Plymouth Rock By December of 1620, after a long Atlantic voyage, the English Separatist William Bradford and his crew had explored several landing spots along the North American coast. They'd rejected various locations after having conflicts with indigenous people. Finally, according to legend, Bradford and his party disembarked on a large boulder, which would eventually be known as Plymouth Rock. They soon declared the surrounding area suitable for their New World settlement, Plymouth Colony. Although the rock has much historical significance, evidently none of the Pilgrims mentioned it in their writings. Knowledge of its location was traditionally passed from parents to their children. In 1741, the 94-year-old Elder Faunce identified Plymouth Rock as the stone his father had pointed out years earlier. Faunce was a somewhat credible source; he had been Plymouth's record keeper for many decades. Still, his father had not been among the original Plymouth settlers; he'd arrived three years later in 1623 and heard the Plymouth Rock story from others. Nevertheless, people accepted Faunce's story and the identified rock took on great patriotic significance. It's estimated that the rock weighed about 20,000 pounds when Bradford and 101 other Mayflower passengers left their ship in 1620. Since then, the rock has lost many sections to souvenir-hunters. It's also been accidentally split in two and eventually reunited. How did Plymouth Rock become split? In 1774, as the Revolutionary spirit took over in Massachusetts Bay Colony, a group of people "animated by the glorious spirit of liberty" intended to move the entire rock to the Plymouth Meeting House. Colonel Theopolis Cotton and a group of "Liberty Boys" prepared a carriage drawn by oxen. As they pulled the rock from the ground, it was unintentionally cracked it in two! Superstitious townspeople believed the divided rock was symbolic of the British Empire. They left the "British half" of the rock in the water. Only the top "liberty half" of the rock was then moved. It soon rested beneath a Meeting House flagpole and a flag that declared "Liberty or Death". The remainder of the rock stayed embedded in the wharf. The next year, a colonial revolutionary would capture British soldiers and, for his amusement, have them step onto Plymouth Rock, a symbol of American independence. The two parts of the rock have experienced a few changes since the 1774 division. In 1834, the top section of the rock was removed to Pilgrim Hall (a museum) and put under the auspices of the historical Pilgrim Society. In 1859, the Pilgrim Society began building a Victorian canopy to cover the piece of rock left at the wharf. The canopy was completed in 1867. Since many bits of the rock were being taken by travelers and shopkeepers for profit, an iron gate was soon erected. In 1880 the top of the rock was moved back to shore and affixed to the bottom portion with cement. At this time, the landing date 1620 was carved. In 1920 the rock was moved yet again. In honor of the 300th anniversary of the Plymouth Rock landing, the entire Plymouth waterfront was redesigned with a promenade and seawall. The cemented rock was moved to the waterfront and a portico was erected for viewers. Today the rock is managed as part of Pilgrim Memorial State Park. Tourists can visit the rock for free year-round. From May through Thanksgiving, staff members are on hand to tell visitors about Plymouth Rock's history. History and Attractions of Boston Common Boston Common is the oldest city park in the United States. The eccentric William Blaxton settled the land, all alone with his books, in the 1620s. In 1634 he sold the land to English Puritan colonists for use as a shared cow and sheep pasture. Each household contributed six shillings to the purchase. Eventually, the land was also used for military training, sometimes by colonists and sometimes by their British occupiers. Until 1817, the land was Boston's site for public hangings. Livestock grazing was banned in 1830. In modern times, Boston Common serves mainly as a recreation center. It anchors Boston's "Emerald Necklace", a chain of parks that runs about seven miles through the city. The park itself measures about forty-four acres. As one of the nation's oldest landmarks, Boston Common has become rich with items of historical interest. The park is home to the Central Burying Ground, one of Boston's first graveyards. Among those buried there are choral composer William Billings, portrait artist Gilbert Stuart, and many casualties of the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. Unfortunately, the subway tunneling of 1894 disturbed more than 900 (perhaps 2,000) of the cemetery's deceased residents! They were later reburied, and a tablet marks the location of the event. Several monuments can be spotted throughout the Common. The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, for example, is a Civil War monument honoring the first free black regiment in the Union Army. (Shaw commanded the all-volunteer regiment and is depicted in the Hollywood film "Glory".) Another impressive Civil War sculpture is The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Located atop the Common's Flagstaff Hill, this neoclassica l work of art rises an impressive 126 feet. Elsewhere, in the park's Parkman Plaza, statues pay homage to the ideals of Industry, Learning, and Religion. With so many acres of green space, the park has hosted many large public events. In 1713 a public riot broke out in response to a food shortage. Two hundred people were present, and the lieutenant governor was shot during the chaos. A century and half later, in 1969, a Vietnam protest drew 100,000 people. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II also drew large crowds for their speeches. The park's Parkman Bandstand holds smaller crowds for plays and concerts. Boston Common is full of longstanding attractions for people of all ages. The Public Garden was established in 1837 as the nation's oldest botanical garden. Prior to that time, the land had been a salty swamp. The 24-acre garden is especially famous for its fleet of swan-shaped boats. Weather permitting, visitors ride the boats from spring through autumn. The Frog Pond is another popular destination within the park. The Frog Pond is a popular children's wading pool in the summer. During the brisk Boston winters, it freezes into an ice skating rink. When the Frog Pond first opened in 1848, school was closed for a day just so children could play in the fountain! Today the Tadpole Playground is adjacent. Boston Common is flanked by other points of interest, such as: the Massachusetts State House, which stands to the north; Park Street Station -- America's first subway station -in the eastern corner; and Boylston Street Station -- America's second subway station -- to the south. For those who prefer to walk, the Freedom Trail (a popular walking tour) also starts to the south of Boston Common at the Visitor Center. The Massachusetts State House On July 4, 1798, surviving fathers of the American Revolution met in Boston for the dedication of the Massachusetts State House. Governor Samuel Adams and patriot Paul Revere placed the cornerstone, and Revere would later roll copper sheeting for the capitol's dome. With pomp and circumstance, stone for the building was drawn by fifteen white horses -- one for each state in the Union. The State House would come to be known as one of the greatest works of neoclassical architecture in the United States. It also boasts a prime location, sitting on Beacon Hill and overlooking the prosperous Back Bay and Boston Commons. When the architect Charles Bulfinch designed this graceful seat of government, he was inspired by the neoclassical Somerset House that rose above London's River Thames. Architectural buffs describe the State House design as intermediate between Georgian and Federal styles. It is chiefly red brick with white accents. It has delicate Corinthian columns, gently arching windows, and a vast golden dome. The golden dome has been through a few important changes. The mound was originally covered in wooden shingles. After Paul Revere laid copper sheeting, the dome was finished with gold plating. It was painted gray during World War II to reduce its vulnerability to potential Axis bombers; if there had been a blackout, the government's dome would've shone conspicuously in the moonlight. The State House dome is capped with a pinecone. This symbolizes the state's appreciation for the pine tree. Early Boston architecture, including the State House itself, relied upon pinewood from surrounding forests. As state government grew, Massachusetts built additions to Bulfinch's work. In 1895, a yellow brick Brigham Annex was erected for new bureaucrats' offices. Two marbled stone wings were added in the early 1900s to provide fireproofing and additional office space. Inside the State House today are the Governor's office, the chambers of the House and Senate, and three halls. Doric Hall is named for the ten Doric columns that line its interior. These were originally carved trunks from pine trees, but today the columns are made of plaster and iron. Doric Hall is home to many statues and portraits, including an 1826 statue of George Washington. In the marble corridor just outside Doric, the "Hear Us" display honors the contributions of several influential women from Massachusetts history, including Dorothea Dix and Lucy Stone. The Hall of Flags honors Massachusetts residents who served in battles. It displays copies of battle flags from all of the wars in which Massachusetts regiments have participated. (The original textile flags are being preserved elsewhere.) These include flags from the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Berlin, and Vietnam. The Hall of Flags is also decorated with murals, such as "The Return of the Colors," which depicts the return of flags after Civil War combat in 1865. The Great Hall, completed in 1990, is the newest architectural addition to the State House. This impressive, airy hall is made of tri-colored marble topped with a glass dome. Circular patterns on the floor were installed to create a clock motif; a few years earlier, the state legislature had acquired an extravagant $100,000 clock made in modernist style. The room is also decorated with 351 flags from Massachusetts localities. The expansive room is used for large state events. A statue of President John F. Kennedy depicts him striding across the Hall -- perhaps to meet up with a nearby figure of Horace Mann or Daniel Webster. Two statues of Colonial American women stand on the State House lawn. One is of Anne Hutchinson, whose religious teachings led to her excommunication from Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638. She then co-founded Rhode Island on the principle of religious freedom. The second statue is of Mary Dyer. In 1660, Bostonians hanged her for violating a ban against Quakers traveling in their colony. Dyer's statue eerily overlooks the site of her execution: the gallows on Boston Common. She is one of four people known as the Boston Martyrs. Along with the spirits of Anne Hutchinson, Sam Adams, John Hancock, and other influential Americans, Mary Dyer's spirit lives on at the State House. Democracy and Tasty Treats at Faneuil Hall Boston's Faneuil Hall, which has been nicknamed "The Cradle of Liberty", hosted America's first political town meeting. Since its construction by French Huguenot merchant Peter Faneuil in 1742, the hall has served as a shelter for sheep, a lively marketplace, and a center for free speech. From the start, the hall's activities have been divided by floor. The first floor briefly held African sheep herded from New Hampshire; a sheep shortage soon brought that program to a halt. Since 1748, the first floor has served as a public marketplace; Peter Faneuil encouraged pushcart vendors to permanently set up shop. The second floor has long featured the meeting hall, though it was briefly converted a theater during the British occupation of 1774. The first public meeting held at Faneuil was actually on the occasion of Peter Faneuil's death; his eulogy was read at the hall. Revolutionaries later used the site to protest King George's taxes and to pen the famous doctrine concerning "no taxation without representation". Following the Boston Massacre, the public