Yellowstone 2013 – The Grand Tetons

Emma Matilda Lake

In previous years, we have started class in Grand Teton National Park.  We often have students who choose to fly, so we pick them up at the Jackson airport. Being further south than Yellowstone, GTNP is also a little bit closer to Illinois, and we can cover the 1350 miles in two days.

 

Dependable moose

Seeing the Tetons first can shape students’ views of Yellowstone in negative ways.  For many students, Yellowstone can be a bit of a disappointment, as they decide that they like the spectacular scenery of the Tetons more. Jackson Hole also has a more visible elk population, which shapes students’ perceptions of the landscape.  Wildlife such as moose is more dependably visible on Teton trails.

The Tetons are hard to beat

Interestingly, seeing Yellowstone first in 2013 produced the same result – the Tetons show better.  The reasons varied a little. Students preferred the scenery in the Tetons to that in Yellowstone. Students preferred the feel of Teton trails over the boardwalks and greater development of Yellowstone’s trails, even in the backcountry.

Making bad choices?

Students also though that the Tetons attracted “higher quality” hikers, even on the very popular trail to Inspiration Point. It’s been interesting to me that “lower quality” hikers (unprepared in clothing, supplies and demeanor) make my students view a trail as more like developed frontcountry.

This year’s wildlife viewing was not noticeably better in either park. We did not see pronghorns in either park, though we saw many outside the parks. We did not see moose, wolves or bighorn. We did see some smaller species for the first time in my classes, notably badger and pika. Yet even without wildlife sightings, students preferred the Tetons.

 

Tetons at Dawn

Is there something wrong with Yellowstone? You can’t do much about the scenery.  The Tetons are one of the world’s great mountain ranges in scenic terms. Yellowstone has the Absaroka, Beartooth, Gallatin, Red, and Washburn ranges — all beautiful but they do not match the Tetons. Spectacular as Yellowstone Lake is, Jackson Lake has the better setting.

Far from the madding crowd

More important than the scenery, the visitor experience in Yellowstone clearly impacts the students’ own visitor experiences in undesirable ways.  Visitors are more likely to seem ill-prepared in Yellowstone, are more likely to stick to the parking lots, and seem to crowd the wildlife more. That makes Yellowstone seem less natural, even less “wild.”

Better without people?

Sadly, in the world’s first national park, visitors can be a problem for other visitors.

 

Fuzzy Wilderness

Evidence of human presence in a state wilderness area.

Wilderness law encourages us to draw a sharp line between “wilderness” and “not wilderness.”  That’s certainly easy for land managers because it tells them how to manage specific lands on either side of a line.  It’s supported by the natural science approach to most land management, which thinks in terms of physical characteristics of a place.

Loon Lake, Sylvania Wilderness

A wilderness is “untrammeled,” without evidence of human occupation or resource use.  (Evidence of recreational trammeling is, perhaps incoherently, consistent with a this definition of legal wilderness.)

 

 

Not a legal wilderness, but it seemed wild.

Humanists might suggest that “wilderness” is socially constructed. Society has built an idea of wilderness in general, and associates certain kinds of places with that idea. As I know from conversations with students, those ideas are widely held but also somewhat malleable. Students are willing to consider types of wilderness they hadn’t thought of before, like caves, underwater sites, or tallgrass prairie. They also change their minds about what signs of human presence they will accept.

 

 

 

Politics of Yellowstone

Workbooks and such

As is usually true, social scientists tend to take positions straddling the views of humanists and natural scientists.  Through surveys, logs and journals, poking hikers randomly for their feelings, and other techniques, social scientists have connected physical places to social constructions of those places.  I do this informally while teaching, drawing from the wilderness literature to define the kinds of questions I ask. Students fill out worksheets that look like some of the surveys, and I control the places where I have them fill them out.

Bear viewing on the trail

Based on some of these techniques, Carie Steele (Texas Tech) and I have examined how our students have constructed the idea of “wilderness” in the field. In a recent article, “What Makes it Wild?”, we discuss two different ways that perceptions of wilderness change independent of the landscape. First, the sequence of wildlife sightings matters: seeing elk and then a bear along a trail is different than seeing a bear and then an elk along the same trail. Seeing the bear first makes the trail seem wild, which makes the elk seem wilder too; seeing the elk first would not make the trail seem wild. Bison, wolves, and even spawning trout can make a place seem wilder.

