The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks

Take a full-sensory deep dive into five of America’s most breathtaking parks like you’ve never seen, heard or explored before.

By National Park Service

THE HIDDEN WORLDS OF THE NATIONAL PARKSNational Park Service

Join us as we adventure through the hidden worlds of Kenai Fjords National Park, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park.

Paddle Through The Ice Age

Step into a land where the ice age still lingers. Did you know some icebergs are as big as a city block? All of them have calved, or broken off, from the face of a glacier, and been sculpted by the water. 

Nine-tenths of the ice can be hidden under the surface of the water, and they could flip over, so we don’t want to get too close.

The Waters of Kenai Fjords

Bear Glacier is a lake glacier, ending into its own meltwater lagoon, which is where we are right now. You’ll see it’s not as clear as you might think. That’s because of the silt that has flowed into the lagoon as the glacier melts. 

People of the Land

Alaska native Alutiiq (or Sugpiaq) people have been coming out here for thousands of years to enjoy the beauty of this place, and to live off the land. They invented kayaks as a mode of transportation and a way to get out and hunt for the food they needed to survive.

Rappel Into a Glacier

You're inside Exit Glacier, one of the smallest glaciers flowing out of the Harding Icefield. While Exit is one of the most visited parts of the National Park, very few people get the chance to walk on the ice or venture into one it’s crevasses.  

Inside the Ice

Look up towards the opening. We're being guided 40 feet below the surface of a glacier. It looks so still down here but what you can't see is the constant movement of the ice, which recedes about 50 feet per year on average. (Note: Also instruct student to look down).

Fly Over An Active Volcano

Take a trip to the home of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, two of the world's largest and most active volcanoes. Together, they’re responsible for creating the island of Hawai’i over 300,000 years ago...and they’re still alive and growing today.

Kilauea has been constantly erupting since 1983, claiming over 180 buildings, and burying the coastal highway. Below, explore the lava-rich vent of an active volcano. 

For the Love of Lava

Lava tubes act as the veins of volcanoes, transporting lava from the heart of an eruption up and out. Once in the tube, lava travels for miles, sometimes all the way to the sea. And what does lava do when it runs out of land? It becomes it.

Above and Beyond

In 1959, a Hawaiian volcano called Kilauea Iki erupted, shooting fountains of lava up to 1900 feet high. People flocked to the park to view this amazing eruption with their own eyes. 

Look up! We’re lucky to catch a glimpse this close to the rumble of an active volcano by helicopter. 

Rock The Canyons

In the heart of the American Southwest sits a place where the rocks take on a unique shape. This forest of stone may look permanent, but in reality it’s one of the fastest changing geologic landscapes on the planet.

Hoodoo Who?

Here you'll find rock formations called "hoodoos.” They're created by cycles of freezing and thawing. During the daytime, water from melting snow trickles down inside the cracks of a rock.

At night, when the water refreezes, the ice breaks open gaps in the stone, forming jagged shapes of all kinds. 

Thor’s Hammer

Look left. See the towering rock peeking above the horizon? That’s Thor’s Hammer, Bryce Canyon’s most famous hoodoo. 

Visible from the Navaho Trail, Thor’s Hammer began as a plateau, narrowed into a “fin” and then transitioned into a “window” before it came to be the chiseled 150-foot pillar it is today. 

Star Gaze For Days

The Milky Way is the galaxy that all of the planets and stars in our solar system call home. Two-thirds of Americans can no longer see it from their backyard due to light pollution. Here, the night sky is darker than almost any place in the U.S. 

Symbols in the Sky: The Big Dipper

Look up at the sparkling sky. See if you can find one of its star features: the Big Dipper constellation. The stars that form this pattern are significant in countless cultures around the world. It is also known as the oxcart, the plow, the baking pan, or the drinking gourd.

Symbols in the Sky: Hercules

You’ll know Hercules by his trapezoid-shaped chest. One arm extends and holds a circular pattern of stars, while the other holds a primitive looking club. In his armpit you’ll see a globular star cluster. 

This cluster contains a million ancient stars, which will probably burn forever. 

Go Deep Into The Caverns

You’re standing 750 feet below the earth’s surface in the largest single cave chamber in North America—bigger than six football fields! No natural light has ever penetrated here, these walls have only seen light from the headlamps of explorers.

Even though Carlsbad has been a National Park since 1930, new rooms in the caves are still being discovered. Just look around, you’re completely surrounded by incredible textures and formations. 

The Caves Up Close: Speleothems

Everything you see here was formed by water, drop by drop over millions of years. These formations are called speleothems. They're all made of calcium carbonate, but they take on different shapes and textures based on a variety of conditions. 

Soar With The Bats

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilian Free-Tailed bats migrate here every summer in search of food for their pups. Ever heard the saying “blind as a bat?” Well, bats aren’t blind; in fact, they can see almost as well as we can. 

But because they travel at night, they need to rely on other senses like smell and echolocation. 

Creatures of the Caverns

When bats echolocate, they send out a signal and use the time it takes for those soundwaves to return to build a picture in their brain. This helps them to avoid obstacles and find food. Watch this amazing show and see the world from a bat’s point of view.

Dive To A Lost Shipwreck

One of the southernmost points in the United States is home to a Civil War era fort. It was designed in such a way that no matter where a ship was positioned in the water, over 120 cannons could be pointed at it, ready to fire. 

This aspect of the park, however, makes up less than 1% of the park. The other 99% is submerged beneath these clear blue waters.

Treasures Down Under

In 1907, the Avanti, known today as the Windjammer, braved a hail of wind and waves. A miscalculation by the captain caused the ship to strike a massive reef, devastating its iron hull. 

The crew survived, while the ship found a second life as a bustling home to local underwater species. 

The Reefs Are Alive

Some of the coral you see here is hundreds, or even thousands, of years old. But is coral an animal, plant or rock? If you think all three, you’re correct! Coral is in the animal kingdom, but it secretes a hard mineral shell for protection and a plant lives inside of it. 

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