Illustrating America's Natural Heritage

Sites are designated as national natural landmarks in recognition of specific biological communities, geological landforms or processes, or paleontological resources. The outstanding resources at these sites tell the geological and ecological story of America. To draw attention to and spur learning and appreciation of America’s natural heritage, this page provides an introduction to some of the different natural features that can be found across the country. Newly created artwork pieces portray and celebrate the beauty and diversity of each of these natural features.
digital artwork of a prairie dog standing upright on a hill with another prairie dog behind it on all fours
Prairie artwork produced by Dennis Caldwell for the National Park Service.

Prairies

Characterized by grasses and a near complete absence of trees and large shrubs, prairies provide habitat for a diverse array of critters including bison, antelope, prairie dogs, burrowing owls, spadefoot toads and dung beetles. Historically North America’s most extensive biome, much of this ecosystem has been altered, elevating the importance of remaining prairie and the collaborative efforts to connect, conserve and restore these subtle, yet grand landscapes.

From shortgrass to tallgrass, there are national natural landmarks designated for their outstanding illustration of the different types of prairies found across the country. Some of these include:

Harrell Prairie Hill, MS
May Prairie, TN
Willamette Floodplain, OR
Hayden Prairie, IA
Markham Prairie, IL
Hoosier Prairie, IN
Golden Prairie, MO
Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, NE
Dixon Vernal Pools, CA
Bueyeros Shortgrass Plains, NM
Big Basin Preserve, KS
Buffalo Slough, SD

Did you know?
Prairie dogs, belonging to the Sciuridae (squirrel) family, use complex communication similar to our own. Recent studies show their vocabulary is more advanced than any other animal language that’s been decoded.
digital artwork of a turtle perched at the end of a log sticking out of a swamp
Swamp artwork produced by Dennis Caldwell for the National Park Service.

Swamps

Forested wetlands characterized by slow-moving or still waters, swamps are highly diverse ecosystems teeming with wildlife including river otter, American alligator, flocks of warblers, turtles, frogs and dragonflies. These critically important ecosystems act like giant sponges that moderate the effects of inland flooding and protect coastal areas from storm surges. Swamps also function as water treatment plants, filtering wastes and purifying water naturally.

From cedar to bald cypress-tupelo, there are national natural landmarks designated for their outstanding illustration of the different types of swamps found across the country. Some of these include:

Seashore Natural Area, VA
Francis Beidler Forest, SC
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, MD
Henderson Sloughs, KY
Tamarack Bog Nature Preserve, IN
Heron Pond-Little Black Slough Natural Area, IL
Okefenokee Swamp, GA
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, FL
Acushnet Cedar Swamp, MA
Big Lake Natural Area, AR
Beaverdam Creek Swamp, AL
Chester Cedar Swamp, CT

Did you know?
The bald cypress-tupelo swamps, found in the southeastern United States, are ancient ecosystems. Cypress trees in North and South Carolina have been dated at over 1,500 years, making them the oldest trees east of the Mississippi River.

Last updated: May 16, 2018

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