Using social media to construct “wilderness”

Second, a group may define wildlife and wilderness in idiosyncratic ways. This makes one group perceive a place differently than other groups do, just because of the peculiar direction their own conversations have gone.

The Yellowstone River is wild here.

If “wilderness” is socially constructed, if it changes, if people view it differently, if different groups arrive at different construction, then we probably should not think of wilderness in terms of sharp lines. If our definitions of wilderness are degrees of gray, instead of being black and white, how should we manage wild places? How do we keep it wild if “wild” is a gray area to begin with?

 

 

 

The 1964 Wilderness allows grazing.

These constructions have real consequences for land management.  For example, the National Park Service wants to remove a sustainable oyster farm from a wilderness area in Point Reyes National Seashore because it’s incompatible with “wilderness.” Defenders of the oyster farm, including some wilderness theorists, disagree. They believe some kinds of resource use are compatible with “wilderness.”

Does a fuzzy wilderness have oyster farms?


For the Point Reyes issue, Google “Drakes Estero.” You’ll see links to both sides.

“What Makes it Wild?” is behind a pay wall for one year, but will be available for free by 2015.  See the IJW for subscription information.

Pahre, Robert and Carie Steele. 2013. “What Makes it Wild? Visitors’ Constructions of Wildlife and Wilderness in the Greater Yellowstone Area.” International Journal of Wilderness 19(3): 25-31 (December).

Some photos of wilderness.

Autumn in the Dunes

Entrance to Portage Lakefront Unit

In early November, I took a group of students from my “Environmental Politics” class on a field trip to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  A few of them knew the dunes as a good place to go to the beach – but that wasn’t our agenda on a windy November day.

Midwest Steel from Portage Lakefront

We started at the Portage Lakefront Unit to talk about the political history of the region.  From the breakwater, you can see the full sweep of the Lake Michigan shoreline from Michigan City, Indiana, to Chicago.  We couldn’t quite see Chicago, but the industry of East Chicago, Whiting, Gary, and Hammond were all visible.

 

At this spot, the park faces a steel mill across the channel of Burns Ditch.  The Port of Indiana and a NIPSCO power plant, both of which serve the mill, are barely visible on the other side of the factory.  The town of Ogden Dunes lies on the other side of the park, a well-to-do community that benefits from the protected landscape of the national park.

Dunes and Industry

The political geography of national parks is nowhere more visible than here. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore owes its existence to a political compromise in 1963.  Dune advocates accepted a subsidized harbor bill while industrialists acquiesced in creation of a national park unit here.  Each got the core of what they wanted, while each had to accept the existence of the other next door.

NIPSCO from Bailly Beach

The geography of Portage Lakefront makes this compromise visible, and always sparks a conversation. How can nature and humans coexist? What are the benefits, and what are the costs? Seeing a national park, residential community, and major industry lying cheek-and-jowl shows students what these issues look like on the physical landscape.

 

Cowles Bog Trail

After Portage Lakefront, we explored the natural landscape that the park preserves. The best place to do this is the Cowles Bog Trail.  The trail begins by walking along Cowles Bog, a National Historic Landmark that recognizes where Henry Chandler Cowles (1869-1939) pioneered the study of ecology. The swamp forest here includes pin oak, red maple, and yellow birch. Some of these trees are moving into the swamp and transforming it.  In one stretch, the NPS kills these trees by girdling them, to halt this natural process of ecological succession. The park honors Cowles’ studies of ecological succession by arresting this process in time, thereby displaying it better in space – keeping both the fen and the swamp forest.

 

The final dune

As we climb into the dunes, we gradually see more habitats, including oak savanna with black and white oaks and shrubs such as chokecherry, witch hazel and sumac. We pass some ponds behind the dunes, and then finally arrive at the foredunes above Lake Michigan.  On top of the dunes we see various hardwoods that have established themselves.  They can move in here because the marram grass near the beach has stabilized the soil and transformed the ecosystem, providing a place for cottonwood, oak, hickory, and white ash to move in.

