(Gallery) America the Beautiful: Tour All 63 US National Parks

BY Skylar Parker and Hong Lu TIMEMay 19, 2022 PRINT

In 1882, choirmaster Samuel A. Ward took a leisurely ferry ride from Coney Island into New York City, was struck with inspiration at the summer scene, and immediately composed a tune. A decade later, on an 1893 summer day in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Katharine Lee Bates gazed out from a window and saw a “sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies,” that a hymn immediately sprang to mind. In 1910, the music and poetry came together under the title “America the Beautiful.” The work struck an enduring chord, resonating with so many Americans that numerous campaigns have sought to make it the national anthem.

From the earliest days of America, the hand of Providence has been seen not just in the history of events, but also in the natural splendor of the land—spurring several conservation efforts, one of which resulted in the National Parks System.

Yellowstone National Park

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Yellowstone National Park, which spans Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is famous for its geysers. (Lillac/Shutterstock)

Considered one of the first national parks in the world, Yellowstone National Park was established on March 1, 1872. The park is home to one of North America’s largest animals, the bison.

Grand Teton National Park

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Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park’s majestic mountain views. (cadlikai/Shutterstock)

A rich variety of birds flock to Grand Teton National Park making this place a bird watcher’s dream. Avian species of all shapes and sizes can be spotted here.

Mount Rainier National Park

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Fall colors on the trail near Paradise Lodge in Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington. (Stuart Westmorland/Corbis Documentary/GettyImages)

Mount Rainier has 25 glaciers, the most of any mountain in the continental United States. Emmons Glacier stretches over four miles and covers the largest area of any glacier in the 48 states.

Olympic National Park

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Sunset at the sea stack in Olympic National Park. (Checubus/Shutterstock)

The Olympic National Park has an astounding 3,000 miles of rivers and streams. Roughly 95 percent of the park is protected under congressional designation and preserved for wildlife.

Denali National Park

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Snow-capped mountains in the fall in Denali National Park in Alaska. (Uwe Bergwitz/Shutterstock)

Denali National Park is home to a special amphibian called a wood frog that has the ability to freeze itself in a cryogenic state during wintertime until it thaws in spring.

Kenai Fjords National Park

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Porcupine Bay at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska. (Sekar B/Shutterstock)

Kenai Fjords National Park is located along the southern coast of Alaska where 50 percent of the land is covered in ice.

Mojave National Preserve/Death Valley National Park

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The Milky Way over Zabriskie Point with the Panamint Range glowing in distance in the Mojave Desert in Nevada. (Matt Anderson Photography/Moment/GettyImages)

Known for its inhospitable terrain and harsh environment, this area has proved to be incredibly challenging for most animals and plant life with the exception of a few desert-hardy species notably the desert tortoise.

Yosemite National Park

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Yosemite Valley of Yosemite National Park in California. (Andrew Opila/Shutterstock)

Yosemite boasts one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, Yosemite Falls. It reaches an amazing 2,425 feet and can be visited all throughout spring when the snowmelt is at its peak.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

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The Painted Dunes, vividly colored pumice fields formed from layers of oxidized volcanic ash, in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. (© Allard Schager/Moment/GettyImages)

Established as a national park on August 9, 1916, Lassen Volcanic National Park contains all four types of volcanoes found in the world. These include shield, plug dome, cinder cone, and composite.

Sequoia National Park

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Sequoia National Park in California. (Quan Yuan/Moment/GettyImages)

This park is notable for its giant sequoia trees, which can absorb up to 800 gallons of water a day in the summer!

Kings Canyon National Park

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Spring morning at Hume Lake by Kings Canyon National Park in California. (Ron and Patty Thomas/E+/Getty Images)

Grant Grove in Kings Canyon is home to some of the largest trees in the world. The General Grant Tree is the world’s second-largest tree at 267 feet tall and 29 feet wide. It’s also around 3,500 years old.

Grand Canyon National Park

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The Havasu Falls in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. (iacomino FRiMAGES/Shutterstock)

Many fossils of ancient marine animals have been found in the Grand Canyon, these date back 1.2 billion years ago. The age of the Grand Canyon itself remains a mystery, but recent studies speculate it to be more than 70 million years old.

Petrified Forest National Park

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Blue Mesa hiking trail through badlands landscape at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. (Chris Curtis/Shutterstock)

Petrified Forest National Park contains more than 10,000 years of human history recorded within its territory, including 800 archaeological sites. The striking colors in petrified wood are derived from pure quartz, manganese oxide, and iron oxide producing white, blue, purple, black, brown, yellow, and red colors.

