The Wonders of America's State Parks

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great course material, wooden lecturer I have only watched a couple of the lectures so far, but I suspect my thoughts will carry throughout. The lectures themselves are really good; the material is interesting, a lot of it is new to me, the pictures are beautiful. In short, there's a lot to like here. The lecturer, however, is, I hate to say it, awful. He shows NO personality. He sits there frozen, clearly just reading off a script. When the camera angle is straight on, it's not too bad, but when they pull to the side, it's like he's reading to someone off camera. It's very offputting. I have watched a lot of Great Courses, and this is the first time I disliked the lecturer so much that he pulled me out of the course to notice HIM, and not for good reasons. He is clearly uncomfortable in this role, and he almost makes the viewer uncomfortable because of that. I am watching on Great Courses Plus so I didn't pay anything extra for this course. I will continue to watch it because I think it's good, but please don't use this person again for other courses. I am the type of person who freezes up in front of a group, so I understand that not everyone is good at presenting--but then they should not take on a role like this.
Date published: 2021-02-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mediocre and hard to be engaged in the presentatio The presenter was hard to listen to because he rarely looked AT the camera and not a lot of vocal variety, rather boring. It as hard to hang in there.
Date published: 2021-01-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing The best lectures were on the CA parks. The information about some parks made me wonder whether he had been to them. His use of the telepromter was a disaster. Most parks would have been more interesting with more specific information and photos about the flora and fauna.
Date published: 2021-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 100 great American state parks Take an escorted trip to great places and never leave your COVID safe house.
Date published: 2021-01-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderfully informative We are National Park enthusiasts. This course takes you off the main highway to some wonderful state parks. His knowledge and presentations are wonderfully informative. The personal presentation is underwhelming. He sits with a prop background reading from the teleprompter never moving or changing expression. Maybe he has a physical disability, if so I am sorry. He looks handsome and fit, so it is challenging to watch that part. It really is a great way to decide where to go and what to do.
Date published: 2020-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quick Shipment I ordered 8 courses on Saturday, Dec 19 and they all arrived in 3 business days (Wednesday, Dec 23). That was fast service.
Date published: 2020-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not what expected, but great nontheless Like all The Great Courses, a well-done course. Contained a lot of very useful information well delivered.
Date published: 2020-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Watched it twice, now I am buying it! Joe really knows his parks! I love the comprehensive treatment of each park chosen, and all the range of parks - wilderness, sports, historical, Native American background, water-based, etc. After I watched it, I bought all his books and they have the same quality. I like his witty style and the variety of video/photographic detail. You really feel that you are 'there'. With pandemic stay-home, we are enjoying Virtual Vacations and planning where we'll go when we can. So many ideas here that I had never considered! That's why his comprehensive treatment is so valuable. We fixate on the over-visited National Parks when these gems are available! Joe's enthusiasm for the parks comes through in his delivery, in the content he chooses, and in his dry humor. Can't praise this enough....
Date published: 2020-12-03
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The Wonders of America's State Parks
Course Trailer
Niagara Falls: America’s Oldest State Park
1: Niagara Falls: America’s Oldest State Park

Start your tour of some of the most breathtaking state parks in the United States with a look at the nation’s oldest state park: Niagara Falls in Upstate New York. Established in 1885, this state park is home to three majestic falls—American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls—and a rich array of flora and fauna.

26 min
The Pennsylvania Wilds: Wilderness Reborn
2: The Pennsylvania Wilds: Wilderness Reborn

The state parks of north-central Pennsylvania, located within the Pennsylvania Wilds Conversation Landscape Initiative, lure more than 12 million people each year. In this lecture, explore some of the can’t-miss features at Cherry Springs State Park, Leonard Harrison State Park, Cook Forest State Park, Sinnemahoning State Park, and more.

25 min
New York’s Adirondacks: “Forever Wild”
3: New York’s Adirondacks: “Forever Wild”

Stretching more than 6 million acres of Upstate New York, Adirondack Park boasts over 3,000 lakes and ponds; 30,000 miles of rivers and streams; and 5,500 campsites. From the “Great Camps” of the Gilded Age’s rich and famous to Lake Placid, learn what makes this large tract of land just as important as the nation’s federal reserves.

30 min
Exploring New Hampshire’s White Mountains
4: Exploring New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Dive into the adventures within the White Mountain National Forest. There’s Franconia Notch, home to the legendary (and defunct) rock formation, the Old Man of the Mountain; Crawford Notch State Park, founded the same year the White Mountain National Forest was established; and Bretton Woods, which lies at the base of Mount Washington.