Root and Leaf

These diverse microhabitats characterize Indiana Dunes, and explain why this small place holds more than one thousand plant species. Congress preserved not only recreational opportunities on the beach and trails but also a hotspot of biodiversity.  Microhabitats are scattered among towns, factories and transportation networks – a microcosm of the wider problem of environmental politics today.

Park Pavilion and Steel Mill

Can we preserve natural places and a full range of biodiversity in a landscape dominated by humans? Does preserving our natural heritage require killing native trees? While they enjoyed getting out of Champaign-Urbana for the day, we also left them with some questions for their reflective essays on the trip.

 

Additional links and resources

For four seasons in Indiana Dunes, see my Flickr set.

For my essay comparing Indiana Dunes with Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes, see the National Park Traveler.

For my photo essay on the Midwest’s national park units, see Illinois Issues.

Official site for the Indiana Dunes.

The Dunes of Lake Michigan

Portage Lake Unit in Winter

Lake Michigan has two great national parks, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana) and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan). Both are biologically rich, and reward exploration. Don’t stop at the beach!

 

 

The Old Man and the Sea

There’s also a political back story in each place, with questions of race and class, and trade-offs between economic growth and the environment.

See my full story here.

Photos from Indiana Dunes.

Photos from Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Further reading

For Indiana Dunes, see
Franklin, Kay and Norma Schaeffer. 1983. Duel for the Dunes: Land Use Conflict on the Shores of Lake Michigan. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

For Sleeping Bear Dunes, see
Kalt, Brian C. 2001. Sixties Sandstorm: The Fight Over Establishment of a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, 1961-1970. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

For data and charts on visitation to Indiana Dunes by underrepresented groups, see the following article. Indiana Dunes is unusual compared to other park units, apparently because it lies close to minority-dominant communities.
Weber, Joe and Selima Sultana. 2012. “Why Do So Few Minority People Visit National Parks? Visitation and the Accessibility of ‘America’s Best Idea.’” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 1-28.

The Manitous

Yellowstone 2013: Geology

Two Cones

Yellowstone is famous for its geology.  The park holds more than half of the world’s thermal features.  Its surface appearance reflects the activity of a huge caldera that last erupted about 650,000 years ago.  The Yellowstone River carves a spectacular canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, that holds two beautiful waterfalls, 308 and 109 feet high.  There are petrified forests atop Specimen Ridge inside the park and in the northern Gallatin range just outside it. Mountains such as the Gallatin, Beartooth, and Absaroka ranges ring the park, and the Red Mountains lie entirely within it.

Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

Despite those riches, geology is an awkward subject for a class on the “Politics of Yellowstone.” The federal government does not have a policy on place tectonics or volcanism. With rare exceptions, we do not have a geyser policy. At the same time, it would be stupid for the course to ignore these wonders. The students rightly want to see this famous geology while they’re in the park.

Old Faithful

What to do?  We use the scenic geology to start talking about tourism. By visiting tourist-heavy destinations like Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, we examine the impact of tourism development on the environment. Finding a geyser along the trail in an isolated area is very different than viewing Old Faithful from a boardwalk surrounded by hotels, restaurants, gift shops and parking lots.

Our first examination of these issues in 2013 came along a trail I call the “Yellowstone Sampler.” We see some unfenced thermal features in the backcountry and usually walk fairly close to some bachelor bison groups at the north end of the Hayden Valley.  After lunch at a scenic spot, we emerge from a moderately-low use trail to the crowds and parking lots of Artist Point.  The transition is pretty sudden, which makes it a good place to talk about developed tourism and personal experiences of nature.

Stumped!

The hike encourages students to think about “wilderness” – the Wilderness Act of 1964, students’ personal definitions of nature and of wilderness, and the views of other people. Does wilderness matter to people? Is it important for well-functioning ecosystems? Does the preservation of the world, as Thoreau wrote, lie in wildness?

Specimen Ridge


In 2013, I added a new hike to our second full day in the park.  As part of our driving tour of the Lamar Valley’s wildlife, we climbed the lower reaches of Specimen Ridge to reach a petrified forest.  This was a remarkably steep trail, posing a definite physical challenge – but one that rewarded us with great views from high above the Lamar. We remained in sight of the park road, but the physical challenge contributed to the wilderness feel of the experience for many students.

Though some guidebooks describe it, Petrified Forest is an unofficial trail, not found on park maps. The Park Service does not maintain it, so people find their own track.  This results in many social trails and greater impact on the landscape.