Saguaro National Park

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Sunset in the Saguaro National Park in Arizona. (ericfoltz/E+/GettyImages)

The saguaro cactus is the largest cactus in the United States, and are protected by Saguaro National Park. These giant prickly plants can grow up to 40 feet tall and live for over 150 years!

Arches National Park

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Sunset at the Arches National Park in Utah. (Josemaria Toscano/Shutterstock)

Arches National Park is known for its many natural sandstone arches. Landscape Arch is located at the end of Devil’s Garden Trailhead. Stretching 306 feet, it’s considered North America’s longest spanning arch.

Zion National Park

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Sunset over the Watchman and the Virgin River at Zion National Park in Utah. (Justin Reznick Photography/Moment/GettyImages)

The park used to be home to an ancient civilization, the Anasazi who lived there around 1500 B.C. Traces of their history can be found through rock art, sandstone granaries, and cliff dwellings scattered around the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park

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Inspiration Point at sunrise at the Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.(dibrova/Shutterstock)

Bryce Canyon is an ideal place for stargazing enthusiasts due to its clear skies, high elevation, and low light pollution.

Great Basin National Park

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Wheeler Peak, at over 13,000 feet in elevation, in the Great Basin National Park in Nevada. (Arlene Waller/Shutterstock)

The Bonneville cutthroat trout is native to the Great Basin National Park and can only be found here due to the presence of cold, high elevation streams.

Crater Lake National Park

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Winter in Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. (Shalom Rufeisen / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages)

Formed after a volcano erupted and collapsed 7,700 years ago, the lake is the deepest in the whole of the United States, measuring 1,943 feet deep. The water is one of the cleanest and clearest in the world as it comes directly from rain or snowfall.

Rocky Mountain National Park

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A winter dawn in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. (Mengzhonghua Photography/Moment/GettyImages)

Home to 60 species of mammals and 280 bird species, this park is one of the top wildlife-watching destinations.

Mesa Verde National Park

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Coyote Village on Chapin Mesa in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. (Colin D. Young/Shutterstock)

Known for its exceptionally well-preserved prehistoric settlements, Mesa Verde National Park was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. (Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages)

You can hear the sand dunes “sing” during a sandstorm when air is pushed through millions of tumbling sand grains. The noise is similar to a continuous humming sound.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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The Carlsbad Caverns National Parks ‘Big Room’ in New Mexico. (Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

Featuring over 100 caves, Carlsbad Caverns used to be part of an ancient underwater reef called Capitan Reef. Many fossilized marine species can be found on the land. The caverns themselves were formed by sulfuric acid in acid rain which slowly dissolved the limestones.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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Badlands from the Painted Canyon Overlook in Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora, North Dakota. (Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)

The only national park in the whole of North Dakota. It was named after President Theodore Roosevelt in 1947 to honor and preserve his legacy of land protection.

Wind Cave National Park

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Wind Cave National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Lost_in_the_Midwest/Shutterstock)

The park is known for its many boxwork formations, made out of calcite deposits. This unique formation resembles honeycombs or boxes projecting from the cave.

Voyageurs National Park

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Crane Lake in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. (Per Breiehagen/Stone/GettyImages)

Located along Minnesota’s northern border, Voyageurs National Park is made up of four primary interconnected waterways, Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Sand Point Lakes. These lakes served as important transportation systems for the French-Canadian fur traders in 1688.

Hot Springs National Park

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Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. (Zack Frank/Shutterstock)

The smallest national park in the United States. The water at Hot Springs National Park is rich in minerals making it suitable for soaking or drinking!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Overlooking the Newfound Pass in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. (Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America, with half a billion visitors since 1934. The Appalachian Trail runs 71 miles through the park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. (Ashley Marie Best/Shutterstock)

“Cuyahoga” is derived from the Mohawk word Cayagaga, which translates to “crooked river.”

Everglades National Park

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A marsh in Everglades National Park in Florida. (Diana Robinson Photography/Moment/GettyImages)

Everglades National Park is one of the largest wetlands in the world and one of the last remaining subtropical wilderness areas in America.

Shenandoah National Park

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Above the clouds in Shenandoah National Park. (beklaus/E+/GettyImages)

Black bears are very prominent in Shenandoah National Park, so there’s a high chance you’ll spot one. The park estimates there to be around one to four bears in every square mile.

