Fascinating Locations You Won’t Believe are in the US

Shannon Quinn - September 7, 2022
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The Palouse hills. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Palouse, Idaho/Washington/Oregon

The Palouse is a distinct geographic region of the northwestern United States, encompassing parts of north central Idaho, southeastern Washington, and by some definitions, parts of northeast Oregon. It is a major agricultural area, primarily producing wheat and legumes. Situated about 160 miles (260 km) north of the Oregon Trail, the region experienced rapid growth in the late 19th century.

The Palouse in the early summertime. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Many people believe the name of the Palus tribe (spelled in early accounts variously Palus, Palloatpallah, Pelusha, et cetera) was converted by French-Canadian fur traders to the more familiar French word pelouse, meaning “land with short and thick grass” or “lawn.” Over time, the spelling changed to Palouse. The Palouse is home to two land-grant universities: the University of Idaho in Moscow and Washington State University in Pullman. Just eight miles (13 km) apart, both schools opened in the early 1890s. (via Seven Wonders of Washington State)

Boldt Castle. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Boldt Castle, New York

Boldt Castle is a major landmark and tourist attraction in the Thousand Islands region of New York. Open to guests seasonally between mid-May and mid-October, it is located on Heart Island in the Saint Lawrence River. Originally a private mansion built by American millionaire George Boldt, it is now maintained by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority as a tourist attraction. George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, and his family enjoyed an earlier frame cottage on Hart Island (the island’s original name) for several summers, which they greatly expanded. 

The power house. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt’s wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired Heart Island and the nearby yacht house in 1977 for one dollar, under the agreement that all revenues obtained from the castle operation would be applied towards restoration, so that the island would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.  (via Boldt Castle)

Great Sand Dunes National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is an American national park that conserves an area of large sand dunes up to 750 feet on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley, and an adjacent national preserve in the Sangre de Cristo Range, in south-central Colorado. The park was originally designated Great Sand Dunes National Monument on March 17, 1932, by President Herbert Hoover. The original boundaries protected an area of 35,528 acres. 

A giant sand dune. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America. The dunes cover an area of about 30 sq mi  and are estimated to contain over 1.2 cubic miles of sand. Sediments from the surrounding mountains filled the valley over geologic time periods. After lakes within the valley receded, exposed sand was blown by the predominant southwest winds toward the Sangre de Cristos. Eventually it formed the dune field over an estimated tens of thousands of years. The four primary components of the Great Sand Dunes system are the mountain watershed, the dunefield, the sand sheet, and the sabkha. Ecosystems within the mountain watershed include alpine tundra, subalpine forests, montane woodlands, and riparian zones. (via National Park Service)

Middle Oneonta Falls. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge is a scenic gorge located in the Columbia River Gorge area in Oregon. The U.S. Forest Service has designated it as a botanical area because of the unique aquatic and woodland plants that grow there. Exposed walls of 25-million-year-old basalt are home to a wide variety of ferns, mosses, hepatics, and lichens, many of which grow only in the Columbia River Gorge. There are four major waterfalls on Oneonta Creek as it runs through the gorge. 

Oneonta Gorge. Credit: google Images

The trail has issues due to natural as well as human impacts. In the late 1990s, the stream was partially occluded when three large boulders tumbled into the stream. Subsequently, a log jam has formed in the midst of the slot canyon.] This has created a hazard for hikers, which led to a fatality in 2011. As of November 2020, trails providing access to the waterfalls remain closed due to damage from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The Oneonta Gorge was first photographed by Carleton Eugene Watkins, a native of Oneonta, New York, who had traveled west in 1851 during the time of the California Gold Rush. Watkins named the Oneonta Falls after his hometown. (via USDA)

Tivoli Square in Solvang, California. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Solvang, California

Solvang is Danish for “sunny fields”. It is a city in Santa Barbara County, California. It is located in the Santa Ynez Valley. The population was 6,126 at the 2020 census, up from 5,245 at the 2010 census. Solvang was founded in 1911 and incorporated as a city on May 1, 1985. Solvang is often dubbed “The Danish Capital of America”. Solvang’s origins date back to 1804, when Mission Santa Inés was founded by the Spanish under Esteban Tápis. A small community grew up around the mission called Santa Inés during the Mexican period, but it was largely abandoned after the American Conquest of California. 

Solvang, California. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1911, a new settlement was founded around the mission by a group of Danish-Americans who purchased 9,000 acres of the surrounding Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. The community took on its distinctive Danish-themed architecture beginning in 1947 and has since become a prominent tourist destination.Though only about 10% of residents in the 21st century are Danish, the town attracts many tourists from the Nordic countries, and has been the subject of several Danish royal visits, most recently by Prince Henrik in 2011. (via Solvang USA)

Badlands National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park is an American national park located in southwestern South Dakota. The park protects 242,756 acres of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles, along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. The National Park Service co-managed with the Oglala Lakota tribe. The Badlands Wilderness protects 64,144 acres. Badlands was re-designated a national park on November 10, 1978. The movies Dances with Wolves (1990) and Thunderheart (1992) were partially filmed in Badlands National Park.

