Silver Springs

Missouri

Maramec Spring

Texas

Devil's Sinkhole

Texas

Enchanted Rock

Texas

Ezell's Cave

Texas

Longhorn Cavern

Texas

Natural Bridge Caverns

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Figure 19. Poster celebrating the 50th anniversary for NNL designation of Devil's Sinkhole, TX

The five Texas NNLs designated in 1971 celebrated their golden anniversaries over an October weekend full of festivities held at Devil’s Sinkhole in Rocksprings, TX. Sonora Caverns, another central Texas NNL, attended the event, as did representatives from six nearby state parks. Over 500 people enjoyed presentations from cave and karst experts such as Dr. George Veni, Nyta Brown, and Master Naturalists from Kerrville and Fredericksburg. These professionals told the stories of the Hill Country in central Texas where ancient shallow seas deposited shells and bones, which turned into the limestone that contains thousands of caves across the region. These caves and other subterranean features provide shelter to tens of millions of bats. Fortunately, the summer’s persistent rain held off during the two-day event so attendees could enjoy the spectacle of millions of bats exiting Devil’s Sinkhole and flying off into the sunset. The San Antonio Astronomy Association concluded the commemoration with stargazing on the second night. http://www.ntxe-news.com/artman/publish/article_126269.shtml

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Figure 20. Hawley Bog bronze NNL plaque in original overgrown location (L) and refurbished in its new prominent location (R), latter photo by Rene Wendell, MA TNC.

Raising Awareness

Interpretive and Plaque Displays

Despite the uncertainty surrounding its exact location, the bronze plaque at Hawley Bog NNL was rediscovered along a former, overgrown roadway near the bog. Easily removed from the large boulder upon which it was mounted, the plaque was shipped to the metal foundry for restoration. With a refurbished plaque in-hand, a quarzite boulder supplied by the Town of Hawley, and funds provided by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Five Colleges, Inc., the plaque was successfully mounted in the fall of 2020 in a new and prominent location along the main trail into the bog; once again proclaiming to all visitors the site’s significance and special status as an NNL. The unique northern sphagnum-heath bog, situated adjacent to the historic Hawley Town Common, is TNC's most visited property in Massachusetts. https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/hawley-bog-preserve/?redirect=https-301

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Figure 21. NNL bronze plaque now on display at Butler Cave-Breathing Cave, VA, photo by Gregg Clemmer.

Butler Cave-Breathing Cave, located in Virginia, includes two major cave systems that contain a 40-foot waterfall, a natural bridge, unusually fine “floating” crystalline formations, and an underground lake. Although designated an NNL in 1973, it wasn’t until 2021 that a bronze NNL plaque was displayed at the site. Along with the newly displayed plaque, the Butler Cave Conservation Society, who own and manage the cave, have recently completed other above-ground projects including construction of a short Karst Educational Trail and kiosk that provides information about the cave, trails and the NNL designation.

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Figure 22. John Day Fossil Beds NNL plaques, original situated within the Cant Ranch and newly installed plaque with NNL resources in the background.

John Day Fossil Beds was designated an NNL in 1966 in recognition of its nearly continuous 45-million-year fossil record representing most of the Cenozoic Era, the “Age of Mammals and Flowering Plants.” When the NNL was established, the commemorative bronze plaque was affixed to a large boulder on the grounds of the Cant Ranch, a working ranch at the time. This site is now a National Register property within John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (JODA), administered by the National Park Service. While the ranch offers visitors the opportunity to experience eastern Oregon’s ranching heritage, the site of the original plaque is hard to find and has no relation to the significant resources behind the NNL designation.

According to the principles of Freeman Tilden, who is often considered the father of heritage interpretation, “Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.” Put simply, location matters. Inspired by this principle, and a desire to better interpret the significance of the NNL, park staff sought a new plaque location. However, as the original plaque is now a contributing historic feature of the ranch, the park was provided with a duplicate bronze plaque in 2021. The new plaque was installed at the end of the Sheep Rock Overlook Trail that showcases the NNL in a manner that would presumably make Freeman Tilden proud were he still alive today. The NNL plaque is now also situated nearby a plaque placed in 1954, honoring the contributions of the 19th-century geologist, naturalist, and natural history professor Thomas Condon, who first recognized the international significance of the fossil beds. Together, these two plaques memorialize the significance of the natural resources at JODA and the people who advocated for its protection and scientific research.

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Figure 23. Sample pages from recently published workbook – “Guide to the Mima Mounds”.

Educational Products

Mima Mounds NNL, located in western Washington, was established as a state Natural Area Preserve in 1976 to protect the rare examples of a landform known as Mima mounds. These unusual geological features are small, irregularly spaced hills, ranging in size from barely perceptible to up to seven feet tall and are found throughout the southern Puget Sound. Many hypotheses exist on what exactly created the Mima mounds, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources recently created a new educational guide exploring the various theories and illustrating the possibilities in a fun, creative manner. The booklet can be explored and downloaded here https://www.dnr.wa.gov/publications/ger_mima_mounds_booklet.pdf.

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Figure 24. Collage of NNL prehistoric life coloring pages.

Across the country, there are many NNLs that contain significant fossil evidence of ancient times. To connect younger audiences with the wonders of these prehistoric species, the NNL Program recently teamed up with the NPS Paleontology Program to develop prehistoric life coloring pages. Some of these include world-famous places like Rancho La Brea in California where natural asphalt tar pits entrapped Pleistocene animals in their quest for fresh water, and Ghost Ranch in New Mexico where well-preserved skeletons of the Triassic dinosaur Coelophysis have been exposed. Other sites contain evidence and fossils of ancient coral reefs, woolly mammoths, prehistoric bears, and more. These coloring pages are available for download at https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/nnl-prehistoric-life-coloring-pages.htm. Additional coloring pages representing prehistoric life from National Park System units are also available for download here https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/coloring-book.htm.