filled the hall to capacity to discuss the event. The patriot orator Samuel Adams gave an impassioned speech, and two years later, he would there initiate the first Committee of Correspondence. That meeting of colonial representatives is commonly considered the beginning of the American Revolution. Today, a statue of Sam Adams stands outside the Hall. As time went on, Faneuil Hall continued to be a popular political forum. Suffragist Lucy Stone and abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison drew crowds in the 1800s. In the past century, Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton have helped it maintain the "Cradle of Liberty" nickname. Architecturally, Faneuil Hall has undergone several expansions and restorations. First, the entire building was razed in a 1761 fire. It was quickly rebuilt in time to hear early revolutionaries' speeches in 1762. Next, the building was significantly expanded in 1806. America's first native-born architect, Charles Bulfinch, doubled the hall's height and width. He added galleries around the second floor assembly room and added a third floor. Twenty years later, additional construction expanded the Quincy Market. This meat and produce market had been drawing more and more vendors and customers. By the mid1900s, however, the building had fallen into disrepair and was losing public interest. Major restoration saved Faneuil Hall in the 1970s. This urban renewal was among the first in American cities and inspired other projects nationwide. One architectural element that has remained constant is a 38-pound gilded copper grasshopper! It's the centerpiece of the building's weathervane. Peter Faneuil commissioned an artist to create this grasshopper; he was inspired by one that sat atop the Royal Exchange's pinnacle in London. Thus, for colonial merchants the Faneuil Hall weathervane was a symbol of Old World commerce. The grasshopper became so wellknown to northerners that when someone suspected a spy during the Revolution, they'd ask, "What sits atop Faneuil Hall?" Those who didn't know were deemed likely British agents. Today's Faneuil Hall Marketplace refers to a group of four buildings: Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. The marketplace has pubs, restaurants, and more than 125 vendors offering a wide variety of food and crafts. Each year more than 15 million people visit the market. The popular landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now part of Boston National Historical Park. The Liberty Bell The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a familiar symbol of independence, freedom, and justice in America. Originally called the State House Bell, it was commissioned in 1751 by colonial representatives. The bell has been tolled on important days from the colonial era to modern times. After enduring cracks, repairs, and an exciting hideout from the British, the bell is now on display. It is rung every Fourth of July. In 1751, three men representing the Pennsylvania Assembly wrote a letter to their colonial agent in London. On the fiftieth anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges, they requested a bell for Philadelphia's State House steeple. The agent arranged for casting at London's Whitechapel foundry, and the bell was delivered in 1752. The bell was met with much excitement. First of all, it weighed an impressive 2,080 pounds! More importantly, it was a solid, solemn symbol of what the Pennsylvania Assembly hoped to uphold. William Penn had been especially progressive with religious freedom, Native American rights, and democracy overall. The bell was inscribed with a Biblical passage to capture this spirit: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." However, early on the bell cracked! Historians disagree about the source of the fissure. In any case, the London foundry set about casting another bell. Meanwhile, two Philadelphia men (John Pass and John Stow) attempted to repair the one that had cracked. They fig ured that the alloy had been too brittle, so they added more copper. This healed the wound, but people disliked the bell's new tone. (They were aiming for a pleasant E note.) The men tried again, and their second attempt was hung in the State House in 1753. When the re-ordered British bell arrived, it was placed elsewhere in the State House to sound the hours. Today, the State House is known as Independence Hall. The State House bell was rung on many famous occasions in US history. It called the Assembly together and summoned townspeople for special announcements. It tolled when Benjamin Franklin headed for England to address colonists' grievances; it tolled for discussion of the Sugar Act in 1764 and again for the Stamp Act in 1765; and it rang again for the First Continental Congress in 1774. The bell continued to signal important events, and many events were deemed important during the Revolution. A group of citizens who lived near the bell actually petitioned for less tolling, stating that they were inconvenienced and stressed! Suddenly, in 1777, the city's bells were all removed. The British would soon be occupying Philadelphia, and surely they'd melt the bells for cannon fodder. The State House bell and more than a dozen others were moved to Zion's Reformed Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania for safekeeping. They remained hidden beneath church floorboards until after the occupation in 1778. After its reemergence, the bell continued to sound for important events such as elections and the Fourth of July. It was referred to as the Independence Bell or the Old Yankees' Bell until 1837 when abolitionists noted its relevance to slavery and freedom. The bell's Leviticus inscription can be interpreted as a call to end enslavement. For example, the entire passage from Leviticus 25:10 includes, "And ye shall: proclaim liberty throughout the land: and ye shall return every man unto his family." Abolitionists adopted the bell as their symbol, and since then it's been known as the Liberty Bell. By 1846, the Liberty Bell had developed a thin crack that was affecting its sound. It was repaired in time for George Washington's birthday that year, but when rung on his birthday, it cracked severely. A replica "Centennial Ball" was given to the city in 1876. The original bell is now on display in a new pavilion, the Liberty Bell Center. The Centennial replica is hung in the steeple of Independence Hall, and a third bell -- the "Bicentennial Ball" granted by Queen Elizabeth -- hangs in a nearby tower. The original bell is still rung, though gently, every July 4th. Young descendents of famous revolutionaries are invited to tap the bell thirteen times in celebration of the original thirteen states. The White House Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue is among the most famous addresses in the United States. The 132-room home and workplace has also been known as the "President's House" and the "Executive Mansion", but since 1902 it's officially been called the White House. When George Washington was President, government meetings were held in various cities. He and Martha Washington kept two homes in New York and one in Pennsylvania. Seeing the need for a federal city, the President and Congress agreed in 1790 to the Residence Act. This provided for a district "not exceeding ten miles square: on the river Potomac". The new federal city would be designed by Pierre L'Enfant, and the city planner would hold a blueprints contest for the President's house. James Hoban, an Irishman living in South Carolina, won the competition with a classic Georgian design. (Thomas Jefferson was also among the entrants; he competed under a pseudonym.) Hoban based the building on a duke's palace in Ireland. Two states, Maryland and Virginia, ceded land for the new federal district. Both were slaveholding states, and slaves broke ground for the home. The work was completed by European immigrants. The new house wasn't built in time for the Washingtons to move in; John and Abigail Adams were the first to take up residence in 1800. The building has undergone countless changes since the years of John and Abigail Adams. Interior redecorating and structural changes started with the next resident President, Thomas Jefferson. He ordered French furniture and French wallpaper, and he added space outdoors to conceal stables and storage. Other Presidents would make even larger additions: Theodore Roosevelt -- who had six children and required more space -- contributed the West Wing; and FDR added the East Wing during World War II to conceal construction of an underground bunker. Each Administration's time at the White House brought something new, but here are some of the more notable changes: * British soldiers burnt the building in 1814 during James Madison's presidency. Most of the home and its contents were destroyed by fire. A thunderstorm saved outside walls, and Dolley Madison rescued a famous portrait of George Washington. The architect James Hoban was available for renovations. * The White House needed an extensive washing after 20,000 muddy partiers celebrated Andrew Jackson's inauguration. Jackson soon installed running water. He also planted magnolia trees and made plans for later landscaping. * James Garfield installed the first elevator. * Harry Truman extensively renovated the whole house and added a second porch. He also added basements for wartime safety. * The White House was made more wheelchair-accessible during FDR's service. A pool was also added in consideration of his physical challenges. * Richard Nixon cemented over the FDR pool to create a Press Briefing Room. * Jacquelyn Kennedy directed the most extensive and historically accurate White House restoration. She also planted a flower garden. * Rosalynn Carter contributed an "Office of the First Lady." Today the White House Complex consists of six stories and 55,000 square feet of space. The Executive Residence spans several floors. Two basement levels also provide storage, service areas, and a bomb shelter for the President's family. The West Wing holds executive offices including the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, and the Situation Room. The East Wing is home to offices for the First Lady, White House correspondence staff, and other White House staff members. Some of the interior is visible to the public, but tours must be pre-arranged by a member of Congress. Visitors might tour the State Floor, where several rooms are simply named by color: the Green Room, Red Room, and Blue Room. The Green Room is named for the moss green silk that lines its walls. It's used for informal meetings and photo opportunities with foreign political leaders. Famous Green Room paintings depict Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, and Abigail Adams. The Red Room is decorated like an early-1800s parlor with a marble mantel. The Blue Room is the White House's most formal setting. It's shaped like an oval and is furnished with gilded furniture. This is where the White House Christmas tree is traditionally placed. Visitors might also see the Map Room, the State Dining Room, or the famous Lincoln Bedroom. The Washington Monument The Washington Monument, which is visible from almost everywhere in Washington, D.C., is truly a city landmark. The 555-foot tall obelisk has punctuated the National Mall since 1884. It honors George Washington, "Father of the United States", who was unanimously elected the nation's first President. When George Washington died in 1799, Congress praised him as "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." Politicians proposed a Washington monument in the early 1800s, but they disagreed about details. For example, should the monument include Washington's tomb? Would it be appropriate to depict him in ancient Greek style? When a statue was eventually presented, people objected to the half-clad classical Greek sort of George. Congressional quibbling ultimately led to the creation of a private monument foundation. The National Monument Society was formed in 1833. The members raised a considerable amount of money within a few years, and in 1836 they announced a design competition for the memorial. An artist named Robert Mills submitted the winning design. He proposed a 600-foot obelisk that would protrude from a circular base. The base and obelisk would be decorated with statues and