A Tribute To National Parks

This is a guest blog from our conservation intern Dan Hermes.

Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone, WY

Soda Butte Creek, Yellowstone, WY | Dan Hermes

As I trek through the tall grass of the high country, I peer off in the distance to see golden plains filled with bison and mountains of epic proportions in the background. The sweet scent of sage greets me as I meander through the brush.

With my first step into the stream, I feel the cold mountain water flush into my leaky waders, and I begin casting to rising trout in the current. It all comes back to me as I recall what it’s like to be in Yellowstone.

Over the course of many years I have spent plenty of warm summer days fly fishing the waters of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) in Wyoming and Montana. Whether I’m there for 3 days or for a week, it still doesn’t feel long enough.

Between spring creeks, small tributaries, large rivers and lakes and ponds, there is more water in the park than you could possibly fish in your lifetime. I have always claimed that fly fishing leads you to the most beautiful and pristine environments in the world, but words simply don’t do justice for Yellowstone.

This summer I fished one of my favorite streams, Soda Butte Creek, while I was in YNP. The cold, crystal clear water flows through mountains, forests, canyons and vast meadows throughout the park. It had occurred to me how appropriate it is to have so much access to such a clean and beautiful stream. The lack of “NO TRESPASSING” signs and barbed-wire, which typically litter stream banks, was a pleasant sight to my eyes.

The confluence of Soda Butte Creek and Lamar River, Yellowstone, WY

The confluence of Soda Butte Creek and Lamar River, Yellowstone, WY | Dan Hermes

This stream, like the many others in YNP, will be there in years to come for our pleasure, whether it’s for the trout fishing, the scenery, camping or any other reason. National and state parks are so important for this reason. The fact that so much land is set aside to be protected from deforestation and excessive land use is crucial to the survival of such environments.

Though the land and its waters have been protected by the federal government, we must also play our part to preserve the natural beauty of the park. I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak that would come with these waters and their surrounding resources being polluted or depleted. Everyday I’m on that stream, I am so thankful for the opportunity to immerse myself in the natural beauty of it.

The importance of Yellowstone and other national parks goes beyond our own pleasures though. Equally as important, wildlife thrives off the land.  The streams and lakes provide clean water, and the land offers a variety of environments with abundant food and habitat for the thousands of species of flora and fauna in the park. The 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone National Park are home to one endangered species (gray wolf) and two threatened species (grizzly bear and Canada lynx). It’s hard to imagine what their statuses would be without national parks. This alone is sufficient reason to protect our parks and their waters.

American Rivers celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  This act is responsible for establishing the fundamental structure of pollutant regulation in streams throughout the nation and subsequently has had monumental impacts on preserving and improving water quality across the nation.

While we can venture to far off states to embrace the beauty of the pristine waters, we could also look no further than our own backyards to see the progress of the Clean Water Act over the last forty years. Without it, many of our urban water sources would be tarnished beyond use; however, we owe it to the Clean Water Act to have continuous access to these improving waters.

Whether it’s for sight-seeing, wildlife viewing, fishing, canoeing, hiking or camping, our national parks provide a natural appeal for all of these activities, and it’s our duty to take care of them as well as our own waters. The importance of the land and its resources is explicitly revealed by the wild beauty of it and its inhabitants.

From the soil and water to the flora and the fauna, each individual aspect plays an equally important part in building the natural empire. Our parks are here for us today, but it’s our duty to make sure they are there for us tomorrow.