Acadia National Park

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The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park in Maine. (Sara Winter/Shutterstock)

Named after “Arcadia” in 1929 for resembling the mountainous region located in central Peloponnese, Greece.

Volcano National Park

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Lava flow in Volcano National Park in Hawaii. (Alexey Kamenskiy/Shutterstock)

The park is home to two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, located only 22 miles apart.

North Cascades National Park

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Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park in Washington. (Anna Abramskaya/Shutterstock)

North Cascade National Park has very rich biodiversity with 236,000 acres of old-growth forest that provide sanctuary to bears, mountain goats, wolves, pikas, river otters, cougars, and even moose. The park is also home to the largest variety of plant species ever recorded.

Redwoods National Park

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The view from inside Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail in Redwoods National Park in California. (Roman Khomlyak/Shutterstock)

Known for its towering coast redwood trees, measuring over 300 feet tall. These trees have a life expectancy of 500 to 700 years but researchers have found some to be more than 2,000 years old.

Big Bend National Park

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Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park in Texas. (Kanokwalee Pusitanun/500Px Plus/GettyImages)

The Rio Grande river falls between Cañón de Santa Elena, Mexico, and Big Bend National Park, United States.

Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park in California. (Dennis Silvas/Shutterstock)

Joshua “Tree” is actually a misnomer as it falls under the same category as flowering grasses and orchids. Only 15 percent of the national park is open for visitors to explore, and the remaining 85 percent is wilderness.

Dry Tortugas National Park

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The waters of Gulf of Mexico surround Historic Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park. (Benny Marty/Shutterstock)

Located in the Gulf of Mexico, this park is famous for its natural beauty, beaches, coral reefs, and sea turtles. The area is an active nesting ground for Loggerhead turtles.

Mammoth Cave National Park

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Frozen Niagara in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. (Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock)

Considered the longest cave system in the world, with over 400 miles of documented interlinking caves. The caves contain many unusual formations that vary greatly in shape, color, and size.

Biscayne National Park

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Biscayne National Park in Florida. (nyker/Shutterstock)

The park protects some of the last remaining tropical coral reefs on the mainland of the United States. Snorkeling and scuba diving are great ways to spot coral and tropical fish.

Virgin Islands National Park

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The Virgin Islands National Park on St. John Island. (Steve Heap/Alloy/GettyImages)

Sugar plantations were established here in the late 17th century by the Danish. The ruins can be observed today such as the Annaberg Sugar Mill, created in 1718.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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Sunset from the summit of Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. (Mark Wetters Images/Moment/GettyImages)

Guadalupe Peak is considered the highest point in Texas, at 8,751 feet elevation. The peak is located 100 miles east of El Paso.

Congaree National Park

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The boardwalk in Congaree National Park in South Carolina. (Jason Yoder/Shutterstock)

The park is known for its old-growth bottomland hardwood forests which have some of the largest tree canopies on the East Coast. Towering champion trees are some of the notable trees that inhabit these woods.

Isle Royale National Park

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Sunrise at Rock Harbor in the Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. (Posnov/Moment Open/GettyImages)

Considered a remote island archipelago, the park is surrounded by 450 smaller islands.

Glacier Bay National Park

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Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. (wu hsoung/Shutterstock)

The park has over 100 glaciers. These are used by wildlife including harbor seals and tufted puffins as important nesting grounds. The seals give birth to their young on icebergs to protect them from predators such as orcas.

Katmai National Park

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Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska. (Manamana/Shutterstock)

Named after Mount Katmai, which erupted last in 1912, the park is known for its high population of brown bears that can often be seen waiting to catch salmon at the many falls around the park.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

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The Kennicott Glacier at St. Elias National Park in Alaska. (Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock)

This is the largest national park in America, expanding over 20,000 square miles. Mount St. Elias is the second tallest peak in the United States, at 18,000 feet tall.

Canyonlands National Park

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Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. (Stephan Langhans/Shutterstock)

Horseshoe Canyon is located eight miles west of the park and is known for depicting prehistoric pictographs etched somewhere between 2,000 to 5,000 years ago.

Kobuk Valley National Park

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Alaskan tundra in Kobuk Valley National Park in Alaska. (Staffan Widstrand/Corbis Documentary/GettyImages)

There is no road access to the park so visitors wishing to visit the park must travel by air taxi, snowmobile, or a dogsled.