frescoes of national heroes, including a toga-clad George Washington in a horse-drawn chariot. In the end, however, the obelisk would be a bit shorter, and the artist's plan for statues and frescoes would not be realized. The monument's cornerstone was laid amid great celebration in 1848. Ceremonially, the National Monument Society ensured that the stone was set with the same trowel George Washington had used when setting the Capitol's cornerstone years earlier. The city celebrated that night with fireworks. With the cornerstone set, the National Monument Society increased its efforts to fund the project. Ordinary citizens were urged to pledge $1 each. Businesses, professional organizations, foreign governments and Native American tribes contributed stones. Sometimes the stone donations were engraved with messages that didn't speak to the theme of George Washington; one block of stone read, "We will not buy, sell, or use as a beverage, any spiritous or malt liquors, Wine, Cider, or any other Alcoholic Liquor." Engraved stones make up interior walls of the hollow monument. Scandal erupted around a stone donation in 1854, and the entire project came to a halt. The anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party stole and smashed a donation made by Pope Pius IX. They dumped the stone chips into the Potomac River. This resulted in Congress rescinding an approval for $200,000 in memorial funds. The Know-Nothings then assumed management of the monument society, but their legacy is unimpressive. Everything they added to the monument was eventually removed, and no real progress was made until after the Civil War. Because of the cut in funding, the monument ended up being shorter than originally planned, and without the statues envisioned by Mills. A lag in construction time also led to stone being sourced from different quarry layers, so the coloring of the monument is not uniform. Work was finally completed in 1884. The monument, though short of its goal, was the largest structure in the world until the Eiffel Tower was completed five years later. It was much larger than the Egyptian obelisks that inspired it; these are typically about 100 feet tall. The walls were made fifteen feet thick at the base and narrowed to 18 inches near the top. The monument was capped with a 100-ounce aluminum pyramid. At the time, aluminum was scarce and was valued like silver. This was the largest cast-aluminum item in the world. Starting in 1888, adult male visitors were allowed to travel up the Washin gton Monument in a twenty-minute steam-powered elevator ride. Somehow the ride was deemed too risky for women and children; they would have to climb the 800 stairs for a view! Progressively speedier elevators were installed since then, and for safety reasons people are now forbidden to use the stairs. From the top of the Washington Monument, tourists can see most of Washington, D.C. as well as parts of Maryland and Virginia. In March and April, flowering cherry trees can be spotted in West Potomac Park below. The Lincoln Memorial Inside a Greek-style temple, a 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln looks out over Washington, D.C. Above him are the words, "In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." Some say that the grandeur of Abraham Lincoln's memorial does not suit his style; he was a modest man -- why immortalize him in a 99-foot tall Greek temple? But supporters celebrate his grand achievements. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln became US President, several states seceded from the Union. Before his presidency ended, Lincoln saw his country through civil war, preserved its union, and passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The President was assassinated in 1865 just six days after the Confederate General Lee surrendered. Congress formed the Lincoln Monument Association two years later. However, they did not choose the site in West Potomac Park until 1901. It was 1911 before they appropriated funds; President Taft approved a bill for $2 million. (The memorial's final cost was $1 million more.) In February of 1914, on Lincoln's birthday, the first stones were set. The white marble memorial was completed in 1922. It was dedicated on Memorial Day that year, 57 years after the president's death. Tens of thousands of people were in attendance, including many veterans from the Civil War. The work was the collective effort of an architect and several artists. The New York architect named Henry Bacon designed the building. He chose a Doric Greek style, much like the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece, complete with the traditional 36 columns. After constructing the columns, he realized that there had also been 36 states in the nation at the time of Lincoln's death. He then had each column engraved with a state name, and added above them the names of all 48 states that existed by 1922. (Alaska and Hawaii were later mentioned on an inscription leading to the memorial.) The building is massive, with each column measuring more than 23 feet around its base. From inside the stone building, Lincoln gazes out over the Reflecting Pool and toward the Washington Monument. His larger-than-life figure appears to be a continuous piece of marble, but it's actually made of 28 interlocking blocks carved by the artist Daniel French. Several types of marble are used throughout the monument, perhaps to symbolize Lincoln's force for unity; stone is used from Indiana, Colorado, Georgia and Tennessee. One marble wall features an inscription of the President's famous Gettysburg Address. Another displays his second inaugural speech. The memorial also has murals entitled "Emancipation" and "Union" by Jules Guerin. Ernest Bairstow and Evelyn Longman also contributed to the memorial's carvings. The building has been used as a backdrop for events related to civil rights. In 1939, the African American singer Marian Anderson was told by the Daughters of the American Revolution that she would not sing to an integrated crowd at Washington, D.C.'s Confederate Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt, who immediately resigned her own DAR membership, suggested the Lincoln Memorial as a stage. Anderson opened her act with "My Country 'Tis of Thee". Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. This was also the scene of Vietnam protests and the Million Man March. The memorial is staffed from 8 a.m. to midnight every day but Christmas. The lower level of the monument houses a bookstore, restrooms, and the Lincoln Museum, which was funded with pennies from schoolchildren. At night, spotlights illuminate the outside of the Lincoln Memorial. The lights seep inside and cast shadows across Lincoln's face for a spectacular view. Mischief and Stunts at Niagara Falls In the 1820s, when War of 1812 fighting had ceased in the Niagara Falls region, local hotel owners wanted to revive tourism. The Niagara Falls had once made popular tourist destinations of two cities along the international border: Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, and Niagara Falls in New York, USA. To attract attention, the hotel owners sponsored the first daredevil Niagara Falls stunt on record: they sent a defunct ship over Niagara's Horseshoe Falls. The hoteliers' stunt drew a crowd indeed. On September 8, 1827, about 10,000 people gathered to watch the condemned schooner be swept over the waterfall. The ship crashed 173 feet down to a whirlpool gorge below. Within two years, daredevils were risking their own lives in Niagara Falls stunts. In October of 1829, a man named Sam Patch dubbed himself "The Yankee Leaper". He survived a long, deliberate fall into the gorge at the bottom of the waterfall. People also swam across or tried to sail. In 1886 a man named Carlisle Graham was the first to fall down Niagara Falls in a barrel. Many people, including women in petticoats, imitated this stunt. For example, in 1901 a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor rode a barrel over the edge. Some people tried crossing over Niagara Falls instead of riding its force downward. Tightrope walkers like French acrobat Jean François "Blondin" Gravelet strung wires across the gorge and traversed it before giant crowds of onlookers. In 1859 Gravelet crossed the water blindfolded, in a sack, pushing a wheelbarrow, and carrying a man on his back! He even succeeded tightrope walking while on stilts. Most famously perhaps, Gravelet sat down midway across a wire to cook and eat an omelet. Despite stories of successful crossings, many people have died or been seriously injured in daredevil stunts at Niagara Falls. When Annie Taylor emerged from her barrel, she warned, "No one should ever try that again!" Such stunts are now forbidden by law in both cities of Niagara Falls. After Kirk Jones jumped the Falls in 2003 (and was released from hospital), he was arrested for "Mischief" and "Performing a Stunt". Until the winter of 1912, anyone was permitted to cross an ice bridge that formed across Niagara Falls. The water froze into ice blocks as thick as 50 feet, and the Niagara River became a popular sledding destination. People even erected shacks on the ice and sold liquor! However, a tragedy involving cracked ice put an end to the winter tradition. Horseshoe Falls is the highest section of Niagara Falls and is in Canadian territory. The American Falls on the US side drop about 70 feet into rock. These two main sections of the waterfall are divided by the uninhabited Goat Island. (The goats were gone by 1780.) A third section on the American side is called Bridal Veil Falls (earlier called Luna Falls and Iris Falls). It's separated from the American Falls by tiny Luna Island. These waterfalls are the most powerful in North America. An average of 4 million cubic feet of water rush over Niagara Falls every minute. The flow is higher in spring and summer when ice melts and more rain falls. Most of the water flows over Horseshoe Falls, and the remainder is harnessed for hydroelectric power by the Sir Adam Beck Station in Ontario and the New York State Power Authority. Mount Rushmore In 1927, workmen with lively nicknames like "Whiskey Art", "Palooka", and "Hoot" quit their regular jobs. They were among the 400 people invited to create Mount Rushmore, a massive mountainside carving of four United States presidents in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The work would be on-and-off labor lasting fourteen years. Mount Rushmore was conceived by the South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson in 1923. He had learned of a similar project underway in the southern US. Just east of Atlanta, the sculptor Gutzon Borglum had been commissioned to carve into Stone Mountain the likeness of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and a column of soldiers. The historian thought a similar undertaking by Borglum could draw tourists' dollars to the Black Hills region. To help maximize tourism interest, Borglum suggested that South Dakota choose a theme of national significance. The men settled upon the first 150 years of United States history, with four presidents being selected to represent the nation's development. These include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Collectively, these men symbolized the country's founding, expansion, and unity. The project received approval from Congress and President Calvin Coolidge. As the project began in 1927, Lakota Sioux people and their supporters opposed the undertaking. Traditionally, they had called the mountain Six Grandfathers Mountain and traveled it for spiritual journeys. Following the Black Hills War of 1876-1877, the Treaty of Fort Laramie granted the land to the Lakota in perpetuity. Now, the land had again been taken. Furthermore, the creation of 60-foot faces of United States presidents, symbols of their oppression, would forever mar the sacred landscape. The fact that Borglum was a Ku Klux Klan member added to the insult! Six Grandfathers was first informally called Mount Rushmore during an 1885 expedition. Charles Rushmore, a wealthy New York lawyer and prospector, suggested giving the mountain his name. However, it was also known to white Americans as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs. The United States Board of Geographic Names officially named Mount Rushmore in 1930. Borglum chose this