Tag Archives: mountains

Fontana Lake (Smokey Mountains, North Carolina)

Fontana Lake
* Smokey Mountains National Park, Fontana Dam, North Carolina *

Named after the Italian word for “fountain”, Fontana Lake is named after the flooded town of Fontana, which was the Smokey Mountains infamous lumber and copper-mining hub back in the day at the mouth of Eagle Creek. Now a reservoir contained by Fontana Dam on the Little Tennessee River. The lake creates the southern boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, separating it from the Nantahala National Forest. The depth, length, and width of the lake varies with the seasons and flood controls by the dam, but at its greatest containment measures approximately 17 miles long with a maximum elevation of approximately 1,710 feet above sea level. The lake is measured as being over 10,230 acres. The lake houses many inlets, coves, and islands formed from former mountain peaks from when it was land, especially by the eastern edge. Many hiking trails weave their ways around the lake, and the lake itself gives access to some of the more remote areas of the National Park. The apalachian trail crosses the top of the dam. Fontana Dam, the tallest dam in the eastern U.S., is a hydro-electric dam along the Little Tennessee River that manages the lake and its levels. This was built in the 1940’s.

Cheoah Lake/River/Dam, Fontana Dam, NC

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Australia’s Snowy Mountains

Australia’s Snowy Mountains

New South Wales, Australia

On the road from Canberra to Albury, one will past the historical and breath-taking “Snowy Mountains” of Australia. Built within this alpine paradise for Australia’s skiiers and snowboarders is a hydro-electricity and irrigation complex called “The Snowy Mountains Scheme” which is built up of 16 major dams, 7 power stations, a pumping station, and over 225 kilometers of pipeline, tunnels, and aquaducts. These were built from 1949 to 1974 by Sir William Hudson and represents the largest engineering project ever achieved in Australia to date of this article. (Though with Australia’s growth and development, that is sure to change) This scheme, is nationally a symbol of Australia’s independence, and represents their ability to stand on their own, individually, multiculturally, and in control of their resources as the country slowly wanes away from Britian. The scheme captures high elevation run-off and water resources to divert inland into the Murrambidgee and Murray Rivers through two tunnel systems burrowed in the Snowy Mountains. The 800 meter fall of the water through the power stations generates clean, renewable, peak-loaded power for the states of Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory.

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Volcano National Park


Big Island

Volcano National Park
Volcano, Big Island, Hawaii
One of Hawaii’s most notorious and famous National Parks, “Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park” was established in 1916 as a National Park, a International Biosphere Reserve in 1980, and a World Heritage Site in 1987 to demonstrate the history and living geological experiene of volcanism, geology, and techtonics. It covers the creative process of land masses, the science of volcanoes, migration, and evolution of land from the sea. It also covers the complex history of Polynesian travellers and their inhabitation of the Hawaiian Islands. The protective boundaries of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kilauea and Mauna Loa provides dramatic and creative volcanic landscapes in action. The National Park encompasses over 520 square miles of land for science, outdoor recreation, and preservation of nature and geology. It is a thriving mecca for observation, tourism, scientific study, hiking, and camping opportunities covering diverse environments ranging from the ocean/beach landscapes, lush tropical rainforests, arrid/barren deserts, and icy mountainous peaks. It hosts active volcanic eruption sites such as the Kilauea Caldera, Pu’u ‘O’o vent, and the Eastern Rift Zone. Historically, Kilauea and the Halema’uma’u caldera were considered the sacred home of Pele and traditionally were the location of offerings/sacrifices of gifts to the Goddess. A 1970 explosive eruption demolished a war party in the area killing men, women, and children leaving imprints of footprints in the lava that can be found in the desert. The first European visitors to the volcano were English missionaries William Ellis and American Asa Thurston in 1823 contributing greatly to the written word, publications, poems, literature and art that focused on the area that is now a National Park. More tourists were attracted to the area in the 1840’s settling entrepreneurs building hotels in the area from 1891 to 1904. In 1903, William R. Castle proposed the idea of making a park out of the area. In 1908 Thurston entertained James Rudolph Garfield, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior at the time, as well as a congressional delegation in 1909. By 1911, Governor Walter F. Frear drafted a bill to create “Kilauea National Park”. Boundary disputes stalled the idea, but by 1916 House Resolution 9525 signed by Woodrow Wilson made “Hawaii National Park” the 11th National Park in the United States. In 1960 it was split from the Haleakala National Park that it was a percentage part of. By 2004, an additional 115,788 acres were added to the Park (formerly of Kahuku Ranch) creating the largest land acquisition in Hawaiian history for 21.9 million dollars. A major explosion on March 19, 2008 sent debris over 74 acres damaging the Halema’uma’u overlook. A 1,100 ft lava tube on the park grounds was named after the Thurston family as “Thurston Lava Tube”. Several other hotspots of interest were developed in the Park such as the 1790 Footprints, the Ainapo Trail, Kilauea Caldera Crater, Puna-Ka’u Historic District, Ainahou Ranch, Volcano House, Whitney Seismograph Vault No. 29, Wilkes Campsite, art galleries, Thomas Jaggar Museum, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Bookstore, Gift Shop, Kilauea Military Camp, and the Visitor Center. Directions: The main entrance is located off the Hawaii Belt Road in Volcano, Big Island. From the Hawaii Belt Road, one used to be able to take the Chain of Craters Road past several craters to the coast near the town of Kalapana, but recent lava flows and eruptions have demolished the roads near the coastal zone. The park is one of America’s best National Parks. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.