29 min
The Yankee Coast: Plymouth to Montauk
5: The Yankee Coast: Plymouth to Montauk

Drive just an hour and a half from Plymouth to Newport and you can visit every single state park covered in this lecture. Start with the Pilgrim Memorial (America’s most famous rock), then journey to the masonry bastion of Fort Adams in Rhode Island, and end up at Montauk Point and Camp Hero State Parks at the far eastern tip of Long Island.

25 min
New Jersey Pineland Legends and Landscapes
6: New Jersey Pineland Legends and Landscapes

A lurking, devilish crypto-creature. A ghost town from the 19th century. Towering coastal lights and undeveloped barrier islands. These are just a few of the many fascinating aspects of the state parks found inside New Jersey’s Pinelands and the famous Jersey Shore, including Wharton State Forest and Island Beach State Park.

25 min
The Tidewater South: America’s Birthplace
7: The Tidewater South: America’s Birthplace

Visit a region of Virginia and Maryland where you can experience more than 400 years of American history, including the Jamestown settlement and the battle of Yorktown. In addition, learn about the unspoiled natural wonders you can find at places like Assateague State Park and the Great Dismal Swamp.

26 min
Georgia and Carolina Islands: Lost in Time
8: Georgia and Carolina Islands: Lost in Time

Get up close and personal with barrier island state parks in Georgia, South Carolina, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Discover the incredible variety of history, culture, and outdoor adventures waiting for you in spots like Reynolds Mansion State Park, Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, and Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

27 min
Southern Appalachian Peaks and Valleys
9: Southern Appalachian Peaks and Valleys

Get a taste of what you can expect from a state park road trip through the southern Appalachians. Mr. Yogerst reveals the scenic jewels you can find within Alabama’s DeSoto State Park, northwest Georgia’s Fort Mountain, northeast Georgia’s Tullulah Gorge (the “Grand Canyon of the South”), and South Carolina’s Mountain Bridge.

28 min
The Florida Keys: Tropical Paradise Parks
10: The Florida Keys: Tropical Paradise Parks

See what is so special about Florida’s state park system—and the archipelago in which they’re found. Here, dive into several state parks in the Florida Keys, including John Pennekamp State Park, Bahia Honda State Park, Curry Hammock State Park, and the San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park.

26 min
West Texas: Where the West Is Still Wild
11: West Texas: Where the West Is Still Wild

Visit two awe-inspiring state parks in West Texas: first, Big Bend Ranch, located on the Rio Grande River and home to a vast backcountry you can only explore on unpaved desert roads, and second, Palo Duro Canyon, a 20-mile-wide canyon that offers the best horseback riding in the Texas Panhandle.

25 min
Adventures in the Ozarks and Ouachitas
12: Adventures in the Ozarks and Ouachitas

What the Ozarks and Ouachitas—two rugged highland areas separated by the Arkansas River Valley—lack in height they more than make up for in the sheer variety of things to do there. Join Mr. Yogerst on an exploration of spots like the Ozark Folk Center State Park, Onondaga Cave State Park, and Lake Ouachita State Park.

27 min
State Parks along the Mighty Mississippi
13: State Parks along the Mighty Mississippi

The vast majority of natural and human landmarks along the 2,320-mile stretch of the Mississippi River can be found at state parks. Here, take a trip down Old Man River and hop from Itasca State Park in Minnesota through Columbus-Belmont State Park in Kentucky all the way to Rosedown Plantation in Louisiana.

26 min
Presidential Parks in the Land of Lincoln
14: Presidential Parks in the Land of Lincoln

Trace the formative years of Abraham Lincoln’s life and learn how history and nature shaped one of the nation’s most iconic presidents. You’ll visit Lincoln Homestead State Park, Lincoln State Park, Lincoln’s New Salem State Park, Brown County State Park, and John James Audubon State Park.

23 min
The Great Lakes: Back from the Brink
15: The Great Lakes: Back from the Brink

In recent years, the state parks in and around the Great Lakes have benefitted from major restoration efforts, making them must-see places to visit. In this lecture, explore Mackinac Island in Michigan, Indiana Dunes State Park near Chicago, South Bass Island State Park in Ohio’s Lake Erie Archipelago, and more.