The Black Hills. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This national park was originally a reservation of the Oglala Sioux Indians and spans the southern unit of the park. The area around Stronghold Table was originally Sioux territory, and is revered as a ceremonial sacred site rather than a place to live. In 1868, at the Second Treaty of Fort Laramie, the United States assured the Sioux that the Badlands shall forever be the property of the Sioux. In 1889, however, the treaty was broken and the Badlands were confiscated by the United States and unilaterally incorporated into a national park. (via National Park Service)

The Everglades at sunset. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Everglades National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park is an American national park that protects the southern twenty percent of the original Everglades in Florida. The park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River. An average of one million people visit the park each year. Everglades is the third-largest national park in the contiguous United States after Death Valley and Yellowstone. UNESCO declared the Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and listed the park as a World Heritage Site in 1979, and the Ramsar Convention included the park on its list of Wetlands of International Importance in 1987. 

Sunrise on the pine rocklands on Long Pine Key Nature Trail. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Most national parks preserve unique geographic features; Everglades National Park was the first created to protect a fragile ecosystem. The Everglades are a network of wetlands and forests fed by a river flowing 0.25 miles (0.40 km) per day out of Lake Okeechobee, southwest into Florida Bay. Thirty-six threatened or protected species inhabit the park, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee, along with 350 species of birds, 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish, 40 species of mammals, and 50 species of reptiles. The majority of South Florida’s fresh water, which is stored in the Biscayne Aquifer, is recharged in the park. (via National Park Service)

The Hubbard Glacier. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska/Canada

Hubbard Glacier is a glacier located in Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve in eastern Alaska and Kluane National Park and Reserve in Yukon, Canada, and named after Gardiner Hubbard. Before it reaches the sea, Hubbard is joined by the Valerie Glacier to the west. Through forward surges of its own ice, has contributed to the advance of the ice flow that experts believe will eventually dam the Russell Fjord from Disenchantment Bay waters.

A cruise ship sailing past the Hubbard Glacier. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It takes about 400 years for ice to traverse the length of the glacier. Meaning that the ice at the foot of the glacier is about 400 years old. The glacier routinely calves off icebergs the size of a ten-story building. Where the glacier meets the bay, most of the ice is below the waterline, and newly calved icebergs can shoot up quite dramatically, so that ships must keep their distance from the edge of the glacier in Disenchantment Bay. (via Alaska)

Fort Jefferson. Credit: Wikimedia Common

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park is a national park. The park preserves Fort Jefferson and the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. The archipelago’s coral reefs are the least disturbed of the Florida Keys reefs. The park is noted for abundant sea life. It also has tropical bird breeding grounds, colorful coral reefs, and legends of shipwrecks and sunken treasures. The park’s centerpiece is Fort Jefferson, a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. Fort Jefferson is the largest brick masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, and is composed of more than 16 million bricks.

Dry Tortugas National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 Among United States forts it is exceeded in size only by Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Fort Adams, Rhode Island. Dry Tortugas is unique in its combination of a largely undisturbed tropical ecosystem with significant historic artifacts. The park is accessible only by seaplane or boat and has averaged about 63,000 visitors annually in the period from 2008 to 2017. Activities include snorkeling, picnicking, birdwatching, camping, scuba diving, saltwater fishing and kayaking. Overnight camping is limited to 8 primitive campsites at the Garden Key campground — located just south of Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas National Park is part of the Everglades and Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve, established by UNESCO in 1976 under its Man and the Biosphere Program. (via National Park Service)

Bryce Canyon National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park is an American national park located in southwestern Utah. The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, is not a canyon, but a collection of giant natural amphitheaters. Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views for park visitors. Bryce Canyon National Park is much smaller and sits at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet.

A natural bridge made from rock in a canyon. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce. The area around Bryce Canyon was originally designated as a national monument by President Warren G. Harding in 1923 and was redesignated as a national park by Congress in 1928. The park covers 35,835 acres and receives substantially fewer visitors than Zion National Park (nearly 4.3 million in 2016) or Grand Canyon National Park (nearly 6 million in 2016), largely due to Bryce’s more remote location. In 2018, Bryce Canyon received 2,679,478 recreational visitors, which was an increase of 107,794 visitors from the prior year. (via National Park Service)

A tulip farm in Skagit Valley, Florida. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Skagit Valley, Washington

The most famous tulip garden in the world is the grand Keukenhof in the Netherlands. But if you can’t swing an international trip, book a flight to Washington’s Skagit Valley instead. The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival celebrates the blooming of its massive tulip fields each spring. The Skagit Valley lies in the northwestern corner of the state of Washington, United States. Its defining feature is the Skagit River, which snakes through local communities which include the seat of Skagit County, Mount Vernon.

