20 American Treasures to See Now—Before They Disappear

If national treasures like the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty are on your must-visit bucket list, consider moving them to the top. A host of forces, from rising sea levels to wind erosion, have put the future of some of America's most iconic landscapes and monuments in jeopardy. Scroll through to see 20 of our nation's most beloved natural and man-made monuments that may be unrecognizable—or may not be here at all—in as little as a few decades.

  1. Glacier National Park in Montana

    Glacier National Park in Montana

    Montana is warming at a rate that's twice as fast as the national average. Rising temperatures and an increasingly early onset of spring threaten to thaw the giant glaciers that have made this 1 million acre park a scenic destination for hiking, fly-fishing, and cross-country skiing. According to The Guardian, only 26 of 150 glaciers that were present in the park in the 19th century remain today, and all the remaining ice formations are expected to melt within a few decades.

    Related: 20 Destinations for Plant Lovers Across America


  2. Denali National Park in Alaska

    Denali National Park in Alaska

    The diverse blend of biomes found in this 6 million acre park and preserve make it a truly unique swath of America. Unfortunately, along with the forest, taiga, and tundra that you'll encounter at various elevations, there are also glaciers and snow at risk of receding as a result of reduced annual snowfall, earlier snow melt, and a thawing permafrost, according to USA Today. Excessive tourism, which carries in its wake an uptick in litter, harmful emissions, trampled vegetation, and hunting, has only hastened the deterioration of this once pristine habitat.

    Related: 10 National Parks That Look More Stunning in the Snow


  3. Maui Beachfront in Hawaii

    Maui Beachfront in Hawaii

    Beachgoers flocked to Maui's shores in record-breaking numbers in 2017, but it's not all sunshine on Hawaii's second-largest island. Rising sea levels threaten to submerge 3,130 acres of the beachfront by 2100, according to The Maui News, while ever-increasing human-wildlife interactions endanger green sea turtles, monk seals, tree snails, and other island fauna.

    Related: The Best Tiny Beach Towns from East to West


  4. Everglades National Park in Florida

    Everglades National Park in Florida

    The twin troubles of climate change and the invasion of non-native species have wreaked havoc on this 1.5 million acre wetland preserve. According to the National Park Service, as sea levels have risen over the last 50 years, salt water has encroached on fresh water and imperiled the plants and animals that depend on it. At the same time, newly introduced flora and fauna continue to outcompete—and may eventually drive out—vulnerable native species.

    Related: 12 Destinations You Should Actually Visit in the Off-Season


  5. Princeton Battlefield in New Jersey

    Princeton Battlefield in New Jersey

    George Washington and his troops enjoyed a victory over British forces at the Battle of Princeton, yet recently a fresh battle was waged over this very site. Preservationists put up their fists when the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) set out to construct faculty housing on the historic site. But in the end, no blood was shed. As CentralJersey.com reports, the IAS settled for building a number of smaller housing units, leaving the battlefield preserved. Locals can only hope that this will be a lasting peace. 

    Related: 18 Small Towns That Changed America


  6. Grand Canyon in Arizona

    Grand Canyon in Arizona

    Years of mining activity in the uranium-rich Grand Canyon took their toll on the 277-mile-long natural wonder, exposing groundwater and wildlife to uranium contamination until the government banned all new mines in 2012. But recent threats to reverse that ban have once more put the millions-of-years-old national icon—and the diverse animal and plant species that call it home—at the mercy of man.

    Related: 20 Must-Visit Mountain Towns Across America


  7. Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan

    Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan

    From spotted knapeweed to mute swans, a number of non-native plant and animal species have been released into this 71,187-acre-park, jeopardizing the native species. As well, high rates of tourism, spurred on by the popular lakeshore campgrounds, have led to reduced air and water quality.

    Related: The Best U.S. Cities for a Summer Staycation


  8. Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii

    Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii

    Imposing as the two active volcanoes at this park may appear, the real threat to the tropical rainforest that sits alongside them is something altogether different. The real menaces? Drought, increasing temperatures, introduced feral animals, and invasive plants endanger the hardy flora and fauna that have long lived beneath the forest canopy.

    Related: These 30 Cities Have the Worst Weather in America


  9. Montauk Lighthouse in New York

    Montauk Lighthouse in New York

    Like the wayward ships that once relied on its guiding light, Montauk Point Light, too, is at risk of being lost at sea. According to the Montauk Historical Society, more than 200 feet of the land on which the 111-foot lighthouse was erected has eroded over the last 200 years. When it was built in 1796, the lighthouse sat roughly 300 feet from the edge of the bluff; today, it sits less than 100 feet from the bluff's edge, putting it in danger of falling into the sea if preservation efforts are not taken.