29 min
The Black Hills: Nature and Native Heritage
16: The Black Hills: Nature and Native Heritage

Attend a riveting buffalo auction where prices range as high as $5,000 per animal. Explore 71,000 acres of woodland, prairie, lakes, and mountains. Visit the renowned boomtown of Deadwood. These are just a few of the many adventures on offer in the Black Hills of South Dakota—all of which you’ll learn about here.

28 min
Parks of the Colorado Front Range
17: Parks of the Colorado Front Range

Despite being one of our national treasures, very little of the Colorado Rockies is protected by the National Park Service. Discover why the best way to explore Colorado’s mighty mountains is by visiting amazing state parks from State Forest State Park in the far north to Lincoln Park in the heart of Denver to the dinosaur graveyard at Garden Park Fossil Area.

26 min
Southwest Red Rock and Desert Canyon Parks
18: Southwest Red Rock and Desert Canyon Parks

From the strange serenity of Cathedral Rock to flaming red sandstone formations in the Valley of Fire to a basin named for the famous Kodachrome slide film, tour the desert canyon landscapes of the American Southwest. It’s a grand loop that takes you through 900 miles of scenery and 200 years of geologic history.

24 min
California’s Badlands: Anza-Borrego
19: California’s Badlands: Anza-Borrego

Mr. Yogerst gets a little personal in this lecture on California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park—which he’s been going to his entire life. Explore the melted landscape of the Borrego Badlands, the sandy trails of Coyote Canyon, the majesty of the Salton Sea, and the natural springs of the Vallecito Valley.

29 min
Big Blue: The Beauty of Lake Tahoe
20: Big Blue: The Beauty of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe holds the title of the largest alpine lake in North America, and it’s a scenic wonder (and recreational treasure) all year round. Spend some time poking around the lake’s iconic state parks, including Emerald Bay on the California side and Sand Harbor on the Nevada shore.

25 min
California’s Coastal Redwood Parks
21: California’s Coastal Redwood Parks

Northern California’s coastal redwoods are among the tallest and oldest living things on the planet. Learn what makes coastal redwoods different from their cousins in the Sierra Nevada, what mobilized federal and state efforts to save the redwoods, and the best ways to see them for yourself at Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith state parks.

24 min
Washington’s Orca Islands: The San Juans
22: Washington’s Orca Islands: The San Juans

Want a fascinating glimpse of quirky American history? Look no further than a journey through the state parks of the San Juan Islands. Tour this mosaic of islands and waterways, home to state parks that reflect the archipelago’s bucolic lifestyles, including Lime Kiln Point State Park and Matia Island Marine State Park.

27 min
Alaska’s State Parks: The Last Frontier
23: Alaska’s State Parks: The Last Frontier

Sprawling across 1.6 million acres of wilderness, Wood-Tikchik is one of the largest state parks in the United States (around the same size as Delaware). Chugach, on the other hand, is an easily reachable state park just miles from downtown Anchorage. Both parks—and their can’t-miss sights—are covered here.

26 min
Hawaii’s Primeval Napali Coast
24: Hawaii’s Primeval Napali Coast

Hawaii’s Napali Coast is a vision of paradise on Earth, with remote beaches, rainforest valleys, 40-story waterfalls, ancient villages, and plenty of wildlife. End this course on a tropical note with a look at spots including Ha’ena State Park, Na Pali Natural Area Reserve, and Waimea Canyon State Park.

29 min

State parks preserve America's natural and human heritage.


University of Oregon

About Joe-Yogerst

Joe Yogerst is a journalist and travel writer. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Oregon. An avid world traveler since his teenage years, Mr. Yogerst has set foot on all seven continents and visited more than 160 countries, colonies, and territories. He has worked as a writer and editor on four continents, including stints in South Africa, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and his native California.


Mr. Yogerst’s portfolio includes investigative journalism for The Washington Post, celebrity profiles for Prestige magazine, and 35 book projects for National Geographic. He is the author of National Geographic’s 50 States, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do, a national travel bestseller. He is also the author of two additional books in the series: 100 Parks, 5,000 Ideas and the upcoming 100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas, which covers the best road trips in the United States and Canada.


Mr. Yogerst’s other books include his account of a modern-day journey through Vietnam, Land of Nine Dragons: Vietnam Today, which was named the best travel book in the annual Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition. His book Long Road South: The Pan American Highway, which covers his four-month journey between Texas and Argentina, was named one of America’s top travel books by the Society of American Travel Writers. Mr. Yogerst’s articles on travel, business, culture, and sports have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Examiner, The International Herald Tribune, Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Travel + Leisure, USA Today, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, TIME, Newsweek, and Forbes.

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