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Pinnacles in California Recently Upgraded to National Park

By February 16, 2013

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The 59th national park was established in California.

Pinnacles National Monument's status was upgraded this week, establishing Pinnacles National Park. With its new national park classification, Pinnacles has joined iconic California sites like Yosemite and Sequoia and is the state's ninth national park.

"By elevating Pinnacles to a national park, we are saying that this is one of the most special places in America," California Senator Barbara Boxer said. "Californians have long enjoyed its spectacular rock formations and diverse wildlife, but this designation will ensure that Pinnacles gets the national attention it deserves."

Pinnacles National Monument was created in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Located near the San Andreas Fault in the Gabilan Mountains east of central California's Salinas Valley, Pinnacles is an excellent example of tectonic plate movement. The Pinnacles rocks are part of a volcanic field born 23 million years ago near present-day Lancaster, California, some 195 miles southeast. The San Andreas Fault split the volcanic field as the Pacific Plate crept north, carrying the Pinnacles.

With its close proximity to San Francisco and other major cities, Pinnacles welcomed more than 343,000 visitors last year who spent $4.8 million and supported 48 jobs in the local economy.

The park encompasses 27,000 acres of diverse wild lands including massive monoliths, spires, cave passages and canyons, the result of millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement. Its rock formations attract climbers of all skill levels, and visitors marvel at its annual tapestry of spring wildlife flowers and more than 400 species of native bees.

The park also provides habitat for 63 endangered California condors. Since 2003, the park has been a partner of the California Condor Recovery Program and is one of four condor release sites in the United States.

"Pinnacles National Monument has long been a shining example of California's unique ecosystem, geology and unrivaled beauty," said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. "With this dedication as California's ninth national park, Pinnacles is taking its rightful place as one of America's most treasured wild places."

In January, President Obama signed the The Pinnacles National Park Act, recognizing the broader significance of park resources, specifically the chaparral, grasslands, blue oak woodlands, and majestic valley oak savanna ecosystems of the area, the area's geomorphology, riparian watersheds, unique flora and fauna, and the ancestral and cultural history of native Americans, settlers and explorers.

In addition to changing the park's status from national monument to national park, the legislation names the park's 16,000 acres of wilderness as the Hain Wilderness, honoring Schuyler Hain who was an 1891 homesteader from Michigan. Within 20 years, Hain became known as the "Father of Pinnacles," leading tours up through Bear Valley and into the talus caves. Hain spoke to groups and wrote articles urging preservation of the area and acted as unofficial caretaker for many years. His efforts proved fruitful with the establishment of Pinnacles as a 2,500-acre national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Photo: Pinnacles National Park | National Park Service

More: Best National Parks to Pitch a Tent | President Obama Nominates REI Chief for Secretary of the Interior | What is Wilderness? | Postcards from California

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