Pinnacles National Park: what makes it stand out

Yahoo! Travel

(Photo: Phil Stoffer, USGS)

It's official: The new Pinnacles National Park is America's 59th national park. Here's what you should know about this natural treasure:

(Photo: Phil Stoffer, USGS)

— The park was already a popular tourist destination in California as Pinnacles National Monument. The park, which boasts caves, an ancient volcanic landscape, and plenty of rock climbing, has been "elevated" to national park status.

In a statement to celebrate its newest park, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said, "Like other national parks across our country, Pinnacles not only takes visitors’ breaths away with its natural beauty but it also provides opportunities for outdoor recreation and supports economic growth and jobs in the local community.”

— Pinnacles is the ninth national park in California. First declared a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, the park already draws 343,000 visitors a year, many of them rock climbers. With the elevation of the monument to a national park, National Park Service officials are hoping to boost park attendance.

Pinnacles is home to the endangered California condor. (Photo: National Park Service)

  — The park is known for its spectacular rock formations from an ancient volcanic field. With 30 miles of trails, it's a popular site for adventurous rock climbers. Located near the San Andreas Fault in the Gabilan Mountains, east of central California's Salinas Valley, the park includes 27,000 acres of wild lands.

Bear Gulch Cave (Photo: Phil Stoffer, USGS)

— The rock at Pinnacles has eroded over millions of years, leaving behind boulders, spires of volcanic rock, and caves. The rock shapes are called … pinnacles. The rock's weathering has created a unique landscape. An example of shifting tectonic plates, the area was formed when the San Andreas Fault split the volcanic field some 23 million years ago. As the Pacific Plate crept north, it carried the Pinnacles with it, according to a statement from the Department of the Interior.

— The park is home to the California condor, an endangered species; it is one of 32 flying birds that populate the park. But the park is not just a good home for condors: Pinnacles has been part of the California Condor Recovery Program since 2003, and park biologists keep close watch to make sure that the birds roost safely, far from power lines and populated trails.

— Ken Burns is a fan. Yes, that Ken Burns. The documentary filmmaker had penned a letter in support of the Pinnacles National Parks Act, arguing, "It would preserve a place that over the centuries, Native Americans, early Spanish settlers, homesteaders from the East, and Basque sheepherders have considered home, offering an important series of perspectives on the larger sweep of American history."

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