In some parks, there might be a road going up to a site like this.  Instead, Yellowstone has decided to keep these petrified trees unpublicized, accessible only by a difficult and unmaintained trail.

Boardwalk at Grand Prismatic

Is that democratic?  Most visitors – about 97% – want to experience Yellowstone from their automobile or a high-density, paved path. Why do we keep them away from the petrified forest?  Automobile sightseers are restricted to a single petrified tree just off the park road, and that tree is surrounded by a fence.  Even that lonely tree is inaccessible to recreational vehicles. Is that fair? Or should the park keep some destinations away from the vehicles, recognizing that hikers have some “right” to physical challenge?

Parks are for people


When you ask those questions you realize that Yellowstone’s geology starts to open up all sorts of questions about political values.  What are national parks for? Who are they for?

Some might argue that Yellowstone should serve the vast majority of Americans who want to go sightseeing only a short distance from their automobiles.  Others might emphasize the wilderness experience that can be found only in the larger national parks. Still others might move away from human needs and argue that only large wilderness areas can protect intact, well-functioning ecosystems.

Those are the big topics of the national parks. Geology may not be a politically-salient topic, but it turns out that you can find political themes if you use the geology to play tourist.

Lamar Valley from Specimen Ridge

If you’re interested in geology, and to some degree even if you’re not, I recommend Geology Underfoot in Yellowstone by Marc Hendrix.

For a fascinating view of the human footprint on the geologic record, see Jan Zalasiewicz’s The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks?

Photos from the 2013 Yellowstone course are on Flickr.

Yellowstone 2013 – The Waters of Yellowstone

Absarokas across Yellowstone Lake

In past years, the first day in Yellowstone involved driving up from the Tetons, with stops at the West Thumb geyser basin before hitting the iconic site of Old Faithful.  This year, our introduction to the park began with Yellowstone Lake.

 

 

Geyser cone in Yellowstone Lake

We entered Yellowstone through the East Entrance, which brought us to the Lake Overlook. This was the site for my first mini-lectures, on wilderness, Native traditions of the region, and the Lake ecosystem.

Historically, cutthroat trout have provided a key part of the ecosystem here. When they spawn in the creeks around Yellowstone Lake, they provide a spring food source for grizzly bears. They also feed otters, ospreys, eagles, pelicans, and many smaller predators.

 

 

 

Deep water

It looks pristine — but not all is well. Cutthroat trout populations are suffering at the hands of non-native Lake trout in Yellowstone Lake. Those trout live in deep water and spawn in the lake’s depths, making them unavailable as a food source for predators. They also eat the native cutthroats.

Other waters face their own challenges. Fly fishers say the hatches of nymphs and flies are not what they used to be. Acid rain from industrial areas to the west is changing the pH of these waters, leaching trace minerals that are key nutrients for bighorn sheep.

 

 

Yellowstone Blues

Changes in wetlands, lakes and rivers have also harmed Yellowstone’s amphibians.  Though they are not as abundant as they used to be, we found some Tiger salamanders later in the week, at Lake Isa, on our annual salamander hunt.

In addition to these human-caused threats to the ecosystem, the Greater Yellowstone Area is in a period of extended drought. These periods have happened regularly in the park’s history, so we need not assume that global climate change is responsible. Drought has important political implications throughout the West.  Industry, consumers, and especially agriculture rely on water, and water authorities must work to find new sources in a drought.

 

Double pool at West Thumb

Historically the need for water has led to pressures to build dams and other projects in western national parks. In Grand Teton National Park, a dam raises the level of Jackson Lake by nine feet, water that supplies the potato farmers of Idaho’s Snake River Valley. Farmers have also cast covetous eyes at Yellowstone Lake, the Yellowstone River, the Snake River inside Yellowstone, and the many rivers of the Bechler region in the southwest of the park. Unlike other iconic parks – Yosemite, Glacier, Rocky Mountain – there are no dams here. But there’s always the potential for new demands.

 

Storm Point

After visiting the Lake Overview, we drove to a trailhead where we saw our first bison. We hiked to Storm Point, where we were treated to wind, high waves, and a light squall. We  saw the local marmot colony before returning to the van. A quick stop at the Fishing Bridge visitor center and then the West Thumb geysers completed the day.

