When we are lucky, the skies are clear and if light pollution is low then the sky above is filled with stars. It is a spectacular view to see and if you look close you can see some important starts that have been used for navigation for a very long time.

The Big Dipper

The Big Dipper is an asterism, or a group of notable stars that form a pattern, in the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear. Due to it’s prominent shape and brightness, it is one of the most familiar star shapes in the northern sky. It contains eight stars where seven are usually visible to most. The Big Dipper is named for the shape the stars appear in, a handle and a bowl. Each of these stars have a name. Starting from the handle and going around to the bottom of the bowl they are known as: Alkaid, Mizar-Alcor (the first double star to be discovered through a telescope), Aloith, Megrex, Phecda, Merak and Dubhe.


Another important star to know is the North Star, Polaris. This star is very easy to find if you know where the Big Dipper is. If you draw a line through the two outer stars of the bowl it points right to it! Many sailors’ depended on this star to navigate because it points the direction of north.

Using the Big Dipper to find the North Star
Portrait of a Couple at Niagara Falls in Waterproof Clothing (1860s) Ambrotype by Henry Hollister, image via The Getty Museum

Tourism in the United States began some time after the European settlers arrived. They were too busy to take time to vacation. However, in the early 1660s, Americans started traveling to spas and mineral springs for relaxation, with the goal of maintaining or improving their health.

In the mid-1800s, the Bahamas and its government passed multiple acts that encouraged the promotion and infrastructure for tourist to come to the islands. Along with the Bahamas becoming a popular tourist destination, Niagara Falls became a notable hot spot for tourist.

The popularity of tourist spiked after the Civil War due to improved infrastructure such as railroads where it made people more mobile. Due to the time commitment and slow transportation time, it was still an activity for the elite, those that could afford to take time off of work, because a vacation meant an extended stay.

As one could guess, the basic form of tourism was practiced after World War II when more people, such as the middle-class, had access to automobiles and the luxury of paid time off benefits. Today, only a third of American families will take a vacation, yet tourism revenues in the United States reached an all time high of 21,547 USD Millions in May of 2018.

Photo by Susan Dimock

Stretching from Heceta Head in Northern Florence to Cape Arago in Southern Coos Bay, the Oregon sand dunes span 54 miles along the Oregon Coast. In fact, these dunes cover 40,000 acres making it the largest area of any dune system in the West Coast of North America. What makes these dunes even more impressive is that they are over 100,000 years old. Studies show that individual sand grains originated from the Umpqua River making it the primary source of the Oregon Dunes.

Since 1972, the dune system is known as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (ODNRA) and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service thanks to Congress.

U.S. Highway 101 is the major coastal highway that runs through almost the entire Pacific Coast line from Northern Washington to Southern California, making it easy to access the dunes.

Nestled within them are many lakes making the Oregon Dunes a popular destination for outdoor adventure. In fact, the most popular activities to do are hiking, camping and off-highway-vehicle (OHV) riding.