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St. John USVI > Activities & Attractions > St. John National Park

Attractions & Exploring

St. John National Park

It's no accident that the Island of St. John is as beautiful as it is today. If it weren't for the philanthropy of Laurence Rockefeller and other family members, St. John probably would have suffered from the same overdevelopment that hit other Caribbean islands hard. That's because Rockefeller was able to buy up much of the land here that he thought was so pristine, only to eventually turn it over to the U.S. government. That was back around the middle of the 20th century, when the Rockefellers were able to contribute about 5,000 acres of land in order to the United States in order to set up a national park for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since then the size of the protected land has slowly grown to nearly 1,000 acres, not including the nearly 6,000 acres found off shore that includes protected coral and other fantastic underwater gardens.

It is easy to see the effects of preservation when comparing St. John to other Caribbean islands, many of which have unfortunately become tastelessly commercialized and over crowded with hotels, resorts and the other elements of a visible tourist culture. As it is a sort of diamond in the rough, the preservation of the park at St. John has become an internationally renowned phenomenon. With more than 800 plant species, the forests on this tropical island are some of the most abundant in the Caribbean, showing off seagrape trees, coconut palms and many other floral jewels. But in addition to the natural preservation that has taken place, the park at St. John provides evidence of a rich cultural history. That's because any visitor to St. John can span hundreds of years of history by simply cruising through the island's trails and visiting native relics, plantation ruins and old signs of slavery as well as the culture of subsistence that followed it. Needless to say, there is more history and culture here than one might expect from a beautiful desert island.

In addition to the U.S. government, there are also non-profit organizations established in order to help the park protect its natural resources while at the same time making it more attractive to visitors from all over. One friendly organization even goes so far as to provide general interest classes to anybody interested in learning more about topics ranging from indigenous basket weaving techniques to marine and coastal studies. It's this and many other pleasant aspects of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park that make it a real oasis in more than one sense of the word. While many visitors choose to walk or rent a car, frequent basic rate tours are also frequently available to anybody who is interested.

To get the best tour of the national park at St. John, hop on one of the jeep or safari bus groups that circle around the island's series of winding roads. You'll be glad to see that the guides are just as excited about the beauty of their island as you are. The many taxis that run all of the time will take you to all of the unbelievable viewpoints as well as the important cultural relics such as the petroglyphs cut into stone by the ancient cultures that once inhabited the island. But aside from just showing you what there is to see, the tour guides at St. John seem to take a special interest in your entertainment. By letting you in on all of the local myths and first hand understanding of the island, they can't help but share with you their excitement for the unique culture on St. John.

For more information:
http://www.nps.gov/viis/
http://www.usvi.net/usvi/stj.html

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John Big Hat Walsh

See you on the Island,

John "Big Hat" Walsh


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