Celebrate 100 Years of National Parks With These Stunning Photos

The National Park Service turns 100 this year (the centennial is technically August 25, but we're blowing up the balloons a little early) and we've gotta say, the many parks under their care are looking pretty incredible for their age. To ring in this year of celebration, we've pored over the Instagram account for the U.S. Department of the Interior to find 21 of the most beautiful shots from National Parks all over the country. Here they are in totally random, not preferential order (we love all our national parks equally). 

1. CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

2. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, ARIZONA

3. ZION NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

4. CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, OREGON

5. SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, VIRGINIA 

6. ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE

7. JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA

8. GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK, NEVADA 

9. ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO

10. MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, WASHINGTON

11. GATES OF THE ARCTIC NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, ALASKA

12. GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, NORTH CAROLINA AND TENNESSEE

13. YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING 

14. OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WASHINGTON

15. DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK, FLORIDA

16. GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA

17. BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO

18. GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING 

19. REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS, CALIFORNIA

20. DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA

21. ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK, MICHIGAN

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travel
Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
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If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

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science
Yellowstone's Steamboat Geyser Keeps Erupting, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

An eruption from Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park is normally a rare sight, but guests were treated to the geothermic show seven times in the past three months, according to the USGS. The last time the geyser spouted at least three times in a year was 2003, and scientists are still struggling to find out the cause behind the sudden spike in activity.

Old Faithful has garnered fame in Yellowstone and beyond for its regular eruptions that blow every one to two hours, but Steamboat is less reliable. Geysers occur when magma heats up the water and gases trapped in pockets under the ground. If enough pressure builds up, the steam and boiling water will escape through cracks in the earth and shoot past the surface. The reservoir beneath Old Faithful is fairly simple, as geological maps have shown us, and that explains the frequent eruptions. But the structure beneath Steamboat is likely more complicated, leading to eruptions that result from a combination of hard-to-predict factors.

Steamboat's last eruption before this recent marathon of spurts was recorded in September 2014. The geyser's water columns have been know to reach up to 300 feet, making it the tallest active geyser in the world.

Geologists have come up with a few explanations for the phenomena, one being that it was caused by thermal activity in the park's Norris Geyser Basin. Another possibility is that the geyser is having these smaller eruptions closer together in place of one large one. While they haven't come to a consensus on the cause, experts do agree that the frequency of the eruptions is unlike anything they've seen at this geyser before.

While the geyser activity remains a mystery, it shouldn't be taken as an indication that a catastrophic volcanic event is coming to Yellowstone anytime soon. The last volcanic eruption on the park's land took place 70,000 years ago.

[h/t NPR]

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