Every year, there is a tulip festival open to the public. Credit: Uprooted Traveler

The local newspaper is Skagit Valley Herald, published in Mount Vernon, Washington. Between 1967 and 1983, there was a plan by Puget Sound Power and Light Co. to build two nuclear power plants in Skagit Valley, but due to controversy, these plans were shelved. (via Visit Skagit Valley)

Haysack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach is a city in Clatsop County, Oregon. Its population was 1,690 at the 2010 census. It is a popular coastal Oregon tourist destination, famous for Haystack Rock. In 2013, National Geographic listed it as “one of the world’s 100 most beautiful places.” What is now Cannon Beach, as well as the coastal area surrounding it, is part of the traditional territory of the Tillamook tribe. William Clark, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, journeyed to Cannon Beach in early 1805. Clark later explored the region himself. From a spot near the western cliffs of the headland he saw “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…” That viewpoint, later dubbed “Clark’s Point of View,” can be accessed by a hiking trail from Indian Beach in Ecola State Park.

Cow elk grazing in Cannon Beach. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Clark and several of his companions, including Sacagawea, completed a three-day journey on January 10, 1806. They encountered a group of Native Americans from the Tillamook tribe who were boiling blubber for storage. Clark and his party met with them and successfully bartered for 300 pounds of blubber and some whale oil. There is a whale sculpture commemorating the encounter between Clark’s group and the Tillamooks in a small park at the northern end of Hemlock Street. Clark applied the name Ekoli to what is now Ecola Creek. (via Cannon Beach)

Nā Pali Coast State Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nā Pali Coast State Park, Hawaii

Nā Pali Coast State Park is a 6,175-acre state park in the U.S. state of Hawaii. It is located in the center of the rugged 16-mile northwest side of Kauaʻi, the second-oldest inhabited Hawaiian island. The Nā Pali coast itself extends southwest from Keʻe Beach all the way to Polihale State Park. The nā pali (high cliffs) along the shoreline rise as much as 4,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The state park was formed to protect the Kalalau Valley.

The Kalalau Trail. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To the east of the state park is the Hono O Nā Pali State Natural Reserve. It was established in 1983 and later extended to over 3,578 acres in 2009. Hiking trails and hunters’ roads provide access to the sharp ridges from Koke’e Road (route 550) in Waimea Canyon. (via Division of State Parks)

Flushing, Queens after the rain. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Flushing, Queens

The New York metropolitan area is home to the largest population of Chinese people outside of Asia. It has six distinct Chinatowns within city limits. One of the largest communities is in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens. Flushing was established as a settlement of New Netherland on October 10, 1645, on the eastern bank of Flushing Creek. It was named Vlissingen, after the Dutch city of Vlissingen. The English took control of New Amsterdam in 1664, and when Queens County was established in 1683. In 1898, Flushing was consolidated into the City of New York. Development came in the early 20th century with the construction of bridges and public transportation. An immigrant population, composed mostly of Chinese and Koreans, settled in Flushing in the late 20th century.

Koreatown in Flushing, NY. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Flushing contains numerous residential subsections, and its diversity is reflected by the numerous ethnic groups that reside there. Flushing is served by several stations on the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington Branch. It is also known as the New York City Subway’s IRT Flushing Line, which has its terminus at Main Street. (via Wikipedia)

Indian Head. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a U.S. National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, United States. It extends for 42 miles along the shore of Lake Superior and covers 73,236 acres. The park has extensive views of the hilly shoreline between Munising and Grand Marais in Alger County. It has picturesque rock formations, waterfalls, and sand dunes.

These rock formations are popular among kayakers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pictured Rocks derives its name from the 15 miles of colorful sandstone cliffs northeast of Munising. The cliffs reach up to 200 feet above lake level. They have been naturally sculptured into a variety of shallow caves, arches, and formations resembling castle turrets and human profiles. The U.S. Congress designated Pictured Rocks the first National Lakeshore in the United States in 1966. It is governed by the National Park Service (NPS). (via National Park Service)

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness is located in San Juan County, New Mexico, between Chaco Canyon and the De-Na-Zin Wilderness. The wilderness has multicolored badlands, sandstone hoodoos, petrified wood and dinosaur bones. The BLM Wilderness Study Area (WSA) was declared in May 1992 and would protect an area of about 26.5 km2. The area was prospected by the dinosaur hunter Charles Hazelius Sternberg in the summer of 1921.

A rock formation called “Giant Hoodoo”. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sternberg collected the type specimen of Pentaceratops fenestratus, a ceratopsid dinosaur from the late Cretaceous Period, within the WSA.  Fossil collecting here without a permit is prohibited by law. John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed March 12, 2019. It authorizes the establishment of the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System,. This protects approximately 7,242 acres. (via Bureau of Land Management)

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