particular mountain for two reasons. First, its face met with sunlight for most of the day. Second, it was composed of smooth granite. The rock would be conducive to carving, and the material erodes very slowly (about an inch every 10,000 years). Nonetheless, over fourteen years of labor the faces suffered minor cracks. Fractures were sealed with pegmatite and are evident in lighter streaks on the presidents' foreheads. As the project went on, some people continued to question what the faces were symbolizing, and whether the monument should be considered racist given the history of US expansion through native lands. In 1937, before the project was finished, a bill in US Congress proposed adding the face of Susan B. Anthony, a symbol for civil rights. However, federal funds were ultimately refused. Members of the American Indian Movement occupied the monument in 1971. The Lakota holy man John Fire Lame Deer said that the protestors formed a symbolic shroud over the presidents' faces, "which shall remain dirty until the treaties concerning the Black Hills are fulfilled". (A monument to the Native American leader Crazy Horse, first proposed in 1939, is being constructed eight miles away. It is also controversial.) Of some solace to opponents is that the monument, already six stories tall, was intended to be much larger but lacked funding. The original project cost just under $1 million during the Great Depression. (The largest single donation came from Charles Rushmore himself, who gave $5,000.) Borglum had hoped to depict the presidents from head to waist. The artist also intended to chisel an expansive panel in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase. This would include gilded words commemorating founding documents and territorial expansion; imagine the golden 8-foot tall letters "U. S. Constitution" carved into a mountainside. Instead, similar information is now engraved on porcelain panels inside a vault installed behind the faces in 1998. The engravings include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, biographies of the four presidents, and a history of the United States. A 1998 update to the Visitor Center cost $58 million. The renovation added the porcelain panels, expanded visitor parking, and created a Lincoln Borglum Museum. Old Faithful Geyser Imagine thousands of gallons of boiling water rushing forth from the earth. Shooting toward the sky, the water forms a tall, steamy column -- sometimes 180 feet high! When the water falls, it's only a matter of time before another surge will appear. Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupts regularly and has attracted sightseers since at least 1870. In 1870, a team of surveyors explored the area of northwestern Wyoming that would become Yellowstone National Park. The team (known as the Washburn Expedition) explored lakes, mountains, plants, and wildlife. They also observed many geothermal features. While camping, they noticed a geyser that erupted about every hour. Since this geyser was nearly as reliable as a wristwatch, the men named it Old Faithful. A geyser is a hot spring that occasionally erupts; the term is derived from an Icelandic word meaning "to gush". Such gushers are rare. A geyser can become blocked by mineral deposits, and tectonic activity (earthquakes) or human intervention can alter their behavior. Only about 1,000 geysers are known to exist on Earth, and about half of those are located in Yellowstone. How does a geyser like Old Faithful work? A geyser, like any natural hot spring, has its water heated by magma, or melted rock deep within the earth. The force of heat (convection) pushes the water up through porous rocks. After steam and boiling water are expelled, the cycle starts anew. Geysers' "schedules" widely differ; for example, some erupt every ten minutes, and some erupt just twice a day. In geological terms, Old Faithful is a cone geyser. The name refers to a cone-shaped formation of minerals that has formed at the geyser's mouth. This cone shapes the narrow spray that bursts forth. In contrast, a fountain geyser has eruptions burst from an open pool. Observers have documented more than 137,000 Old Faithful eruptions, and people have noticed changes in the eruption schedule since 1870. This might be a result of a 1998 earthquake changing underground water levels, or the cumulative effect of many tiny quakes. The geyser has also been altered by vandalism; e.g. visitors have thrown items into Old Faithful. At the start of the 21st century, a handy formula involves measuring the duration of an eruption. If it lasts for 2.5 minutes or less, the next eruption will follow about 65 minutes later. If it lasts for longer than 2.5 minutes, the geyser may be "exhausted" until 92 minutes later. How hot is Old Faithful's water? In the 1980s and 1990s, scientists lowered thermometers about 70 feet into the geyser. They measured a temperature of 244 degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, the temperature remained constant since a 1942 recording. Steam temperatures reached 265 degrees. Right before eruption, water at the opening is about 204 degrees. How much water is expelled? With each eruption, Old Faithful puts forth between 3,700 and 8,400 gallons. This forms a column that's between 106 and 184 feet high. An average eruption is about 130 feet tall. Old Faithful is not Yellowstone's largest geyser; that distinction belongs to Steamboat Geyser. However, the landmark attracts the attention of most who visit Yellowstone. Eru ption times are posted at the park's Visitor Center, and growing crowds are also a clue that the time is near. Walkways and benches are provided for viewers. The Empire State Building The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located in New York City. It's named for New York, the "Empire State". When the building opened in 1931, it was the tallest building in the world! It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The Empire State Building was erected as part of a worldwide race to build the tallest structure. The United States previously held the record with the 555-foot Washington Monument, but then France built the 984-foot Eiffel Tower in 1889. By the early 20th century, architects across America tried to set new records. The Metropolitan Life Tower signaled a start to the race in 1909; the building rose 700 feet and 50 stories. The 57-story Woolworth Building followed in 1913, and the 71-story Bank of Manhattan was completed in 1929. (Of course, since this was the Depression, there was ironically little demand for office space!) Competition then intensified within New York State. Three skyscrapers were underway simultaneously: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and 40 Wall Street. The Empire State Building's rental manager, Hamilton Weber, described the architectural contest: "We thought we would be the tallest at 80 stories. Then the Chrysler went higher, so we lifted the Empire State to 85 stories, but only four feet taller than the Chrysler. Raskob [the financer] was worried that Walter Chrysler would pull a trick -- like hiding a rod in the spire and then sticking it up at the last minute." The Empire State Building architects decided to affix something to the top of the building for even more height. This led to a dirigible (blimp) docking station. However, the docking station did not last long. The building itself created powerful updrafts that made docking dangerous! The mooring devices are still in place, but the building's current height (1,453 feet) comes from a large broadcast antennae added in 1952. The Empire State Building houses 85 stories of commercial and office space totaling more than two million square feet. With 1,000 businesses inside, the building has its own zip code! The top 16 stories comprise the art deco tower, with observatories located on the 86th and 102nd floors. (High-powered binoculars are available for rent.) The skyscraper has 72 elevators, 70 miles of piping, and 2.5 million feet of electrical wiring. The entire building weighs an estimated 370,000 tons and cost $40 million to construct. Colored floodlights were added to the building's tower in 1964. These are used to mark seasonal events like Christmas and tragedies like the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. Following September 11, 2001, the floodlights were kept red, white, and blue for several months. Blue lights were used on Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday and when he died. (This was a reference to his nickname, Ol' Blue Eyes.) Sports events are also represented by lights; for example, a combination of orange, blue, and white signifies a New York Knicks home game. The Empire State Building was bathed in a royal purple to honor the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. This was a sign of thanks from the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the UK supported the United States in the aftermath of September 11th. The floodlights first celebrated a Muslim holiday in 2007 with green lights for Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. When the Empire State Building opened on May 1, 1931, it was the tallest building in the world at 1,250 feet high. Towering over the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, it became an instant icon of New York City. The building remained the world's tallest until the World Trade Center's North Tower was erected in 1972. The Sears Tower in Chicago surpassed both in 1973. After the September 11th attacks in New York, the Empire State Building once again became the tallest building in the state, and the secondtallest in the country. The United Arab Emirates set the world record in 2007 while building the Burj Dubai skyscraper. Although "superskyscrapers" are now being constructed worldwide, the Empire State Building made achievements that prompted the American Society of Civil Engineers to name it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Ellis Island Site of Picnics, War, and Immigration Ellis Island in New York Harbor was once the main immigration station for people entering the United States. About a third of Americans can trace their ancestry to this entry point. Today Ellis Island is a museum accessible by ferryboat. The island is named for Samuel Ellis, a wealthy colonial landholder. He once owned the land and used it as a picnic area. When selling the island, Ellis advertised it along with several other items he had for sale, including "a few barrels of excellent shad and herrings" and "a large Pleasure Sleigh, almost new". The U.S. War Department purchased the island for $10,000 in 1808. They built defenses there in the buildup to the War of 1812. Fort Gibson was erected to house prisoners of that conflict. Fifty years later during the Civil War, the Union army used the fort as a munitions arsenal. When the Civil War ended, Ellis Island was abandoned for twenty-five years. Then, in 1890, the government wanted a new immigration processing center. (This would replace the Castle Garden Immigration Depot, the country's first immigration station, which was located on the tip of Manhattan.) Ellis Island opened in 1892 as the main processing point for ne wcomers; at the time, about 70% of all immigrants passed through the island facilities. The first immigrant processed was Annie Moore, a teenager from Ireland who was meeting her parents in New York. (She received a $10 gold coin!) The Ellis Island staff continued to process immigrant steamship passengers until 1954, when the last immigrant was the Norwegian merchant seaman Arne Peterssen. In the more than six decades of operation, the immigration building on Ellis Island saw more than 12 million hopeful immigrants. After 1954, the building was not attended to for about thirty years. It was eventually refurbished in the late 1980s and re-opened as a museum in 1990. It is now under jurisdiction of the US National Park Service. Immigrants' experiences on Ellis Island differed with social class. Wealthier immigrants who traveled first or second class generally entered automatically without delay. Thirdclass steerage passengers had medical exams and interviews. In the end, about two percent were sent back across the ocean after these procedures. With these people in mind, Ellis is also known as "The Island of Tears" and or "Heartbreak Island". Standard interviews included twenty-nine questions, including name, skills, and amount of money available. Adults who seemed "likely to become a public charge" would be turned away. The medical exams on Ellis Island were brief; they usually lasted only six seconds! However, people who appeared ill received much more attention. Chalk markings were put on their clothes to indicate suspected medical conditions. People who didn't discreetly remove these markings were typically sent home or to the island's hospital. About three thousand people travelers died in Ellis Island's hospital. The United States enacted Quota Laws in 1924. These restricted immigration and resulted in most processing being performed at embassies and consulates instead of freestanding immigration stations. After 1924 Ellis Island was only sporadically used to see war refugees and displaced persons. The island was used for Japanese internment and to house German Americans accused of being Nazis. Ellis Island was once the subject of a border dispute between New York and New Jersey. Today the two states have divided ownership of the historic site: the main building containing the museum is part of New York, and the old hospital buildings are part of New Jersey. The monument has been managed and preserved by the National Park Service since 1966.
