Coinciding with the centennial of the formation of the National Park Service, a new IMAX movie, National Parks Adventure, takes viewers on a 3D trek through our country’s state parks and leaves you breathless with a renewed appreciation for the wild beauty of nature.
Robert Redford narrates this 45-minute documentary, which follows three adventurers, Conrad Anker, Max Lowe and Rachel Pohl, as they climb, paddle, bike and hike the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Death Valley and Glacier National Park in Montana, among other landmarks.
The film starts by showing us towering trees and swelling rivers of vast and untamed wilderness within our parks, the same, untouched vistas that Native Americans experienced. As Redford reiterates, Native Americans believed the greatest natural wonders belong to all of us and that the greatest adventure that one can experience, is stepping into the unknown.
A superb soundtrack featuring the likes of Jason Mraz and John Denver adds to the upbeat momentum of rushing waterfalls, towering canyons and other sweeping scenes.
Bits of historical information about some of the more well-known parks is told along with birds-eye views of, in the case of Yellowstone, geysers and hot springs. Yellowstone’s land, says Redford, “sits over a molten fury of the largest volcano on earth.” Over half of the geysers on the planet are located at Yellowstone, which is located in Wyoming, and stretches into Montana and Idaho.
“It’s a place where you can feel the beating heart of the planet and gaze into its eye,” says Redford referring to its rainbow-hued sulfur pits. “From its rivers, water flows to all corners of the continent.” Folklore also plays a part in the movie. Native-American legend says that scratch-like markings lining Devils Tower, a geologic formation in Wyoming, were made from claw marks by a giant bear.
Deserved praise is given to the “Father of the National Parks,” John Muir, who wrote about and advocated for the preservation of parks, inspiring then-President Theodore Roosevelt to create the National Park Service after camping with Muir in Yosemite for three days. The film does a good job of revealing unknown details that make information more profound and impactful; after Roosevelt’s mother and wife died on the same day, he retreated to nature as a way to heal.
“That’s the only way you’re going to find your soul,” says renowned black and white nature photographer Clyde Butcher, of why being in nature is important for people. When his teenage son was killed in a car accident, he went deep into the swamps of the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve with his large-format camera. It was there, in nature’s solitude, that he found a sense of peace and purpose. Six of his photos of Florida’s landscapes are now on display at the Museum of Discovery and Science, which houses an IMAX theater showing National Parks Adventure until Sept. 30 of this year.
The theater’s floor to ceiling, wall to wall curved screen offers such a crisp view that it makes you feel as if you’re the fourth companion to the trio in the movie.
The function of National Parks is to manage, protect and preserve land and animals for generations to come. Though the film highlights threats that happened before the National Park’s formation, such as the near extinction of redwoods for lumber, it falls short of engaging the audience with ongoing threats and controversial practices within and around the parks.
Hundreds of wild bison in Yellowstone’s boundaries are being culled and slaughtered to keep the herd population at a number deemed reasonable by state and federal government agencies. The Park Service is one of the lead agencies carrying out the “Yellowstone Buffalo Management Plan” on behalf of the government.
Park Ranger Gary Bremen has worked for the Park Service for 30 years and is currently stationed at Biscayne National Park. “The centennial is a great opportunity for people to get out and experience the beauty of national parks. Miami-Dade County is the only county in the nation with two parks bordering it,” he says, referring to Biscayne and Everglades National Parks. “No matter what your interest is, there’ll be something for you.”
In local news, rallies were held at nine state parks in Florida over the weekend as protestors alerted visitors to new rules that could allow timber harvesting, hunting and cattle grazing, among other commercial activities. The idea for heightened commercial interests in state parks is backed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and pushed by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson as a way for parks to generate additional income. Environmentalists argue that this will destroy nature and will dissuade people from visiting.
In Florida, there are more than 160 state parks, spanning more than 700,000 acres. Visit www.nps.gov to find a park near you.