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Figure 25. Lidar image of the Drumheller Channels showing the deeply scoured ice age flood terrain, image by Daniel Coe, WA Department of Natural Resources.

Digital Media

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey recently released a virtual guide to Washington’s geologic heritage called Washington 100. Offering 100 places to experience the state’s geology up close, the site entices visitors to explore the state’s scenic landscapes “along its craggy Pacific coastline, across its alpine crest, and into its eastern scablands.”

Ten of the 100 sites presented are also NNLs, capturing over half of the state’s 18 landmark sites. Organized into seven provinces within the state, these are the NNLs that help tell the state’s geologic story:

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Figure 26. Steptoe and Kamiak Buttes NNL, WA; photo by Joe Rocchio.

Within the Columbia Basin:

  • Grand Coulee NNL, includes Steamboat Rock, an impressive, 800-foot-tall butte that is a remnant of an ancient waterfall formed by the ice age floods, and Dry Falls, a 3.5-mile-wide chasm of basalt, with a 400-foot drop that was created and left dry by the ice age floods that swept through the Grand Coulee region 12,000 to 15,000 years ago.
  • Drumheller Channels NNL, provides a spectacular example of butte-and-basin terrain, a landscape known as the Channeled Scablands, characterized by hundreds of small, isolated, steep-sided buttes surrounded by ancient, braided stream channels that have since dried up.
  • Steptoe and Kamiak Buttes NNL, highlights Steptoe Butte, which is a distinctive quartzite hill that rises above the Palouse north of Colfax.
  • Wallula Gap NNL, is famous as the constriction where the massive ice age floods were temporarily restricted and delayed on their journey to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Umtanum Ridge Water Gap NNL includes Yakima Canyon where huge folds in the landscape created by the north–south plate tectonic compression of the North American continent can be seen.
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Figure 27. Point of Arches NNL within Olympic National Park.
Within the Olympic Peninsula:
  • Point of Arches NNL is the southern end of Shi Shi Beach and features more than 30 sea stacks stretching out into the ocean.
Within the Puget Lowlands:
  • Mima Mounds NNL, highlights small, irregularly spaced hills (Mima mounds), ranging in size from barely perceptible to up to seven feet tall, found on glacial outwash prairies in the southern Puget lowland.
  • Nisqually Delta NNL, is located on the tidal flats of the Nisqually River in Southern Puget Sound and provides valuable habitat for migratory waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and wading birds.
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Figure 28. Nisqually Delta NNL within the Nisqually Delta National Wildlife Refuge, photo by Aaron Nelson
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Figure 29. A snippet of "A Dinosaur Freeway" webpage featuring information about such resources as understood through NNLs and National Park System units.

Important paleontological resources, and the stories associated with their discovery and importance to science, are not only found within units of the National Park System, but also at designated NNL and National Historic Landmark (NHL) sites. Thus, the NPS has been working to provide a more integrated online learning experience.

Unveiled for National Fossil Day 2021, the Age of Dinosaurs website features basic dino-related information, insights into the time periods dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and provides the portal through which information about dino-related park, NNL and NHL sites can be accessed. For example, when exploring the webpages linked to each of the three Mesozoic Periods (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous), online visitors can discover the NNL Program’s Telling the Dinosaur Story 3-part video series, a listing of NNLs featuring fossils from that time period, as well as any NHL sites designated for their tie to the science-story.

Two dinosaur trackway NNLs, Morrison-Golden Fossil Areas, CO and Dinosaur Trackway, CT are prominently featured on the Dinosaur Freeway page, and some of the aforementioned NNL fossil coloring pages appear in the NPS' set of Prehistoric Life in National Parks & NNLs Coloring Pages. NNL content is woven throughout the website; on the Dinosaurs in the Fossil Record, Famous Dinosaurs, Where Dinosaurs Roamed and other pages. The latter including a nation-wide map of both National Historic and National Natural Landmark dinosaur fossil sites.

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Figure 30. New seashores and mountains artwork as part of Illustrating America's Natural Heritage.

Illustrating America’s Natural Heritage

The NNL Program was pleased to release the fourth set of artwork pieces in 2021, which illustrate seashores and mountains. Along with the illustrations of caves, waterfalls, swamps and prairies, these eye-catching graphic pieces visually portray the beauty and broad diversity of outstanding biological and geological features represented at NNL sites across the country.

These works, along with information about the natural feature and places where they can be found, are included on the NNL Program website. Learn more...

NNL Program Staff

Seven NPS employees are committed to advancing the work of the NNL Program and supporting landmark owners.

  • Adrienne Lindholm, (AK)

  • Carolyn Davis, (AL, FL, GA, KY, MD, MS, NC, Puerto Rico, SC, TN, VA, VI, WV)

  • Deb DiQuinzio, (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT)

  • Jeff Orlowski, (AR, AZ, CO, KS, MT, ND, NE, NM, OK, SD, TX, WY, UT)

  • Laurie Lee Jenkins, (Am. Samoa, CA, Guam, HI, ID, NV, OR, WA)

  • Leo Acosta, (IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, OH, WI)

  • Heather Eggleston, Program Manager

Full contact information can be found on the NNL Program website nps.gov/orgs/1211/contactus.htm.

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Figure 31. NNL Program staff during a virtual staff planning call.

Part of a series of articles titled Landmark Highlights.

Last updated: March 22, 2022