Virgin Islands National Park, renowned throughout the world for its breathtaking beauty, covers approximately 3/5 of St. John, and nearly all of Hassel Island in the Charlotte Amalie harbor on St. Thomas. Within its borders lie protected bays of crystal blue-green waters teeming with coral reef life, white sandy beaches shaded by seagrape trees, coconut palms, and tropical forests providing habitat for over 800 species of plants. To these amazing natural resources, add relics from the Pre-Colombian Amerindian Civilization and remains of the Danish Colonial Sugar Plantations, and reminders of African Slavery and the Subsistence Culture that followed during the 100 years after Emancipation - all part of the rich cultural history of the Park and its island home.
Two endangered sea turtles, the hawksbill and the green, are commonly seen in St. John's waters. The hawksbill comes ashore on remote St. John beaches to dig its nest and lay eggs. After burying the eggs in the warm sand, the female returns to offshore waters. When the youngsters hatch, they instinctively turn toward the sea. Despite laws protecting them in some countries, they are still hunted in some areas for their shells and meat.
More than 30 species of tropical birds breed on the island. They include the black, parrot-like smooth billed ani, two species of Caribbean hummingbirds, and the everpresent bananaquit. Many warblers and other birds seen in the continental United States in the summer spend their winters in the dense forest.
More than 800 species of trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants grow in the different forests of St. John, from the moist sub-tropical forests of the interior mountains to the semi-arid cactus scrublands on south-facing slopes and rocky, wind-swept peninsulas. Inviting park trails wind through forests that today are a mix of native and introduced species. Largest of island blossoms, the vanilla scented night-blooming cereus is pollinated by bats and moths and may be seen, true to its name, only at night.
To write the National Park:
Virgin Islands National Park
1300 Cruz Bay Creek
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 00830
To Call them:
(340) 776-6201 ext. 238
© 2004 The Beach, US Virgin Islands