These 5 ecological phenomena will help you see the country with fresh eyes
By Greg Barbera
I don’t need to remind you that America is a big country with millions of unique features. But we could all use a nudge now and then to leave our local environs. Below are five of Mother Nature’s most majestic U.S. creations. Pack the whole family into another majestic U.S. creation—your Chevrolet Traverse—and enjoy a fun-filled, quintessentially American vacation.
Just six miles south off Interstate 40 (historic Rte. 66) in central Arizona, the crater is a sight to behold. It measures a mile across and 570 feet deep. The impact has been dated to 50,000 years ago. You’ll feel like you are on the set of a science fiction movie when you gaze into and around the gargantuan crater. The Visitors Center shows a 10-minute movie in its 80-seat widescreen theater, which simulates the meteor’s collision. After a visit, you’ll gain a new perspective on our place in the universe.
The Falls are the oldest state park in the United States. Located in New York, as you look across the gorge into Canada, ponder the fact that this collection of waterfalls was formed from receding glaciers during the last Ice Age almost two million years ago. The falls are as amazing to hear as they are to see; nearly six million liters of water per second thunder over the falls into the river 170 feet below. Water hits the base of Horseshoe Falls at 2,509 tons of force. Niagara Falls can produce over 4 million kilowatts of electricity. That’s some powerful stuff!
Erupting every 91 minutes, this geyser is the most predictable geographic feature on Earth (hence the name). Gallons of water are shot an average of 145 feet in the air—quite a spectacle to see in the middle of the Great Plains. Old Faithful is located in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, also home to one of the world’s largest petrified forests.
Indigenous to Northern California, giant redwoods can grow up to 300 feet tall and 26 feet in diameter (with the oldest one dating back 3,500 years). These trees are so big you can literally drive a car through one—a few have had tunnels carved out of their trunks. They can be found along California’s coastline; the climate—humid and moist—is perfect for inducing growth, allowing the bark to become almost a foot thick and their branches five feet in diameter.
Any tree that grows in saltwater swamps can generally be described as a mangrove. Mangroves can be found around marine shorelines and estuaries, where they live in a world of high and low tides; they also act as a barrier against erosion and storm surge. The Florida Keys, then, are an ideal environment for mangrove forests to flourish. They are native to the state, after all. On a gentle kayak, paddling through Florida’s mangrove-laden swamplands, visitors are likely to encounter any number of rare birds, manatees, bottlenose dolphins, alligators, bears, pumas and more. This is one ecologic adventure you won’t forget.
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Greg Barbera of DadCentric is a dad blogger, beer magazine editor and the singer/bass player for the punk band Chest Pains. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You can follow him on twitter @gregeboy, Tumblr, Facebook, and Blogger.