 

For further reading on the health of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, check out Jack Turner’s Travels in the Greater Yellowstone.

Photos from the 2013 Yellowstone course are on Flickr.

Yellowstone 2013 – Getting there

Reading material on the road

In a regular classroom, it’s relatively easy to arrange topics in the order you want. You have to work around constraints like Thanksgiving break, and obviously the number of topics has to fit the number of class sessions in one way or another.  But that’s about it.

A field course also has constraints of the calendar. The biggest challenge is somewhat different: making geography fit both a chronological sequence and an analytical one.  We don’t have transporters that get us from place to place in whatever sequence we like. Instead, the geography must tell a story.

Windmill blade in Iowa

In past years, I’ve been constrained by the airport at Jackson Hole – some students have chosen to ride the van with me while others have flown. I’ve used that to tell a story of tourism, starting with a superficial engagement of the Grand Teton range. We see the Tetons as a tourist sees it while driving through, and then engage the landscape more deeply with hikes and an introduction to wildlife and ecosystems. Then we engage wildlife more deeply in Yellowstone, and loop back to Jackson Hole and the airport.

 

 

Back to the mythic West!

This year I had the freedom to do something different, a great crescent through the parks. We began at Cody, Wyoming, with an overview of the mythic West. My impressions over the years is that “the West” often helps recruit students to the class, but students vary considerably in terms of how detailed this vision is. They do know what a rodeo is, however.

Rooting for the calf

After a long drive on the second day, students had the option of attending the nightly rodeo in Cody, Wyoming. Questions of animal welfare sparked some reactions, especially when they saw calf roping and bull riding.

 

 

Rodeo clown and bull riding

Another cultural surprise came as the announcer and rodeo clown engaged in some banter that consisted mostly of bad jokes. A few of those jokes used stereotypes that would be socially unacceptable back in Illinois. That introduction to Western ways had most of us rooting for the bull against the rodeo clown.

Peregrine falcon and handler

We formally began class at the Buffalo Bill Historic Center the next morning. We visited the Draper Museum of Natural History, providing an introduction to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from low-elevation sagebrush flats to high-elevation tundra. Students explored the other four museums according to interest (Plains Indians, Art, Firearms and Buffalo Bill). We finished with a live raptor show.

Then . . . off to Yellowstone !

The entire set of 2013 Yellowstone photos is on my Flickr page here.

Warning! No More Signs!

Fireweed

America’s wilderness laws have some odd effects.  The lines separating a designated wilderness from the rest of the country are arbitrary, and invisible.  Yet the apparatus of civilization lies behind those invisible lines.  We make rules, and the rules change when you cross the line.
Isle Royale National Park consists of one large island in Lake Superior, surrounded by many smaller islands.  Almost all visitors arrive by boat, so there are two marinas and some campgrounds with developed docks or small ranger stations.  Outside these few developed locations, the entire national park is designated wilderness.

 

Tobin Harbor

There’s only one lodge in the park, at Rock Harbor.  Rock Harbor has some walking trails around the lodge, and these provide a little island of civilization in the middle of the wilderness.

For the National Park Service, Isle Royale’s wilderness provides a major “interpretive theme” for the park  The NPS wants “wilderness” to be one the main idea that each visitor learns about the park, and a major theme that she brings home with her.  The visitor centers emphasize wilderness, as does the website.

So does one of the trails behind the lodge.  The Stoll nature trail is shaped like a long, skinny figure eight along most of the length of Scoville Point.  After leaving the lodge and its outbuildings, the trail goes through a mix of terrain.  When the trail goes through wetlands it becomes a boardwalk.  As you walk along there are signs that explain the natural environment that the visitor sees.

Stoll’s Wilderness

Near the middle of the figure eight you reach the last sign on the walk.  This sign introduces the concept of “wilderness,” and gives the visitor a choice.  You could turn and complete the lower loop.  Or, you could go forward and hike the second loop.  If you continue, though, you must be warned: beyond this sign is a federally-designated wilderness and there are no more signs.  The Park Service is very clear:

“Beyond here you enter designated wilderness.  You will find no more signs that explain what you see.  The purpose of designated wilderness is to retain a primeval character, with the imprint of humans substantially diminished.  Beyond this point you must make your own discoveries.”

