The title of World Heritage Site is awarded to all those specific places in the world which have been chosen due to their universal value for human heritage. The sites can be buildings, cities, architectural complexes, forests, lakes or landscapes. Some of the more well-known Sites in the world include the Pyramids of Egypt, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Serengeti.
The titles are awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), a body affiliated to the United Nations Organisation (UN) for the contribution to peace and order through education, science and culture. In order to evaluate and choose the sites, UNESCO has a commission made up of a representative of each of the member states of the UN’s General Assembly.
Recognising the natural and cultural importance of human heritage is a way of understanding and conserving the planet’s history and the diversity of its people. Although every World Heritage Site belongs to the country in which it is located, they are considered to be of interest to the international community and should be conserved for future generations.
Being such a large and diverse country, the United States endeavours to comply with these prerequisites. Until 2016, 23 World Heritage Sites have been declared in the United States, with the recent inclusion of the San Antonio Missions in the state of Texas.
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Below is a list of the most well-known World Heritage Sites in the United States:
1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Proclaimed as a World Heritage Site in 1979, the Grand Canyon is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The unique combinations of colour, rocks and erosion do not only show the geological evolution of nature in this area, but also adorn the view of the Colorado River which flows through the middle of this canyon which is a mile deep.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
Proclaimed as a World Heritage Site in 1984, the Yosemite National Park has a collection of rocks or granite monoliths which are the result of 10 million years of glacial erosion. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Moreover, this landscape is complemented by animals, waterfalls, clear streams, cliffs and the huge redwoods which are native to the park.
3. Everglades National Park, Florida
Proclaimed as a World Heritage Site in 1979. This Site is an important habitat for rare and endangered species like the manatee, the American crocodile and the Florida panther. At the same time, this subtropical desert is very important for people since it is a tourist attraction with camping programmes, boat tours, fishing, walking, birdwatching, etc. The Park has also been included in the List of World Heritage in Danger, due to the fact that the degradation in this natural site has led to a loss of the marine habitat for many of these wildlife species.
4. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
The Mammoth Cave National Park is basically a network of caves and long underground passages (in fact the longest in the world). Its caves shelter more than 130 species of animals and wildlife. In 1981 this Park was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States in order to conserve this natural habitat for these species.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
Proclaimed as a World Heritage Site in 1983 and not only because it is the most visited National Park in the United States. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has exceptional natural beauty. It is the home to over 3,500 species of plants and, unlike other places on the list, is relatively untouched by human influence, apart from the tourist trips, camps, fishing and trails in the area.