Mammoth Cave National Park Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky includes the most extensive cave system known in the world. More than 367 miles of cave passageways have been mapped, and there may be more miles still uncharted. The national park preserves this cave system along with Kentucky's Green River Valley and the surrounding hills. Since becoming a national park in 1941, the area has also been designated a World Heritage Site and an international Biosphere Reserve. Mammoth Cave started to develop 350 million years ago in a layer of limestone. Over 70 million years, water slowly dissolved the stone and left the extensive network of tunnels. Then a new lay er of rock, sandstone, formed a stable roof for the tunnels. Different layers of tunnels were formed by the Ohio River during the Tertiary and Quaternary Periods. Most of the caves are now dry, but the lower level of tunnels continues to be carved by the Green River, which is 450 feet underground. It can be seen outside, where it emerges along the eastern border of the park. When the river floods, whirlpools swell back into the cave system; similar whirlpools formed the cave's larger rooms millions of years ago. Anthropologists believe that Native Americans first found the caves about four thousand years ago. Artifacts like torches, pottery, woven cloth and petroglyphs show that people explored the cave network for two thousand years. They likely lived at the entrances and mined the tunnels for salt, gypsum, mirabilite and other minerals. Why did the natives leave the area? Nobody knows for certain, but a gruesome 20th century points clearly in one direction. In 1935, cave guides found the mummified remains of a gypsum miner. He'd been crushed by a 5-ton boulder! Park officials named him "Lost John". Several other ancient bodies were preserved in Mammoth Cave, and most seem to have buried there on purpose. One mummy was sold to P. T. Barnum. Lost John was displayed until the 1970s, when he was given a proper burial. White settlers first arrived in the 18th century. Miners starting taking saltpeter (potassium or calcium nitrate crystals) in 1792; it was used to make gunpowder. The saltpeter demand dwindled after the War of 1812, but word of the unusually large cave system spread. Mammoth Cave quickly became a tourist attraction. By 1816, crowds of people in formal attire chiseled their names and the date into the cave walls. (Nowadays, people are encouraged to wear sneakers, and the practice of leaving messages is forbidden.) Under the direction of a slave-owner and prospector named Franklin Gorin, a 17-year-old slave named Stephen Bishop began charting much of the network in 1830. Bishop was praised for his genius in many areas, and he excelled in geology. He explored the caves for many years and was the first to cross the now-famous Bottomless Pit. This opened the cave to further exploration. In 1839 he found two rivers and their odd eyeless inhabitants. In 1840 he discovered Mammoth Dome, a 192-foot tall structure draped in stalactites. Stephen's discoveries continued until his death in 1857 Today the National Park Service makes many tours available. These range from the hourlong Mammoth Passage Tour, which is less than a mile long, to the 6-hour Wild Cave Tour that passes through five miles of the cave network. Some tours are pre-lit, but others require tourists to carry a paraffin lamp. Photography and videotaping are allowed. The cave is always chilly, so visitors are advised to bring a warm layer of clothing. Explorers might spot some of 130 rare animal species. These include bats, beetles, fish, and the endangered Kentucky cave shrimp. It is blind and albino; there is little need for sight or pigment in the depths of a cave. At least eleven other Mammoth Cave species are eyeless and unpigmented. After the darkness of spelunking, cave visitors might enjoy catching sunlight along Mammoth Cave National Park's 70 miles of trails. These are open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Elvis Presley and the Graceland Estate In March of 2006, Elvis Presley's Graceland estate was raised to the level of Washington's Mount Vernon and Jefferson's Monticello. It officially became a National Historic Monument. Of course, long before the Secretary of the Interior made this public announcement, Presley fans worldwide had made his home a popular tourist destination; Graceland already attracted more than 600,000 people every year. The designation of his home as a national landmark celebrates his widely-known contributions to American culture and music history. Elvis Presley is among the most influential figures in 20th century music and pop culture. He was most famous as a musician and was indicted into three halls of fame: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the GMA Gospel Hall of Fame. No other artist has been honored by all three establishments. Presley also triumphed on television and starred in 33 movies. Shortly after his rise to stardom, Elvis felt a need for privacy. In 1957 he moved out of working-class East Memphis and purchased the 14-acre Graceland estate. The price tag: $103,000 -- easily purchased with proceeds from his first hit record, "Heartbreak Hotel". Graceland would be Elvis's primary residence for the next 20 years. His parents lived there too, as did his wife-to-be Priscilla Beaulieu and eventually their daughter, Lisa Marie. Elvis Presley died in an upstairs Graceland bathroom in 1977. The Graceland estate is located south of downtown Memphis and is just a few miles north of the Mississippi border. The grounds were named after Grace Toot, the daughter of the home's original owner. Grace inherited the property while it was still farmland. She gifted the land to a niece, Ruth Moore, who had the mansion built. The colonial-style mansion is constructed of tan limestone with white columns. Two stone lions seem to guard the front entrance. Elvis Presley expanded the living space from about 10,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet. He is known for his extravagance and a unique sense of design; some call it kitschy. The home reflected Elvis well; he became so comfortable there that when he traveled, his hotel rooms were pre-decorated with furniture sent from Graceland. Elvis's indoor and outdoor estate expansions were considerable. For privacy, he constructed a fieldstone wall around the grounds. (Today it is full of visitors' graffiti.) He added a wrought-iron privacy gate to the outside drive; it's decorated with iron musical notes. He installed a swimming pool with adjacent jukebox in his parents' bedroom, and the famous Jungle Room has a waterfall. Elvis also kept several televisions in the basement and was known to watch three simultaneously. Today, audio tours begin at the lion-flanked portico. Visitors then see Elvis's living room and the adjacent music room. The tour moves to the kitchen and dining room, and then downstairs to the basement to see side-by-side TVs, a bar, and a billiards table. The tour continues upstairs in the Jungle Room. Elvis memorabilia are displayed throughout, with his sequined jumpsuits being especially prominent. Outdoors, people can see his trophy collection, horse stables, and a shooting range. A separate building displays his car collection and two small airplanes. Public tours show much of the mansion but avoid the top floor where Elvis passed away. Elvis died at Graceland in 1977. Medical reports vary; he apparently had a drug-induced heart attack. He was buried at a public cemetery but people attempted to rob his grave. Presley's remains were moved to his mansion's Meditation Gardens, where the performer joined his deceased parents and grandmother. The August 16th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death is a particularly popular time for Graceland visits. Despite a downpour of rain through Memphis, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death drew a procession of 40,000 people. After Elvis's death, Priscilla Presley managed the property and greatly increased its value by promoting tourism. Graceland opened to the public in 1982. The Presleys' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, inherited the estate when she turned 30 years old. She kept the mansion but sold 85% of the grounds to a private management company in 2005. The new owner, CKX, Inc., plans to make Graceland a theme park on par with Disneyland. The Crazy Horse Monument and Memorial The Crazy Horse Monument is a Native American carving underway in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Artists have been working on the monument since 1948. If it becomes completed as planned, it will be the world's largest sculpture at 641 feet (195 meters) wide and 563 feet (172 meters) tall. The monument commemorates Crazy Horse (circa 1840-1887), an Oglala Lakota war leader who was well-respected by his people. He led victorious battles against many of his tribe's enemies, including (but not limited to) the Blackfoot, Crow, Pawnee, Shoshone, and US forces. One famous battle involving US troops was the Battle of the Rosebud in Montana Territory. In June of 1876, Crazy Horse led a group of 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against Brevet Brigadier General George Crook's force of US footmen, cavalry, and Crow and Shoshone warriors. This particular battle was a draw, with the sides having roughly equivalent losses. However, the battle delayed Crook's troops from meeting Lieutenant General George Custer's troops at the Battle of Little Big Horn. This contributed to the subsequent "Custer's Last Stand" in which Custer was killed and the Lakota-Cheyenne alliance emerged as victors. After decades as a valiant warrior, Crazy Horse finally surrendered to the United States in May of 1877. His people were weakened by hunger and a cold Nebraska winter. Crazy Horse and his allies formally surrendered at the Red Cloud Agency, which was a precursor to Indian reservations. After Crazy Horse had been living on agency property for a few months, it seems th at his words were mistranslated by a US Army scout. An ensuing argument led to Crazy Horse's death by bayonet stabbing on September 5, 1877. His parents moved his body to an undisclosed location. The monument was requested by Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Oglala Sioux. In 1939 he wrote to the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who was known for chiseling Mount Rushmore. His letter included the request, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too." Ziolkowski decided upon Crazy Horse, and by 1943 the monument was underway. The site: eight miles from Mount Rushmore, and five miles from Custer. Since the original artist's death, the project has been overseen by his wife Ruth Zioljowski and several of their children. A milestone in carving was achieved in 1998 when Crazy Horse's face was completed. The next step involves shaping the head of his horse, which is achieved with very precise explosions of dynamite. The horse's head will include ridges to be used as access roads for