Skylight at Rock Harbor

You stand on an important invisible line.  Congress has proclaimed that wilderness lies before you, with civilization behind.  That line at your feet is a choice—do you dare make your own discoveries?

 

Can you survive without signs?

 

 

 

 

Click on any image to see it on Flickr.  My set of Isle Royale images is here.

A Taste of Wild Dinosaur

A Taste of Wild Dinosaur

June starts the summer travel season. Many Americans will be driving out West to enjoy our spectacular scenery and national parks.

It would be easy to overlook Dinosaur National Monument because of its funny name.  Sure, it has some dinosaur fossils at a small site near US-40. However, it has much more in over 200,000 acres. It’s a big park, about the size of Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and other more famous national parks.

If you’re in Colorado, Utah or Wyoming, it’s closer than you think. The rough roads are part of the adventure. Allow more time than you think you need, and explore.

Here’s a story from my pre-blog archives.

What makes something a national park?

Vendome Well

The town of Sulphur, Oklahoma, lies a few miles off the interstate between Oklahoma City and Dallas. After you fight your way through the modern chain stores and gas stations, you arrive at small-town America. On the right is a lovely city park, well cared for, and a fine example of the civic virtues of small-town America.

That lovely city park is actually a former national park.

Once known as Platt National Park, this site exemplifies a long battle over the question, “What is worthy of being a national park?” From the moment of its creation in 1906 until its decommissioning in 1976, people fought over whether Platt “deserved” to be a national park. The National Park Service and its allies in the environmental movement generally said it did not.

Former Park Headquarters

Congress established Platt National Park in 1906, ten years before creation of the National Park Service. At the time, there were no procedures to establish standards or review park proposals. There were no outside groups dedicated to the parks, like the National Parks Association today (now the NPCA).

 

Travertine Creek

Both the NPS and NPCA worry about the “standards” of national park status, and see clearly the risks of not setting standards. In the most egregious example, Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall tried to create an “All-Weather National Park” that consisted of a handful of scattered parcels centered on . . . Albert Fall’s ranch.

Even without Albert Fall’s corrupt intent, standards are important. If you don’t worry about standards, politicians will press for more and more parks of ever-lower quality. After all, every state has some lovely spots that aren’t really national in significance, such as Starved Rock in Illinois or Turkey Run in Indiana. I’m a big fan of both, but they are properly state parks.

Travertine Nature Center

Platt is one of those lovely spots. It preserved a group of cold springs, some mineral and some freshwater. Many of the springs are in a surprisingly deep valley of Rock Creek. The hills provided some shade, and the springs some water, supporting an eastern deciduous forest on the valley floor. The shaded valley, trees, and cold water made Platt a great place to keep cool on hot summer days in Oklahoma and North Texas, an “oasis on the prairie.”

Swimming hole

Pleasant it may be, but Platt lacks any distinctive natural resources, culture or history. The NPS, NPA, and some members of Congress recognized this. People made serious attempts to disestablish Platt National Park in 1910, 1913, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1932, 1938, 1941, 1957, and 1958. In each case the Oklahoma congressional delegation stopped the effort.

As Americans’ recreational interests changed, Platt became less popular – though it still gets more than a million visitors a year. When the Bureau of Reclamation dammed Rock Creek to form the Lake of the Arbuckles in 1968, the NPS took over management of recreation on the lake. That provided an opportunity to create Chickasaw National Recreation Area here in 1976, and to fold Platt into the NRA.

Platt Historic District

Today, the NPS tells the story of Platt National Park in a historic district here.  That interpretation ignores the debates over standards. Perhaps it would be too awkward to admit that the National Park Service still manages lands that it found unworthy for seventy years.


This blog post draws from material in my book manuscript, “Telling America’s Stories: How the National Park Service Interprets Westward Expansion.”

For more photos, see my Flickr set.

If you’d like to read a more favorable account of Platt, see
Parker, Albert J.  2010.  “A Park of the People: the Demotion of Platt National Park, Oklahoma.” Journal of Cultural Geography 27(2): 151-175 (June).

Wray, Jacilee and Alexa Roberts.  1998.  “In Praise of Platt: Or, What is a ‘Real’ National Park?” George Wright Forum 15(1): 68-78.