Wednesday, August 12, 2015

World Heritage Sites in the United States

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage is both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.” —UNESCO World Heritage Convention
The United States is home to 23 of the more than 1000 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites around the globe. These sites are designated for their universal value in natural or cultural heritage and are places as unique and diverse as East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Grand Canyon in the U.S.

Search By State: AlaskaArizonaCaliforniaColoradoFloridaHawai'i,IdahoIllinoisKentuckyLouisianaMontanaNew MexicoNew York,PennsylvaniaPuerto RicoTennesseeTexasVirginiaWashington andWyoming

Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-AlsekAlaskaand Canada

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Glacier Bay National Park
and Preserve (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1979
These parks are an impressive complex of glaciers and high peaks on both sides of the border between Canada and the United States. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve features the largest non-polar icefield in the world and contains examples of some of the world’s longest and most spectacular glaciers. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the U.S. The area offers a myriad of outdoor activities to consider including hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, river trips, kayaking, and biking. You can also hire a guide or outfitter to take you on a river or fishing trip, mountaineering expedition, glacier trek, or sport hunting, backpacking, or flightseeing trip. Choose the type of experience right for you and then discover the majestic peaks and impressive glaciers.

Grand Canyon National ParkArizona

Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
(Don Tackett/
Share the Experience)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1979
The Grand Canyon has been referred to as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is being formed even today by the Colorado River, which charted its course about 17 million years ago. Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide, and a mile (1.6 km) deep. With nearly five million people traveling to the Grand Canyon each year, visitors are encouraged to review numerous options on how and where to access this magnificent canyon.

Redwood National and State ParksCalifornia

Redwood National and State Parks
Redwood National
and State Parks(NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1980
Home to the oldest and tallest trees on earth, the redwood forest hosts remnants of a group of trees that have existed for 160 million years. Here many of these trees exceed 300 feet (100 m) in height. The Redwood National and State Parks also protects vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild river ways and nearly 40 miles (64 km) of pristine coastline. Together the National Park Service and California State Parks manage these lands. Five visitor centers will help visitors enjoy this diverse and profound landscape.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
(Jonathan Dec/
Share the Experience)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984
In the heart of California, Yosemite National Park offers a dramatic landscape and awe-inspiring views. With its hanging valleys, many waterfalls, cirque lakes, polished domes, moraines and u-shaped valleys, Yosemite provides an excellent example of granite monoliths shaped by glaciation. To help you plan ahead for a trip to this popular destination use this helpful travel and lodging information. We recommend that you make advanced reservations and plan ahead to make your trip memorable. Read our Yosemite National Park Campground Reservation Dates and California Gold Rush: Staking Your Claim at Yosemite and Other Popular California Places articles for more information.

Mesa Verde National ParkColorado

Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1978
The exceptional archaeological sites of the Mesa Verde National Park provide testimony to the ancient cultural traditions of Native American tribes and are among the best preserved in the U.S. They represent a graphic link between the past and present ways of life of the Puebloan Peoples of the American Southwest. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. Opportunities vary by season, andadvance planning to this unique location is highly recommended.

Everglades National ParkFlorida

Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park
(Lisa Mulholland/
Share the Experience)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1979
The largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., the 1.5 million-acre (607,028 ha) Everglades National Parkprovides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the West Indian manatee, the American crocodile and the elusive Florida panther. Camping, boating, fishing, hiking, bird watching and ranger-guided programs are just a sampling of things to dothat are popular in the Everglades.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National ParkHawai'i

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai'i Volcanos
National Park (Michael
Leggero/Share the Experience)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1987
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park contains Mauna Loa and Kilauea, two of the world’s most active and accessible volcanoes where ongoing geological processes are easily observed. Scenic vistas accessible by car, a visitor center and walking trails allow visitors to experience this ever-changing landscape. Use the park's plan your visit information to help you map out your trip and pay attention to closures and advisories.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Hawai'i

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
Papahānaumokuākea Marine
National Monument (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 2010
This Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is a vast and isolated linear cluster of small, low-lying islands and atolls and the surrounding ocean. Located roughly 155 miles (250 km) to the northwest of the main Hawai'ian Islands and extending over about 1,200 miles (1,937 km), the area has deep cosmological and traditional significance for the Native Hawai'ian culture and is the largest marine protected area in the world.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic SiteIllinois

Cahokia State Historic Site
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1982
Cahokia was a city like no other at its time. Mississipians who lived here built a wide variety of structures from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that have maintained their grandeur for centuries. The site offers an interpretive center, outdoor self-guided and guided tours, and amenities to keep you fueled for a full day of discovery. Visit Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site for trip-planning advice to this fascinating destination.

Yellowstone National ParkIdaho, Montana and Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
(Blair Wade/Share
the Experience)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1978
Yellowstone National Park contains half of all the world's known geothermal features (10,000) and the world's largest concentration of geysers (more than 300, or two thirds of all those on Earth). It is equally well known for supporting abundant and diverse wildlife such as grizzly bears, wolves, bison and wapitis. Yellowstone is America’s first national park and attracts visitors from around the world. Here is some helpful information about planning a trip to this unique and complex place.

Mammoth Cave National ParkKentucky

Mammoth National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1981
This is the world’s longest known network of caves and underground passageways with explored areas extending for more than 400 miles (644 km). Mammoth Cave National Park supports more than 130 species of flora and fauna and provides rich cave-dwelling wildlife habitat. Visitors can engage in cave tours, surface hikes, canoeing, picnicking, horseback riding, bicycling, camping and more. A quick tour of the park's site before traveling to this destination will help you fully prepare for your underground adventure.