trucks hauling rock away. Progress has been hindered by the project's non-profit status. The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation rejects federal funding because they have plans beyond the monument itself. The sculpture is part of a larger vision for Crazy Horse Memorial, which already includes an Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural center. The foundation also aims to establish and fund the University and Medical Training Center for the North American Indian. The foundation's many goals are supported mainly with proceeds from visitors, who number about one million each year. Although many people see the mountain carving as a great tribute to Native Americans, others disapprove. They say that altering nature in this way is contrary to what Crazy Horse would have wanted. Remember the Alamo The Alamo, officially named the San Antonio de Valero Mission, is a former mission and military fort in San Antonio, Texas. It is now a museum drawing people interested in Texas history. When people say "Remember the Alamo", they are referring to a significant battle in Texas's Revolution against Mexico. The entire event lasted for thirteen days in February and March of 1836. It is famous for heavy rebel losses and illustrious participants, including the Mexican President Santa Anna and David Crockett. This mission was first conceived of in 1716 and a Spanish viceroy authorized its construction. As the first in a chain of missions along the San Antonio River, it was intended as a vocational school for Native Americans after their conversion to Christianity. Training options included cattle-raising, weaving, carpentry, and stone masonry. However, the church was not completed until 1757, and mission activity was already waning by the mid-1760s! The Church abandoned the site by the 1790s. Spanish soldiers, noting the defensive potential of the mission's 12-foot walls, took over in 1803. In the coming years, Spain and Mexico would battle for control of land in North America. After the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, Texas became part of Mexican territory; it was part of a new state called "Coahila y Tejas". The Mexican government encouraged people from the US to settle this land. Hundreds of families, both American and Mexican, accepted the invitation. However, after the land became settled and colonists formed provincial governments, the Mexican government increased centralization of power. Settlers became uncomfortable with President Santa Anna's centralizing of government. In their view, the 1824 Constitution of Mexico guaranteed stronger states' rights. Meanwhile, part of the centralization plan included dividing Coahila y Tejas into two states, one of which was Tejas. Coahila soon seceded to become part of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande. Tejas declared its independence on March 2, 1835 and named itself the Republic of Texas. Settlers provoked the Mexican government early on by taking over military positions in La Bahia and San Antonio. In response, Santa Anna assembled 6,500 soldiers and led many to San Antonio's Alamo Mission. Thousands of men may have deserted before arrival, but still, they greatly outnumbered the rebels fortressed in the Alamo. Although they received reinforcements, the Texan rebels were outnumbered and could not sustain more than two weeks of attacks which inside their fortress. Ultimately, the Mexicans penetrated the old mission and killed most of the remaining soldiers through hand-to-hand combat. When the fighting was over, the Mexican forces left only sixteen alive. Most of these survivors were women, slaves, and children. Although the revolutionaries did not win the Battle of the Alamo, their battle benefited the rebels' cause overall. Emotionally, the battle stirred up settlers all across Texas and increased their resolve against President Santa Anna. Strategically, Santa Anna's troops were stalled at the Alamo for two weeks. This allowed General Houston to assemble soldiers and supplies for a critical upcoming battle. Houston would later defeat Mexico in the decisive Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna would be captured while sneaking off the next day, and the revolutionaries would go on to win their independence. From 1836 to 1845, the Republic of Texas would be a sovereign state between the US and Mexico. An Overview of Death Valley Describing Death Valley brings a potpourri of superlatives: hottest, driest, lowest. In 1913, the valley hit a record 134 degrees Fahrenheit! But despite its brutal image, Death Valley is a beloved mecca for geologists and other nature lovers. It also has a colorful history of ghost towns! Death Valley measures approximately 3,000 square miles. It spans the border of California and Nevada and is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve, which is devoted to ecological conservation. The diverse landscape features desert sand dunes, snow-capped mountains, and a vast expanse of multi-hued rock. It is also home to uniquely adapted plants and animals. Among the mammals, for example, are the black-tailed jackrabbit, the long-tailed pocket mouse, and the chiseltoothed kangaroo rat! Death Valley is surrounded by several mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevadas, the Amargosa Range, the Panamint Range, and the Sylvania and Owlshead Mountains. Encircled by peaks, the valley has the lowest dry elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. (The continent's lowest point overall can be found at the bottom of Lake Superior, but Death Valley contains the lowest spot on dry land.) The valley is especially noted for its geologic splendor. The cliffs reveal rock layers spanning from Precambrian to modern times. By studying the layers, geologists learn about the earth's condition in the distant past. For example, layers from the late Pleistocene reveal that the valley was once filled by a freshwater lake, now dubbed Lake Manly. The valley was partly filled again during flash flooding of 2004 and 2005. Still, at that time the water was only two feet deep; before the last ice age, it measured 800 feet! The 19th century saw many mining camps set up when rock layers revealed valuable minerals. Men were drawn to gold and silver discoveries in the 1850s, and they mined Borax in the 1880s. They gave their camps names like Chloride City, Skidoo, and Panamint City. The mining camps usually became ghost towns within a few years. In most cases, little remains of these Death Valley mining towns besides stories about their lively inhabitants. Skidoo, for example, is marked only by a sign. It once had a population of 700 and is infamous for having the only hanging in the valley. The hanged man was Hootch Simpson, a down-on-his-luck saloon owner who tried to rob the town bank. He was foiled and later returned to kill an employee! The townspeople hanged Hootch that night. In fact, according to legend he was hanged twice: once for real and once again for the benefit of photographers. Visitors to Death Valley can ssee a few ghost town ruins, such as those of Panamint City. Panamint was reputedly the roughest town in America! Its founders were outlaws hiding from law enforcement. Although 2,000 people eventually resided there, Wells Fargo refused to open a Panamint bank because of the inhabitants' lawless reputations. Although prospectors left the valley when mining became unprofitable, Native Americans have lived in Death Valley for more than 1,000 years. Timbisha families, who are part of the Shoshone tribe, still reside at Furnace Creek. They received 7,500 acres of ancestral homeland with the Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act of 2000. As of 2000, only 31 people lived at Furnace Creek, setting the record for lowest census in the nation. Death Valley National Park is open year-round, but considering the summer heat, most people find the valley's winter climate more comfortable.Since 1933 Death Valley National Park has offered extensive public works for visitors' comfort. These include developments such as campgrounds, picnic facilities, and hundreds of miles of paved roads. Devils Tower Devils Tower is a natural stone formation that rises 1267 feet in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first US National Monument in 1906. Nobody knows how this unusual rock was formed, but geologists have put forth several theories. They agree that Devils Tower is an "igneous intrusion", which is magma that hardened while still underground. This may have happened 60 million years ago, which is when the Rocky Mountains were forming too. Scientists disagree about how this magma eventually came to tower so high above its surroundings. A popular theory sets Devils Tower as the neck of an old volcano. In this theory, the rest of the mountain eroded away. Weather continues to erode the tower. Cracks fill with ice and expand, and rocks then fall to the ground. Piles of broken lava columns at the base of the tower indicate that it used to be larger. Native Americans also have stories to explain Devils Towers. In their stories, the tower is called Mateo Tepee, meaning Grizzly Bear Lodge. The rock's long vertical cracks reminded people of scratches that a bear might make. In a Kiowa story, for example, seven little girls were playing far from their village when bears started to chase them. The girls ran to a small rock and prayed for it to save them. The rock started to push upwards, higher and higher until the girls were out of the bears' reach. The bears scratched at the rock and broke their claws. The Kiowa say that these little girls were pushed upward to the sky; they now form a seven-star constellation. Another version of the story has little boys chased by bears, and an eagle carries them home from the tall rock. Devils Tower appears insurmountable to many. Henry Newt, who was part of area's first geological survey, wrote in 1875: "Its summit is so entirely inaccessible that the energetic explorer... standing at its base could only look upward in despair of ever planting his feet on the top." Nonetheless, a Wyoming rancher named William Rogers ascended the tower in 1893; he climbed up with the aid of wooden pegs that he'd drive into cracks. A more professional ascent was made in 1937 by a small party representing the American Alpine Club. The climb can be made relatively easy or extremely challenging according to the path someone chooses. The tower is still sacred to several Native American Plains tribes, including the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Kiowa. There have been conflicts between tourists who want to climb the tower and indigenous people who hold ceremonies around the monument. There is now a compromise that involves a voluntary climbing ban in June, which is when the tribes traditionally use the tower most. This compromise has not satisfied everyone, since climbers see the rock as federal land and Native Americans see ascension of the monument as desecration. About 4,000 people climb Devils Tower every year. According to a PBS documentary called In Light of Reverence, most agree not to climb during the month of ceremonies. The region is also known for its colorful rock layers. The oldest visible rocks have been dated to the Triassic period, or about 200 million years ago. These are dark red sandstone and siltstone, colored by oxidized iron. A thin white band of Jurassic-era gypsum follows. People can also spot gray-green shale, red mudstone, and yellow sandstone. The United States was probably first aware of Devils Tower after an 1859 Yellowstone expedition led by Captain W. F. Reynolds. In 1875 Colonel Richard Dodge led a geological survey to the rock. It was Dodge who named Devils Tower; he thought that natives called it "Bad God's Tower". Congress designated the area a US forest reserve in 1892, and by 1906 it was the country's first national monument. In addition to the tower, the park includes the Belle Fourche River and 1347 acres of pine forests and grasslands, home to deer, prairie dogs, and other animals. Olvera Street: A Taste of Old Mexico Olvera Street, or La Placita Olvera, is the quaint birthplace of modern Los Angeles. This block-long street has now been restored to an old-fashioned marketplace and plaza reminiscent of early Mexico. The street and plaza were designated "El Pueblo Historic Monument" in 