    Related: From Bridges to Stadiums: 13 U.S. Icons That Are Falling Apart


  10. Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska

    Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska

    This remote national preserve is the last remnant of the land bridge, now almost entirely submerged, that allowed humans from East Asia to pass into North America more than 10,000 years ago. Now, rising temperatures near the preserve, which are projected to increase by 10 degrees over the next 70 years according to the National Park Service, threaten to further diminish the awe-inspiring arctic landscape by causing shoreline erosion, the melting of ice formations, and the demise of sensitive species.

    Related: The 22 Weirdest Town Names Ever Put on the Map

    flickr.com via Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

  11. The Sierra Nevada in California

    The Sierra Nevada in California

    Home to the highest elevation in the contiguous United States, this 400-mile mountain range is a must-see for its stunning peaks, ancient trees, and majestic mountain lions. Given that temperatures are expected to increase by 7 to 10 degrees by the end of the century, according to Phys.org, the landscape and the organisms that dwell in it are at risk of vanishing as a result of mudslides, dehydrated vegetation, or uncontrollable wildfires.

    Related: 20 American Towns with Perfect Weather


  12. Chinatown in San Francisco

    Chinatown in San Francisco

    The energizing sights, sounds, and smells of this 1.34-square-mile neighborhood between Broadway and Bush Street have comforted and nourished immigrants for more than a century and have more recently attracted foodies the world over. The area's popularity is a double-edged sword, however, as the boost in tourism has been accompanied by more than four decades of gentrification. Locals fear that the resulting displacement of longtime residents and the buyout of once prominent businesses will undercut the cultural value of the famous enclave.

    Related: The 20 Friendliest Cities in America


  13. Chimney Rock in Nebraska

    Chimney Rock in Nebraska

    Ironically, erosion, the very force that forged this rock formation 4,228 feet above sea level, has led to its deterioration. Because of weathering, the spire that stands atop the structure is believed to be roughly 30 feet shorter than it was in the 1800s, and the names carved into the rock by pioneers who passed by along the Oregon Trail have largely been erased.

    Related: 25 Tiny Towns to Visit for a Glimpse at How We Used to Live


  14. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland

    Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland

    Designated a national monument in 2013, this 25,000-acre marshland, including large swaths of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, was the same treacherous terrain Harriet Tubman crossed as she guided slaves to freedom in the 1850s. But with sea levels expected to rise by two to five feet by the end of this century, the culturally significant landscape may one day be underwater, according to WTOP.

    Related: Would You Recognize These 9 Iconic Streets Way Back When?

    flickr.com via Ted Eyton

  15. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

    Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

    The enduring appeal of this 3,500-square-mile national park, the first in the nation to be established, may not hold forever. According to National Geographic, a recent increase in human-wildlife interaction stemming from the more than 4 million annual visitors to the park has had the effect of frightening animals out of their habitats, and has even led to the inadvertent harming or killing of animals. 

    Related: Winter Retreats of Presidents Past and Present


  16. Statue of Liberty in New York

    Statue of Liberty in New York

    Hurricane Sandy's tidal surge did a number on Lady Liberty in 2012, damaging rails, docks, and walkways along the 305-foot copper statue while flooding three-fourths of the island on which it stands. While the 12-acre monument reopened in 2013, rising sea levels may one day close it permanently. Sea levels are expected to rise 49 feet by 2500, which would be enough to partially submerge the statue, according to The Weather Channel.

    Related: The 12 Most Infamous Goofs in Architectural History


  17. Sequoia National Park in California

    Sequoia National Park in California

    General Sherman, the largest tree on the planet, has long entranced visitors to this sprawling forest. Global warming, however, and the resulting drought and reduced snowpack may dry out the mountain soil in which these giants grow and promote fungal diseases that could make the ancient trees merely a memory.

    Related: Endless Acres: 14 of the Biggest Properties in America


  18. Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, D.C.

    Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, D.C.

    This presidential monument has gone green in recent years, but not in the way the term normally implies. Acid rain has caused the bronze sculpture, which was originally brown, of former President Ulysses S. Grant to take on a greenish tinge. Conservation detergent and a microcrystalline wax have been applied to the sculpture to eliminate the discoloration, but the threat of future corrosion remains.

    Related: 10 U.S. Towns That Are Older Than America


  19. Napa Valley in California

    Napa Valley in California

    Global warming may put a cork in the production of Cabernet Sauvignon and other vinos that wine aficionados flock to Napa Valley to sip and savor. If temperatures continue to rise at current rates, grape output in the vineyard-rich 789-square-mile region could be cut by two-thirds by 2050, according to the Napa Valley Register.

    Related: The 10 Best American Towns for a Romantic Getaway


  20. Canyon of the Ancients in Colorado

    Canyon of the Ancients in Colorado

    The government designated this 171,000-acre region a national monument in 1992 to protect it from overzealous oil and gas exploration that poses a menace to native plants and animals. But while the issuance of new oil and gas leases has largely ceased since 1986, new troubles threaten these protected lands, namely vandalism and overgrazing of the landscape.

    Related: 15 Places Every American Should Visit at Least Once


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