HERITAGE SITES IN THE USA
At last count, Unesco had crowned 1 073 sites in more than 170 countries. You may have been to a World Heritage site in the US without knowing it
FOR more than 40 years, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and its nearly 200 member states have been preserving, protecting and promoting the most valuable heritage places in the world.
At last count, the organisation has crowned 1073 sites in more than 170 countries.
Of those, 832 are cultural, 206 are natural and 35 are a mix of both categories.
The chosen ones vary tremendously: the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Mexico; the Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania; and the Engelsberg Ironworks in Sweden were all part of the class of 1993, for instance.
“It’s a beautiful thing – the shared heritage of the world,” said Mechtild Rössler, the Paris-based director of the Division for Heritage and the Unesco World Heritage Centre. “We are transmitting these sites for future generations.”
Italy claims the highest number of sites (53), but the US isn’t too far behind. And it does have two more than Japan, despite the Land of the Rising Sun’s cultural head start by several centuries.
The US supported the World Heritage Convention in its development and adoption in 1972, and was one of 193 countries to have ratified the treaty.
However, the relationship has frayed over the years.
In 2011, the Obama administration stopped contributing payments after the organisation admitted the Palestinian territories. Then, late last year, President Donald Trump announced that the US would withdraw from Unesco by this December although, as an original signer (the first, in fact), the country will maintain its state party status with the convention.
Fortunately, Unesco’s obligation to safeguard precious landmarks transcends politics. Even without America’s participation, the international community will continue to advocate for the protection of World Heritage sites on US soil.
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth - not going all the way, and not starting.” – BUDDHA
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site Est 1982 | Illinois Why it’s Unesco-worthy: The largest prehistoric Native American settlement north of Mexico once covered 1400ha. . How to reach it: The site is a few miles from Collinsville, Illinois. Best time to visit: Weekdays in June and July. Insider tip: For independent and interactive exploration, rent an ipod Touch and time travel back to the Mississippian civilisation.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park Est 1995 | New Mexico Why it’s Unesco-worthy: More than 119 limestone caves beneath the Chihuahuan dazzle and delight with speleothems (for example, stalagmites and stalactites), sculptural reef and rock formations, gypsum chandeliers and geologic features partly shaped by bacteria. About 400 000 Brazilian free-tailed bats vacation in Carlsbad Cavern from late May through late October. How to reach it: El Paso is about 2½ hours away by car. Best time to visit: September. Insider tip: Park rangers lead free evening bat talks.
Chaco Culture Est 1987 | New Mexico Why it’s Unesco-worthy: The potpourri of archaeological destinations here – Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument and five Chaco Culture Archaeological Protection Sites – illustrates the architectural and engineering smarts of the Chacoan people, who inhabited the region from the mid-9th to the early 13th century. How to reach it: The closest major city is Farmington, New Mexico, about 90 minutes away by car. Best time to visit: Spring or autumn. Insider tip: The Chaco Culture park holds telescope-peering events from April to October.
Everglades National Park Est 1979 | Florida Why it’s Unesco-worthy: The park is the largest subtropical wilderness reserve with the most significant breeding ground for wading birds and the biggest continuous stand of saw grass prairie in North America. How to reach it: The park has three entrances in three cities: Homestead, Miami and Everglades City. Best time to visit: Spring, autumn and winter. Insider tip: Rangers lead walks from December to April.
Grand Canyon National Park Est 1979 | Arizona Why it’s Unesco-worthy: Geologic layers tell a tale that goes back more than 1.8 billion years. How to reach it: The South Rim is about 120km from Flagstaff, Arizona, and 340km from the North Rim. Shuttles run between Flagstaff or Las Vegas and Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, and between the rims, depending on the season. The Grand Canyon Railway offers daily train service between Williams, Arizona, and the park. Best time to visit: Spring or
autumn. Insider tip: The Desert View Watchtower hosts cultural demonstrations by 11 tribes on the weekends.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Est 1983 | Tennessee and North Carolina Why it’s Unesco-worthy: The lush temperate zone is home to a wildly diverse assortment of plants, bugs and animals. Many of the rocks were formed hundreds of millions of years ago. How to reach it: The park straddles two states. Drive times from Knoxville, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina are about 45 minutes and 70 minutes, respectively. Best time to visit: Autumn or spring. Insider tip: Help break in the new road along a 25km section of the Foothills Parkway.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Est 1987 | Hawaii Why it’s Unesco-worthy: The park contains two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. How to reach it: The park is about a 45-minute drive from Hilo, on the island of Hawaii. Best time to visit: Whenever the lava is flowing. Insider tip: Rise with the sun and head to the Jaggar Museum Overlook, the lava lake’s closest viewing point.
Kluane/wrangell-st Elias/ Glacier Bay/tatshenshini-alsek Est 1979, 1992, 1994 | Alaska and the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, Canada Why it’s Unesco-worthy: Canada (Kluane and Tatshenshini-alsek) and the US (Wrangell-st Elias and Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve) share the site, which is recognised for having the largest nonpolar ice field and some of the longest glaciers in the world. How to reach it: The Wrangell-st Elias Visitor Centre is near Copper Center, about 320km east of Anchorage. Only two roads, Nabesna and the Mccarthy, venture into the park. To explore the Yakutat coastline and more remote sections of the park, hitch a ride on a bush plane or ferry. Glacier Bay sits west of Juneau – plane or boat required. Best time to visit: June and July. Insider tip: From the Kennecott Visitor Center in Wrangell-st Elias, slip on your crampons and hike the 3km Root Glacier Trail, which ends with a glacier that you can walk on.
Yellowstone National Park Est 1978 | Wyoming, Montana and Idaho Why it’s Unesco-worthy: Yellowstone corners the market on geothermal features, with more than 10 000 examples, plus the world’s largest concentration of geysers (more than 500). . How to reach it: The North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, is the only portal open year-round. Best time to visit: Spring Insider tip: Take a dip in the Boiling River, a swimming hole a-swish with cold water from the Gardner River and hot water from a spring.
Cover photo: The Statue of Liberty in New York. National Park Service. CLIFF Palace, Mesa Verde’s largest cliff dwelling.
VISITORS to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Mansion walk past a reflecting pond in the mansion’s front yard.
A bison heads for a meal after lounging at the edge of Mud Caldron in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Because of hydrogen sulfide, the area smells similar to rotten eggs.
A Great egret stands on top of the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail in Shark Valley. Everglades National Park has multiple visitor centres, including the Shark Valley Visitor Centre.
THE Colorado River runs through Grand Canyon National Park in this aerial photograph.