1953. Olvera Street attracts two million tourists every year. The area is blocked to automobiles so pedestrians can easily explore the street's 27 historic buildings. These include a range of authentic Mexican eateries, including the city's oldest Mexican restaurant, La Golondrina Cafe. Some of the buildings are rented to merchants selling Mexican goods. Some stores stock inexpensive souvenirs like finger puppets, marionettes, and tiny Mexican flags. Others import high-quality Mexican pottery, silver, and textiles. Vendors stationed in the middle of the street sell churros, souvenirs, and inexpensive children's toys. While Olvera Street is a tourist attraction, it's also the center of an authentic Mexican-American community. Locals gather for a Las Posadas reenactment before each Christmas, and they fill the site for celebrations like Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos. The Olvera plaza also features cultural performances throughout the year. The street began as part of a town built by settlers in 1781. Spain's King Carlos III ordered his Lieutenant Governor of California, Don Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, to lead settlers to the Porciúncula River. The King wanted a sub-mission, or asistencia; the Spanish soldiers and families would serve as missionaries to a nearby native village. The group followed the King's orders, but flooding pushed them to settle on higher ground. This was the beginning of the town they called Los Angeles -- or, more formally, El Pueblo de Nuestra Seora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula. (This translates to "Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels on the Porcincula River". Today the river is known as the Los Angeles River). The first streets and adobe buildings of Los Angeles were constructed during Spanish rule, which lasted until 1820. After the Mexican Revolution of 1821, the town of Los Angeles, population 650, became part of a newly independent Mexico. Olvera Street, which was called Calle Vino (Wine Street) at the time, was the center of community life and a crossroads for the agricultural and ranching economies. By 1877, the city had grown to over 5,000 people and wanted more street space. Wine Street was extended and renamed to honor a prominent neighborhood resident, Los Angeles County Judge Agustin Olvera. City growth was suddenly exponential. But as the city grew, its center deteriorated. When new buildings were erected, their backs bordered Olvera Street. It began to look like an unkempt alley, and then the city built a noisy power station there for streetcars. The area was far from its glory days by the late 1920s, when a socialite would make renovation her mission. Christine Sterling arrived in Los Angeles in 1926. She was shocked to find the city's historic center dilapidated and abandoned with boarded windows. Even the historic Avila Adobe, the oldest residence in Los Angeles, was scheduled for demolition. (Señora Avila had abandoned the home in 1847 when the United States occupied Los Angeles.) Considering the city's steady stream of Mexican immigration, Sterling thought Los Angeles was being short-sighted in destroying an historic Mexican area. It seemed only natural that the area be restored. Sterling contacted Avila's descendents, who welcomed the offer of renovation. She raised the issue with the city's Chamber of Commerce and contacted The Los Angeles Times. Sterling won the support of newspaper magnate Harry Chandler, who provided positive publicity. He also formed a for-profit Olvera Street business venture and sponsored a $1000-a-plate luncheon. Sterling raised funds within two years, and the Los Angeles Health Department rescinded its condemnation order for the Avila Adobe! Next, the Sheriff's Department brought inmates to provide manual labor. Sterling wrote in her diary, "One of the prisoners is a good carpenter, and another an electrician. Each night I pray they will arrest a bricklayer and a plumber." The festive new marketplace opened on Easter Sunday in 1930. It was touted as "A Mexican Street of Yesterday in a City of Today". A cross was erected at one end of the street amid newly-planted trees. Olvera Street is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some restaurants and shops have extended hours. Golden Gate Park In 2006, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made Golden Gate Park officially car-free on summertime weekends. According to the city's own report, recreational attendance at the park has doubled and tripled on these "healthy weekends". More than twelve million people had already been visiting in a typical year. Golden Gate Park is a rectangular strip of land slightly larger than New York City's Central Park; it's 3 miles long and half a mile wide. The park was proposed in the late 1860s when San Francisco's rapid urban growth was leaving little green space. In 1868, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved converting the city's "Outside Lands" -sand dunes along the seashore -- into miles of lush green space. They hoped this would provide a natural haven for city dwellers while drawing realty investment to the mostly uninhabited western part of the city. However, supervisors were presented with two obstacles: 1) squatters who were already living on the dunes, and 2) the sandy soil and harsh ocean winds. After a long legal battle, resistant squatters relinquished 10% of their claimed landholdings. This allowed the city enough land to proceed with park development. After these homesteaders turned the land over to the city, some people insisted that the land was too salty, sandy, and windy for vegetation. A newspaper editorial smirked, "A blade of grass cannot be raised without four posts to keep it from blowing away." Nevertheless, under the guidance of engineer William "Ham" Hall and Scottish-trained gardener John McLaren, the city's workers persisted and vegetation took root. A barricade was erected to block wind from Ocean Beach, and by 1879 about 150,000 trees were helping to stabilize the dunes. These trees were mostly eucalyptus, pine, and cypress. McLaren eventually diversified the park by collecting plants from almost every country in the world. In 1903 two windmills were installed to help water the greenery. Holland's Queen Wilhelmina later presented the park with a flower garden including tulips from the Netherlands; her park is adjacent to one of the Dutch-style mills. McLaren designed the park to look rustic, or as much like a natural woodlands as possible. Gently winding roads allowed for carriages, pedestrians, and bikers to comfortably enjoy the scenery. Nine lakes and ponds were scattered about for nature lovers. There's also wildlife to be seen throughout the park, from ducklings to a herd of buffalo. The commitment to a natural-looking park meant that buildings would be limited. A conservatory was erected in 1877 and a music stand was completed five years later. A few more structures came in 1894 when the park was showcased in California's first Midwinter Fair. This exposition and carnival was meant to boost tourism and the general economy. Horse stables and a five-acre Japanese Tea Garden were constructed to impress visitors. The M. H. de Young art museum appeared by 1895; it later underwent quakeproofing and other major renovations, and it re-opened in 2005. The top floor of the museum offers a spectacular view of the city through all-glass walls. On a clear day, observers can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin headlands, Coit Tower, and surrounding residential neighborhoods. By 1886, a typical San Francisco weekend would include tens of thousands of people traveling to the park by streetcar. Ever since then, Golden Gate Park has been a popular destination for picnics, playgrounds, and strolls. A parking lot across from Sixth Avenue is traditionally claimed by roller skaters with boom-boxes. The park also has many areas reserved for sports as diverse as archery, fly-fishing, disc golf, and volleyball. Golden Gate Park also has a tradition of large public gatherings, many of them free. The 1967 Summer of Love took place mainly in the park and the nearby Haight Ashbury neighborhood. The Speedway Meadow has long been a popular concert venue, and nowadays a large free bluegrass festival is held in the park every October. The San Francisco Parks Trust offers free walking tours of Golden Gate Park year-round. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge May 27, 1937 was Pedestrian Day in San Francisco. This kicked off a week-long celebration of the new Golden Gate Bridge. Pedestrian Day meant that the bridge was open to foot traffic for 25 cents per person. About 200,000 people paid the fee and crossed the 1.7-mile span in their walking shoes or on roller skates. For the first time, it was possible to walk across the San Francisco Bay, from the northern tip of San Francisco to the southern end of Marin County. Automobile traffic was permitted the next day at noon. Before the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed, San Francisco was a relatively isolated city. It sat at the top of a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water that was difficult to cross. The "Golden Gate" itself is a narrow strip of water at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. With strong currents and a depth of 400 feet, the Golden Gate strait is foreboding to sailors. On the other hand, circumnavigating the whole San Francisco Bay has its drawbacks too: the trip is hundreds of miles long and involves crossing several rivers, which can become shallow sand traps. For these reasons, ferry service between San Francisco and Marin County began in 1820. First the ferry was only for railroad passengers, but later on people could bring their automobiles in tow. This became booming business. When bridge proposals became serious, the ferry companies, including the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, opposed any bridge as competition. The military also objected to spanning the San Francisco Bay; they questioned whether the bridge would interfere with war ships. People in general wondered about the sturdiness of a suspension bridge, which is held by cables and strung between towers. Could such a bridge withstand the Bay's strong gusts of wind? How would the bridge remain rooted in the ocean floor? Nonetheless, by the 1900s it was evident that ferries alone could not handle travel demands. The city's growth would be restricted until it overcame obstacles to trading with Northern California. In 1916 the Chicago-based engineer Joseph Strauss responded to San Francisco's call for bridge submissions. Immediate local support mixed with alleged bribery helped him secure support from the city council. Strauss personally traveled north, too, to lobby Marin County council members and business people. He assured them that once a bridge was built from San Francisco, their businesses and property values would grow. He gained their support. By 1932, the founder of San Francisco-based Bank of America agreed to finance the estimated $30 million project. Work started in 1933. The Golden Gate Bridge blueprints were improved upon since Strauss's original submission. Strauss had little experience with suspension style bridges, so he hired a team of architects who made significant contributions. Today, the Purdue professor Charles Ellis is widely recognized as being the main architect behind the bridge, while Strauss is regarded as its organizer and promoter. A San Francisco architect named Irving Morrow, who was part of Strauss's team, also made important contributions. He suggested painting the bridge a color he called "international orange". This would complement the surrounding blues and greens of nature, and simultaneously make the bridge visible through fog. (If the bridge coloring had been left to the government or Strauss, it would likely have been black.) Irving also designed the bridge's arches to play with light throughout the day, making the bridge especially pleasing to the eye. Electric lighting along the cables adds to the visual appeal at night. The project was completed within four years and under budget at $27 million. The final project was built to withstand the Bay's high winds; it can sway 27 feet and still safely hold traffic. It has only been closed a few times since 