The Channel Islands, off the coast of California near Santa Barbara, have been visited by man for 13,000 years and continuously inhabited for at least 11,000 years. When the islands’ oldest known inhabitant, known as Arlington Springs Man, was alive the four northern Channel Islands were all still united together as one mega-island. Visitors can explore the remains of the prehistoric villages of the Chumash people, historic period ranches, and military structures while divers and snorkelers can view the Winfield Scott shipwreck, which sank in 1853.
Archaeological Fun Fact: The tomol is a canoe made of redwood planks and paddled like a kayak. The Chumash used tomols to navigate around the Channel Islands. Pieces of tomols have been found in prehistoric middens (trash deposits), and the construction of these boats was described by European explorers and early anthropologists.
Park website: www.nps.gov/chis/
In addition to the hottest temperature recorded on earth and the lowest elevation point in North America, Death Valley boasts a wide range of ecosystems and natural wonders. For hundreds of years, the Timbisha Shoshone Indians hunted and gathered here, and many places in the valley are considered sacred. Cultural points of interest include petroglyphs, a ghost town, a 1920s mansion, and the Harmony Borax Works, famous for using “20-mule teams” to move the mineral borax during the 1880s.
Archaeological Fun Fact: During the 1950s, a University of Southern California project documented more than 1,400 archaeological sites at Death Valley, including campsites, caves, quarries, and rock art.
Park website: www.nps.gov/deva/
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