The beauty of nature is unmeasurable – some people are breathtaking at the sight of cherry blossoms, another is delighted with zebras and lions, and the third is resting in the soul, admiring the dunes in the desert. Another thing is when you can measure some indicators. Let's do this
What is a national park
The legislation of each individual country can define it in its own way, and it will be easiest to understand a national park as a natural territory in which, in order to protect the environment human activity is limited, but where at the same time the opportunity for the safe stay of tourists is created and limited economic activity is allowed.
A national park is not the same as a reserve where hunting is not allowed, tourism is often limited or even prohibited, roads cannot be laid, construction cannot be carried out, and so on. In national parks, all this is allowed, so you can get there by car and even explore the parks without getting out of the wheel, stay in a hotel or in a trailer, they can be explored on foot, using specially marked prepared trails; You can even hunt on the lands of national parks if you purchase a license in advance. In our article, we are talking about just such territories.
1. The very first: Yellowstone
The official date of creation of this first national park in the world is March 1, 1872. Today, Yellowstone is as much a symbol of America as the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge. And not without reason: on an area of almost 9,000 km2 (which is more than the entire Republic of North Ossetia and more than three times the size of Moscow), hundreds of species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish live, and about two thousand species of plants, including rare ones. .
And there are geysers, lakes, forests and steppe, and under the park there is a huge dormant volcano. And all this is perfectly combined with hundreds of kilometers of quality roads, tourist sites and the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than three million tourists come here every year.
2. Newest: Sierra del Divisor
< p>Thirteen and a half thousand square kilometers of the Amazonian rainforest in Peru, near the border with Brazil, were declared a national park only at the end of 2015. The Sierra del Divisor borders on the (almost) Brazilian national park of the same name and includes not only the flat parts, but also the foothills of the Andes. In addition to hundreds of animal species (if not thousands – no one knows exactly how many: scientists discover new species in the Amazonian forests every year), local Indian tribes also live here, whose habitat and lifestyle the park is also designed to protect. Due to the huge variety of wildlife, size and importance, the Sierra del Divisor is called the Yellowstone of the Amazon in the press.
3. Biggest: Northeast Greenland
This territory, which occupies about a third of Greenland, is the only national park on the island, as well as the largest and northernmost in the world. Its area is 972 thousand km2, which is larger than all of Tanzania (the 31st largest state on the planet) or, say, the Khabarovsk Territory, and slightly smaller than Egypt. Of the people here, only scientists from research stations and the military (both of them come temporarily – on a watch) with a total number of a couple of dozen to a hundred (in summer).
But 40% of the world population of musk oxen live here, Arctic marine mammals, whales, birds (they come here to breed). Since the late 1970s, new geological developments have been prohibited on the territory, and all traces of the former ones have been destroyed, hunting is also not allowed, so in the national park you can see the Arctic almost pristine. However, in recent decades, glaciers have been melting here too, so hurry up.
4. Smallest: Moyen Island
This green island of only 10 hectares was uninhabited for a long time, until the Englishman Brandon Grimshaw settled on it in the mid-1970s, who bought the island in 1962 for 8000 pounds sterling.
With his friends and relatives, he turned Moyenne into a park, brought giant tortoises there, paved trails for tourists, opened a restaurant and equipped a small beach. Then the island was part of the Seychelles Sainte-Anne Marine National Park, and after the death of Grimshaw in 2012, it became an independent national park, as its late owner wanted – and nothing that is the smallest in the world.
5. Most Popular: Great Smoky Mountains
We admit, we were lying: this is the most popular national park in the United States – other countries for some reason are in no hurry to publish such data. Roughly bisected by the Tennessee-North Carolina border, this 2,000-square-kilometre-wide area in the Appalachian Mountains was visited by more than 11.3 million tourists (and about the same number of non-tourists) in 2016, according to the US National Park Service.
This is understandable: the park is relatively close to the densely populated areas of the east coast, is associated with the history of American pioneers, offers excellent fishing and wonderful views of the forested mountain slopes. The famous Appalachian Trail passes through it, and ancient buildings erected by European settlers at the beginning of the 19th century have been preserved in the Cades Cove valley.
The most watery: the Ross Sea (Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean)
Although marine parks and national parks on land are somewhat different things, and this material is about the latter, but this one cannot but be mentioned.
Firstly, because it is huge and includes more than 1.5 million km2. Secondly, because it is not located on national territory, but in neutral Antarctica – this is part of the Southern Ocean, washing the western part of the continent. The Ross Sea, despite the rather inhospitable climate, is distinguished by an amazing variety of inhabitants. And it was them that the European Union and 24 other states agreed to protect by signing an appropriate agreement in October 2016.
