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Find Your Park on St. Croix

The United States’ National Park Service (NPS) celebrated the centennial of their creation in 2016 with the ‘Find Your Park’ program. Many Americans think of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Yosemite when they think of national parks, but you can ‘Find Your Park’ right here on St. Croix, USVI! While the island is only 82 square miles in size, St. Croix is home to three separate national parks: Buck Island Reef National Monument, Christiansted National Historic Site, and Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve.

Buck Island Reef National Monument

Buck Island Reef is St. Croix’s only underwater national park. In total, the park encompasses 176 acres above and below the water. It was established a National Monument by a Presidential proclamation in 1961, and grew in 2001 to preserve ‘one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea.’ Above the water, Buck Island offers a hike along a nature trail to the highest peak for a breathtaking view. You can also stroll along the soft, white sand of Turtle Beach, who pristine condition makes it a popular filming location.

Buck Island National Reef Monument

Below the water, enjoy an abundance of native marine flora a fauna, vibrant coral reefs, playful fish, friendly rays and the occasional endangered hawksbill turtle. Buck Island is home to an underwater trail off the east end of the island that is accessible mostly by full or half day snorkeling tours. Signs have been mounted underwater to indicate interesting structures, marine life habitats, and commonly seen fish species. Buck Island is accessible by boat only. There is no fee to access the island on a private boat, however fees do vary for full or half day snorkeling excursions depending on the tour operator.

Christiansted National Historic Site

Christiansted National Historic Site was first established on March 4, 1952, as Virgin Islands National Historic Site through the initiative of concerned local citizens, to preserve the historic structures and grounds within its boundaries, and to illustrate the Danish influence on the island between 1733 and 1917, including colonial administration, military and naval establishment, international trade (including slave trade), religious diversity, architecture, trades and crime and punishment, between 1733 and 1917. The site was renamed to Christiansted National Historic Site on January 16, 1961 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. This 7 acre area park is located on the Christiansted waterfront and includes five historical structures: Fort Christiansvaern, the Scale House, the Danish Custom House, the Steeple Building, and the Danish West Indie & Guinea Company Warehouse. An informative walking tour is available at the visitor center at the park headquarters in the fort. Admission is $7 per person.

Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve

Salt River is a 1,015 acre park not only important historically, but also as an ecological preserve. The NPS works jointly with the government to manage this park, which includes a prehistoric archaeological site, a visitors center, huge mangrove forests, a bioluminescent bay, and coral reefs. Salt River is also known as Columbus Landing since Christopher Columbus landed at this spot in America’s Paradise in 1493. Columbus encountered the not-so-friendly Carib Indian tribe when landing, which led to the first documented conflict between Europeans and Native Americans. Some believe that Columbus never set foot on land, sending out a search party to explore the new land. Either way, we are proud of this beautiful area, which is recognized as a National Landmark.

According to the NPS: “The prehistoric complex at Salt River is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Virgin Islands. It has been the focus of every major archaeological investigation on St. Croix since 1880. Through artifact evidence and/or early historical accounts, we know that the area was inhabited by all three major pottery-making cultures found in the Virgin Islands in prehistoric times (Igneri, 50-650 AD; TAINO, 650-1450 AD; and Kalina or Carib, 1425-1590 AD). There is good reason to believe that the Salt River site was a major religious and cultural center as well as a long lived permanent settlement. The only Tainan ceremonial ball court or plaza (Batey) found so far in the Lesser Antilles was excavated there by a Danish archaeologist, Gudmund Hatt, in 1923. Artifacts associated with that game, including petroglyphs, stone “belts” (used either as trophies or handicaps), three-pointed stones called “zemis”, and human sacrificial burials, are now in the possession of the National Museum in Copenhagen.”

 Salt River is no longer a fresh water supply, but is now a tropical ecosystem that supports threatened and endangered species. Salt River Bay is home to one of the largest mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands as well as coral reefs and a submarine canyon. Salt River Bay is also one of only 7 year-round bioluminescent bays on Earth. Admission is free, but we recommend that you take advantage of the historical and ecological kayak tours to learn more about the area.

The National Park Service protects and serves national parks and local communities through it’s programs. NPS is about state parks, local parks, trails, museums, historic sites, and the many ways that the American public can connect with history and culture, enjoy nature, and make new discoveries. Join in the celebration of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service by finding your park on St. Croix! Visit to learn more, or to share your national park experience. To learn more about the national parks of St. Croix, you can download the free St. Croix National Park Service app. The app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices at iTunes and Google Play stores, it is entitled ‘NPS-St. Croix, USVI (NPS-STX)’  and includes information on all three of St. Croix’s national parks. Have fun finding your park!

– Jennie Ogden, Editor

Editor’s Note: There is a wonderful nonprofit organization here on the island called Friends of the St. Croix USVI National Parks whose mission is to increase public awareness and appreciation of the National Parks on St Croix through education, community outreach, and civic engagement while supporting the Parks’ mission to preserve and interpret our natural and cultural resources within the Parks and in our community as a whole. You can support the Friends by joining their organization, volunteering your time, or donating.  

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