1937 when winds reached 70 miles per hour. Today, ferry service continues between San Francisco and Marin County, but the Golden Gate Bridge carries over 40 million passengers each year. A History of Alcatraz Island Alcatraz Island is a small isle with a colorful history. Located in the San Francisco Bay, the land has filled important functions for the United States since California's Gold Rush. Today it is best known for housing the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Alcatraz Island has been a national recreation area since 1963. The island first became known to Europeans in 1775. That year, Spanish naval officer Juan de Ayala discovered it while charting the San Francisco Bay. He named the land mass "La Isla de los Alcatrices", which translates to Pelican Island. Spain put the island under Mexico's jurisdiction. After a few sales and legal battles, the island eventually became the property of the United States government; explorer John Fremont purchased it on the nation's behalf for $5000 in 1846. Two years later, when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, ships from around the world set sail for San Francisco Bay. Sailors urgently needed a lighthouse for navigation, and Alcatraz Island was a prime location. A lighthouse was set atop Alcatraz in 1853. That same year, the US Army began studying the island's potential as a defense base. The Army Corps of Engineers began a five-year fortification project in 1853. Soldiers moved in by 1859. When the American Civil War broke out, resident soldiers mounted more than 100 cannons around the island's perimeter. They never fired the cannons, but they did use a guardhouse basement to imprison west coast Confederate sympathizers, Native American Hopis, and other persons deemed threats to the Union. Following the war, the government transitioned Alcatraz Island from a center of military defense to a detention center. The island's isolation amidst cold water and powerful currents made prisoner escape highly unlikely. A brick jailhouse was quickly constructed, and long-term military prisoners were delivered there by 1868. Alcatraz Island began housing civilian prisoners by the hundreds in 1906. This was a result of the San Francisco earthquake; with jails destroyed on the mainland, law enforcement needed a new secure location for the inmates. In 1907 the building was designated the Western US Military Prison. The original lighthouse gave way to a threestory concrete cell block in 1909. (A second lighthouse was constructed later that year.) As a military prison, Alcatraz held a range of prisoners from convicted murderers to World War I conscientious objectors. Those who behaved well might enjoy time outdoors. Some even worked as servants for families who lived on the island! However, others experienced the military's strict discipline; punishments included solitary confinement, severe food and water restrictions, and hard labor. The prison drew interesting characters as Prohibition era crime developed. Famous mobsters like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly found Alcatraz was their new home. The government responded to their especially ruthless reputations by upgrading security. This included such additions as iron bars, metal detectors to screen visitors, teargas canisters, and the cementing of old underground tunnels. Prisoners were closely monitored with the issuing of one guard for every three inmates. There were also twelve inmate countings per day! According to prison records, no inmates successfully escaped during the penitentiary's 29 years in operation. Most people who fled the island were shot, were returned, or were found to have drowned. Some escaped convicts are unaccounted for, but most people assume they perished in the frigid San Francisco Bay. A $1 million recapture reward offered by a local ferry operator remains unclaimed. Despite the restrictions, prisoners also had recreation. By the 1920s these prisoners had formed baseball teams, and on Fridays the Army hosted "Alcatraz Fights", a tradition of boxing matches between inmates. The War Department closed the famous military prison in 1934. The prison had unusually high operational costs, and waste from island residents was polluting the San Francisco Bay. The Department of Justice assumed management until 1963. Today, the island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The National Park Service provides tours. During the warmer months, tourists reach the island via a ferry that departs San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood. Some Alcatraz Island attractions include the scenic bay view, the island's flora and fauna, and tours of the famous prison. Independence Rock: The Register of the Desert Independence Rock, a natural landmark along the old Oregon Trail, can be found near Casper, Wyoming. The rock was an important landmark for pioneers; it served as a campground and watering hole, and it marked their progress westward. Three main pioneer trails -- the Oregon, California, and Wyoming -- led past Independence Rock. Measuring approximately 1900 feet long, 800 feet wide, and 130 feet tall, the massive granite outcropping is hard to miss. The distance around its base measures 5,900 feet, or more than a mile. Some say it looks like a giant whale emerging from the plateau. The rock is now believed to have been carved by glaciers during the last ice age. It's believed that the first white people to pass the rock were fur trappers working under General William Ashley. Some of these men were famous adventurers, including Jedediah Smith. They would have passed by in 1823. Legend says that in 1830, another group of fur traders reached the rock in time for a Fourth of July celebration. This occasion supposedly lent Independence Rock its current name. In a competing theory, however, it's said that people leaving the Missouri River in early spring would use the rock as a benchmark; if they reached it by July 4th, then they knew they were on schedule to evade winter snowstorms in the mountains. Once pioneers arrived at the rock, they could rest, camp, and let their animals drink from the Sweetwater River. Arrival usually included a celebration with gunfire, drink, and dancing. The pioneer Rachel Simmons wrote, "We heard so much of Independence Rock long before we got there. They said we should have a dance on top of it, as we had many a dance while on the plains." Sometimes campground revelry got out of hand. Traveler Samuel Smith wrote in his diary, "The evening of our arrival I went up to the top of the Rock to hear the Band play, and also to sing several hymns; while here, one of the company's cows was poisoned by drinking below." Other people wrote of using Independence Rock as an area for recuperation and buffalo hunting. Some stayed to build transitory communities nearby, but most people stayed for only a night or two and then followed the Sweetwater westward. Thousands of people left their names and messages on the surface of Independence Rock. Some painted with buffalo oil or grease from their wagon wheels' axels. Others etched their names with tools carried for wagon repair. Professional stonecutters even stationed themselves at the rock and charged per carving. Considering all the signatures, a Jesuit missionary dubbed the rock the "Great Register of the Desert". Many names have eroded away or are covered with lichen, but thousands are still visible. In order to preserve the historic messages and signatures, further writing on the rock is prohibited. Before white pioneers took interest in the rock, it was an important meeting ground for Native Americans such as the Shoshone and Ute. They also carved into the rock, and the granite outcropping appears in many traditional legends. Today the rock is part of Independence Rock State Historic Site. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Wagon ruts left by the early pioneers are still visible, but today tt can be accessed by Wyoming Highway 220. Mount St. Helens Mount St. Helens is most famous for its catastrophic eruption in 1980. The active volcano is located in Washington State, about 90 miles south of Seattle and 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon. The Mount St. Helens recreational area was re-opened in 1987. The Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980 was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in United States history. A series of small earthquakes were detected starting on May 16, 1980. Two days later, at 8:32 on a Sunday morning, a massive earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale violently shook Mount St. Helens. The volcano violently erupted, its north face exploded, and lava poured fourth for nine continuous hours. Minor explosive activity would continue for six years. More than 1,300 feet of the mountain's rocky summit were blown away, leaving a milewide crater. The lava -- which was 1300 degrees Fahrenheit -- incinerated the surrounding forest and campsites, killing fifty-seven people and 7,000 large wild animals. It also destroyed more than $1 billion in property. The lava coated 185 miles of highway and 230 square miles of forest. It incinerated 250 homes, dozens of bridges, and 15 miles of railways. In addition to the lava damage, the area surrounding Mount St. Helens suffered a massive avalanche of mountain debris. Within fifteen seconds of the largest explosion, ash clouds had formed fifteen miles up in the atmosphere. Ash was carried by wind throughout eastern Washington. Two hundred and fifty miles away, residents of Spokane said that daytime was as dark as night. After President Jimmy Carter surveyed the damage, he commented, "Someone said this area looked like a moonscape. But the moon looks more like a golf course compared to what's up there." Archaeological evidence suggests that many civilizations may have been impacted by Mount St. Helens' eruptions. Campsites at least 6,500 years old have been discovered in the mountain vicinity. About four thousand years ago, aboriginal settlements were buried in pumice. People seem to have abandoned the land for two thousand years, after which hunters and gatherers returned for seasonal collection of food. These included members of the Upper Chinook, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Taidnapam, and Yakama tribes. The tribes developed many legends to explain the historic catastrophe and intermittent volcanic activity. Europeans may have first spotted the volcano in 1792 when the British Royal Navy Commander George Vancouver and his officers surveyed the Pacific Northwest coast. Vancouver named the mountain St. Helens in honor of a British diplomat, an Alleyne Fitzherbert, First Baron St. Helens. Geologists later determined that starting in 1800, the Goat Rocks area started erupting for 57 years! Fur traders and missionaries started to settle the area around 1840. Starting in the wintry days of 1842, they reported a "Great Eruption". This produced ash clouds and was followed by 15 years of small-scale steam-and-ash explosions. By 1980, Mount St. Helens did not seem as threatening. The nearby Spirit Lake offered recreational activities year-round, and the region was a popular boating, camping, and skiing destination. During the 1980 eruption, the lake was dramatically uplifted. Thousands of trees were uprooted and the lake sloshed water 800 feet upward. Once Spirit Lake settled again, it was smaller and much shallower than before. The lake was devoid of life, as volcanic gases removed all its oxygen. The Mount St. Helens area was left to naturally recover. It has gradually changed from gray to green. Some areas are thriving with new coniferous forests, and even the areas coated with volcanic rock have seen vegetation emerge. By 1993, scientists reported seeing fish in the once uninhabitable Spirit Lake. Barring another explosion, by the year 2200 the forest may look as it did before the 1980 catastrophe. President Ronald Reagan and the US Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in 1982. The park was reopened in 1987 and has only closed briefly, though seismic activity is still evident. People can access visitor centers on the west side of the mountain via State Road 504. Mountain climbing is permitted, and people can even dare a climb to the new crater of Mount St. Helens.
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