For example, it was here that a giant squid ten meters long and weighing half a ton was caught in 2007. Now you can’t fish like that here: 1.1 million square kilometers of the sea for the next 35 years have been declared a zone prohibited for commercial fishing. In the rest of the park, you can hunt for marine life only for scientific purposes.
6. Liveliest: Corcovado
In fact, several national parks could compete for the honorary title of “most alive” – for example, the Tanzanian Serengeti, through which millions of antelopes and zebras migrate twice a year and on whose territory, according to legend, the cradle of mankind is located. We, however, agree with colleagues from the publication National Geographic, who described Costa Rican Corcovado as “perhaps the most biologically active place on the planet in terms of biodiversity.”
Indeed, this mere 424 km2 park on the Osa Peninsula is one of the last pristine patches of tropical rainforest on the Pacific coast of Central America, with rare and unique species ranging from insects to whales that come into the bay that surrounds the peninsula — is incalculable: their listing alone would take up as much space as all this material.
At the same time, most of the locals are not afraid of people, and you can get to know them day and night: special tours go to the forest even after sunset.
7. Farthest: Rapanui
Easter Island, Chile
If you take the most remote inhabited island on the planet and arrange a national park on it, you get the most remote national park. This is exactly what happened to Rapanui Park on Easter Island, from which Chile and the South American continent are three and a half thousand kilometers (closer, two thousand kilometers, only Pitcairn Island with four dozen people).
This park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which occupies almost the entire territory of the island and, unlike the others mentioned in this material, it mainly protects not nature, but just cultural heritage: statues, rock paintings and other monuments created by the ancient inhabitants of the island. These inhabitants basically destroyed the original flora and fauna (cutting down the dense tropical forest to zero), although not entirely — 150 species of plants still grow on the island (including fifty endemic ones) and dozens of bird species nest, and on the beaches there are sea turtles.
But the ocean around is a completely different matter: created in September 2017 around the island, the eponymous marine reserve (about the size of mainland Chile) is designed to protect the unique diversity of local marine life.
8. Highest: Chomolungma
Although the highest peak of the Earth – Everest, aka Chomolungma – is located within the borders of Nepal, its northeastern slope descends into China. It was he who was declared a national park (the Nepalese side has its own national park – Sagarmatha). On 87 thousand km2 of the Tibetan Plateau there were several eight-thousander peaks and dozens of smaller mountains, as well as untouched mountain nature.
There is a lot of sky, peaks covered with eternal glaciers, mountain rivers and breathtaking views. But there is little air here – even at the lowest points, the height above sea level is about five kilometers. Accordingly, there are few tourists, and those that are are specially prepared for the conditions of the highlands. But it's worth it.
9. Hottest: Death Valley
Furnace Creek Ranch is the owner of a world temperature record, or rather even two: in 1913, the highest air temperature on the planet, +56.7 ° C, was recorded here, and in 1972 the sun warmed the surface of the earth on the ranch to +93, 9 °C.
It is located in the driest and hottest part of the Death Valley National Park, and this part of the valley is at the same time one of the driest places on the planet: about 1.5 mm of precipitation falls here on average per year (for comparison: in Moscow this indicator – 600–800 mm). True, sometimes anomalies occur. Unusually heavy rains cause destruction and mudflows and lead to the closure of the park – this was the case in October 2015. And in 2005, due to an abnormally wet winter, a lake even formed in the park and the most abundant flowering of wild plants in the history of the park happened – the desert was briefly covered with a carpet of flowers.
10. Coldest: Denali
At the center of this vast park in Alaska is North America's tallest mountain (and number three in the world), Denali, formerly known as McKinley, which was reverted to its original Native American name in 2015. In 2003, a weather station on its slopes recorded a record low temperature of -59.7 ° C, and gusts of wind cooled the thermometer to -83.4 ° C. This, of course, is not a world record – in the top three cold poles are the Antarctic stations Vostok, Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon, where it is much colder (down to -89.2 ° C), but there are no national parks. And in Alaska there is.
Even in July, the hottest month in this region, the temperature on the mountain can drop below -30 °C. However, this did not prevent more than half a million tourists from coming here in 2016. Instead of climbing to the top to cool off (most of them, at least), guests took in the rugged beauty of the tundra, forests, lakes, mountains, and glaciers while traveling by car and staying at the many local campsites.
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First published February 2018, partially updated in February 2022