Poverty Point National MonumentLouisiana

Poverty Point National Monument
Poverty Point National Monument
Designated a World Heritage Site in 2015
Now a nearly forgotten culture, Poverty Point at its peak 3,000 years ago was part of an enormous trading network that stretched for hundreds of miles across the continent.Poverty Point National Monument was – and is – an engineering marvel, the product of five million hours of labor. Explore the culture of a highly sophisticated people who left behind one of North America's most important archeological sites. This site, which contains some of the largest prehistoric earth works in North America, is managed by the Louisiana State Parks. Visit the Poverty Point website to plan your visit.

Glacier and Waterton Lakes National ParksMontana and Canada

Glacier National Parks
Glacier National Park (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1995
In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with Glacier National Park, (Montana, United States) to form the world's first International Peace Park. Experience the pristine forest, alpine meadows, rugged mountains and spectacular lakes of this area. More than 700 miles (1,127 km) of trails also offer a hiker's paradise across this dramatic and breath-taking landscape. Plenty of helpful information is available on the park's site as you plan a trip to this stunning alpine landscape.

Carlsbad Caverns National ParkNew Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1995
Beneath this rugged land of rocky slopes and canyons, cactus, grass, thorny shrubs and the occasional tree are more than 118 known caves – all formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone. Carlsbad Cavernis one cave in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. The Plan Your Visit page at Carlsbad Caverns offers helpful information for those planning to explore this underground environment of prehistoric and living organisms.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico

Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Chaco Culture National
Historical Park (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1987
The complex collection of monumental public and ceremonial buildings at Chaco Culture National Historic Park are testament that their builders had a sophisticated understanding of astronomical phenomena. Visitors to this area may get a deeper sense of life and the connection to people who lived here (between 850 and 1250 AD) byexploring Chaco Culture through guided tours, hiking and biking trails, evening campfire talks and night sky programs.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Taos Pueblo (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1992
In the valley of a small tributary of the Rio Grande, the settlement Taos Pueblo represents the culture of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. Adobe dwellings and ceremonial buildings are standing testaments to the enduring culture of a group established in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Also designated a National Historic Landmark, these multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years. Today, Taos Pueblo is a living Native American community.

Statue of Liberty National MonumentNew York

Statue of Liberty National Monument
Statue of Liberty
National Monument (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984
The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States on the 100th anniversary of American independence in 1876 and was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Standing at the entrance to New York Harbor, it has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States ever since. Advance planning is the key to a Statue of Liberty visit.

Independence Hall National Historical ParkPennsylvania

Independence Hall National Historical Park
Independence Hall
National Historical Park (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1979
The Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States were both signed in Independence Hall which is within Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. The universal principles of freedom and democracy set forth in these documents are of fundamental importance to American history and have also had a profound impact on law-makers around the world. Visitors can explore the First and Second Banks of the U.S., Congress Hall, Old City Hall, Franklin Court and Liberty Bell Center, among much more. Also, see our article on Independence Hall for more details.

La Fortaleza and San Juan Historical SitePuerto Rico

San Juan
San Juan Historical Site (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1983
This massive fortification of San Juan features the La Fortaleza, the three forts of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristóbal and San Juan de la Cruz. There is also a large portion of the City Wall, built between the 16th and 19th centuries to protect the city and the Bay of San Juan. Visitors to this historic site can join a rangers' presentation, explore the fortifications, enjoy a video program, and relax and enjoy this Puerto Rican attraction. Kids can visit the Discovery Center where they can join the Little Masons Workshop and get their hands dirty applying stucco in much the same way the masons did centuries ago.

Great Smoky Mountains National ParkTennessee and North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains
National Park (Mitch Truesdale/
Share the Experience)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1983
America's most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts exceptional natural beauty, is home to more than 3,500 plant species, 200 bird species, 66 mammals, 67 species of native fish, 39 varieties of reptiles and 43 species of amphibians. Biological diversity is the hallmark of this park in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, among the oldest mountain ranges in in the world. Auto tours, cycling and hiking trails, camping, fishing and best of all, sightseeing, are some of activities that allow visitors to experience this amazing place. In recognition of the park's unique natural resources, the United Nations also designated Great Smoky Mountains National Park an International Biosphere Reserve. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains site for trip-planning and area information.

San Antonio Missions National Historical ParkTexas

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National
Historical Park (LeighTaylor/
Share the Experience)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 2015
After 10,000 years, the people of south Texas found their cultures, their very lives under attack. In the early 1700s Apache raided from the north, people with deadly diseases traveled from Mexico into the area, and drought lingered. Survival lay in the missions which are now part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. This group of five frontier mission complexes situated along a stretch of the San Antonio River basin in southern Texas, as well as a ranch located 37 kilometres to the south includes architectural and archaeological structures, farmlands, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems. Built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century they illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain. Plan your visitto this historical park.

Monticello and the University of VirginiaVirginia

Monticello and the University of Virginia
Monticello and the
University of Virginia (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1987
Monticello was designed by Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the American Declaration of Independence. A short distance away from Monticello, in Charlottesville, he also designed his ideal academic village, the University of Virginia. The integration of the buildings into the natural landscape, the originality of the plan and design, and the refined proportions and décor make Monticello an outstanding example of a neoclassical work of art, while the University of Virginia is an outstanding example of a great educational institution from the Age of Enlightenment.

Olympic National ParkWashington

Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park (NPS)
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1981
Olympic National Park features spectacular Pacific Ocean coastline, scenic lakes, majestic mountains and glaciers, and magnificent temperate rainforest. These diverse ecosystems are like visiting three different parks in one. You can begin your experience at any one of five visitor centers for more details about maximizing this coastal experience.

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