Gates of the Arctic National Park

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Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska, the least visited national park. (BlueBarronPhoto/Shutterstock)

Gates of the Arctic National Park was established in 1980 in order to protect the diverse arctic ecosystem of Alaska. While visiting, there are no designated trails, amenities, or cell phone service, and travelers are encouraged to be self-reliant and organized when planning a trip here.

Lake Clark National Park

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Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. (Andrew Peacock/Cavan/GettyImages)

Lake Clark stretches 45 miles long and is surrounded by a myriad of waterfalls. The lake is also an important spawning ground for red salmon.

Badlands National Park

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Badlands National Park in South Dakota. (Posnov/Moment/GettyImages)

A well-preserved fossilized skull of a saber-tooth cat was discovered by a young visitor in 2010. Fossils of other animals like marine reptiles and rhinos can also be found hidden among the layers of sediment. They’re estimated to date back to the late Eocene and Oligocene periods, over 30 million years ago.

Glacier National Park

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Glacier National Park in Montana. (davidmarxphoto/Shutterstock)

Mountain goats are very prolific in this area and can often be spotted standing on the edge of a steep cliff. They also serve as the symbol of Glacier National Park owing to their perseverance and hardiness.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. (Patrick Leitzk/Moment/GettyImages)

The canyon is so deep that sunlight has a hard time reaching the bottom of it, hence the name “Black Canyon.” It measures 53 miles deep and stands as one of the deepest canyons in the western United States.

Haleakalā National Park

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Sunrise over a dormant volcano at Haleakalā National Park in Haleakalā, Maui, Hawaii. (Gary Riegel/Shutterstock)

The “Ahinahina” or the Haleakalā silversword is a rare, endangered plant that is endemic to Haleakalā National Park. It’s recognized by its distinctive dense, spiky grey leaves that grow on the base of the plant. When in full bloom, a thick flowering stalk protrudes from the base, covered in reddish flowers.

Capitol Reef National Park

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Sunrise at Cathedral Valley Badlands in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. (Bill Swindaman/Moment/GettyImages)

The park is home to an orchard originally planted by Mormon pioneers in the early 1900s. It’s open to the public for picking during harvest season for a small fee.

National Park of American Samoa

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National Park of American Samoa, on Tutuila Island. (Michael Runkel/imageBROKER/GettyImages)

The park was established in 1988 for the purposes of protecting the tropical rainforest, and coral reefs, and for the study and maintenance of archaeological sites.

Channel Islands National Park

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Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island off California, in Channel Islands National Park. (Felix Lipov/Shutterstock)

Channel Islands National Park is comprised of five ecologically diverse islands. Anacapa Island is home to many seabirds who use the island as a nesting area due to its lack of predators. Californian sea lions and harbor seals also favor the rocky shores of Anacapa.

Pinnacles National Park

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The Trail to Balconies Caves at Pinnacles National Park in California. (Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Moment/GettyImages)

The Pinnacles National Park was created when the now-extinct Neenach volcano erupted 23 million years ago. The park contains many caves that provide homes to 14 species of California bats. These caves were created by natural erosion when boulders fell below, filling the canyons.

Indiana Dunes National Park

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Indiana Dunes National Park in Indiana. (PhotosByLarissaB/Shutterstock)

Designated as a national park in 2019, the park is situated along Lake Michigan. Visitors can sail or swim in the lake. The Maple Sugar Time Festival is held annually in March and visitors can learn how Native Americans and early settlers harvested sap to make maple syrup.

Gateway Arch National Park

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The Gateway Arch in the Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri. (Patricia Elaine Thomas/Shutterstock)

The Gateway Arch is considered the world’s tallest arch standing at 630 feet tall. It was designed by Finnish-American architect, Eero Saarinen in 1947.

New River Gorge National Park

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New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia. (Billy McDonald/Shutterstock)

Contrary to its name, The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world, estimated to be between 10 to 360 million years old. It’s one of the few rivers in North America to flow from south to north, as most tend to flow from west to east.

White Sands National Park

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Sand Dunes at the White Sands National Park in New Mexico. (sumikophoto/Shutterstock)

The sand here is not like regular sand. It’s made from gypsum, rather than silica, making it able to dissolve when rained on, much like sugar or salt. This park is also home to African Oryx, a species of antelope imported from the Kalahari Desert around 53 years ago.

Hong Lu
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