Halema’uma’u Crater / Kilauea Caldera

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Bridal Veil Falls (Telluride, Colorado)


Bridal Veil Falls
Telluride, Colorado

One of the spectacular beauties of Telluride are the stunning Bridal Veil Falls. A towering water fall dropping 365 feet at the end of the box canyon overlooking Telluride. Hiking and off road trails pass by the falls and there resides a power plant at its top. During the winter the frozen falls create a otherworldly art form. Atop the falls is a house owned by Eric Jacobson who restored the power plant. This plant provides for over 25 percent of Telluride’s need for energy. In the 1990s the falls were opened to ice climbers but since it regained private property status again that changed. The area around the falls is subject to avalanche and environmental conditions. Reaching the top can be challenging at times. The falls are awe inspiring and definitely a great viewpoint. On our 5/31/09 visit, we were unable to make it up to them and could only admire Bridal Veils from afar, but that was far worth the inspiration. Someday I hope to climb up to them and enjoy close-up.




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Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park* http://www.nps.gov/shen/ * Shenandoah National Park, 3655 US Hwy 211 East, Luray, Virginia 22835 * 540.999.3500

What a beautiful day for a beautiful drive through Shenandoah National Park. Having roughly 1/2 a day to explore, I decided to drive from the Front Ryal (North) Entrance Station down to Big Meadows (Dark Hollow Falls) and then make my way down hwy 33 at Swift Run Gap back towards civilization. I figured a nice day hike and absorbing the panoramic overlooks would be a nice afternoon in the park, and I was right. Much natural beauty, scenic overlooks, abundant wildlife, and fabulous hiking trails. There are Park service gift shops and information centers all along the route as well as places where you can get food. The scenic roadway, also known as “Skyline Drive” follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. The National Park empties out on its southern entrance into the Blue Ridge Parkways which stretches 469 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Skyline Drive is a narrow mountain road with beautiful vistas and wildflowers along the shoulders and hosts over 75 scenic overlooks with each of their own unique panoramas. Shenandoah hosts over 500 miles of trails for the hiker – detailed maps can be obtained at the visitor centers and www.snpbooks.org or downloaded from the above Park Service link. The park like all parks are a sanctuary and home to numerous plants, animals, and historic objects. Excellent park, will definitely be back. Rating: 5 stars out of 5. Visited 5/23/08.

view from Skyline Drive
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George Washington Memorial Parkway

side park off GW

George Washington Memorial Parkway* http://www.nps.gov/gwmp/ * Washington, D.C.

Often nicknamed “The Road to Adventure” which was suitable as it gave me my route out of D.C. to the famous Shenandoah National Park. Locals call it “GW Parkway”. This memorial parkway is managed by the National Park Service and was designed as a gateway and greenway for the Nation’s capital. Most of the natural areas on the Parkway have no admission fee, though Great Falls Park does. The CIA’s headquarters are also in the Parks. The parkway is located mostly in Northern Virginia though a small section passes over Columbia Island which is within the District of Columbia. Its joined by Washington Street (SR 400) in Alexandria, Virginia; then runs with Clara Barton Parkway that runs on the opposite side of the Potomac River in DC and Motgomery County, Maryland. There was a fourth section planned but it was never built.

overlooking the Potomac
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