UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA

United States Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites as Designated by UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, has been designating natural and cultural landmarks important to the world's heritage since 1972. Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List are afforded special status, which enables them to receive international funding and assistance to preserve these treasures.

The United States has nearly two dozen natural and cultural World Heritage Sites on the UNESCO list, with at least a dozen more on the tentative list. Following are all of the United States' World Heritage Sites and links to more information about them.

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Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Cahokia Mounds
Flickr user emilyrides

Located near St. Louis, these mounds are evidence of the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.

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Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

candelabrumdanse / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Numbering approximately 80 caves, Carlsbad Caverns are a major natural tourist attraction in the U.S. Southwest state of New Mexico. The caverns are situated over the Capitan Reef, a fossil complex that dates back to the Permian Period some 280-225 million years ago.

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Chaco Culture

Chaco Canyon

atelier_flir / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Chaco were a Pueblo people who lived in what is now New Mexico from 850 to 1250. The Chaco Culture is on the World Heritage List for its highly unusual pre-Columbian architecture.

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Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

bogeskov / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The "River of Grass" at the southern tip of Florida known as Everglades National Park holds some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the United States.

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Grand Canyon National Park

Dramatic Late Afternoon Light at Cape Royal

 Dean Fikar / Getty Images

One of the biggest natural tourist attractions in the United States, the Grand Canyon is a deep, massive, picturesque canyon in Arizona. According to UNESCO, "its horizontal strata retrace the geological history of the past two billion years."

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains

cm195902 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is on the UNESCO list for its diversity of animal and plant species and its largely untouched landscape. It spans from eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

flequi / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains Mount Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world's most active volcanoes.

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Independence Hall

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Dan Smith / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

This Philadelphia landmark was the site of the signing of The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The Independence Hall National Park complex also includes the Liberty Bell.

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Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

ilya_ktsn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Containing the largest non-polar ice field in the world, this site covers a glacier area between Alaska and the Yukon Territory in Canada. On the U.S. side are the national parks of Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay National Park.

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La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site

La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site

oquendo / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Located in Puerto Rico, La Fortaleza and San Juan are defense structures built to protect the city of San Juan and San Juan Bay. The structures date from the 15th to the 19th centuries and are examples of European-style defensive architecture in the Americas.

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Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave

Peter Rivera / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky was recognized by UNESCO in 1981 for having the world's largest underground network of caves. The cave network extends more than 285 miles underground.

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Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde

Ken Lund / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Mesa Verde National Park contains some 4,000 Pueblo dwellings that date from the 6th to the 12th centuries.

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Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Monticello

The Last Cookie / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

 

Treasured because of its association with U.S. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, Monticello (Jefferson's home) and the University of Virginia symbolize the beginning of the American Republic.

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Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Jason Pratt / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The wilderness of Olympic National Park, located in Washington State, includes everything from temperate rainforests to glacial peaks. The fact that it has the longest undeveloped coastline in the lower 48 states and is home to a number of endangered species, including the spotted owl, qualify it for World Heritage status.

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Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Monk seal at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

James Watt / Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

An ancestral environment for native Hawaiians, Papahānaumokuākea is a "mixed" World Heritage Site containing items of both natural and cultural significance. They include archeological remains from Papahānaumokuākea's Polynesian past, as well as extensive habitats for marine fauna and flora. The atolls and islands that make up Papahānaumokuākea make it one of the largest protected marine protected areas in the world.

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Pueblo de Taos

Pueblo de Taos

edgnerre / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Pueblo de Taos represents the architectural heritage of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona. The adobe settlement dates from the 13th to the 14th centuries.

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Redwood National and State Parks

Redwoods National Park

Redwoods National Park

The tallest tree in the world - the Redwood - populates the Redwoods National and State Parks site in northern California. These Pacific coast forests are also home to endangered species such as the bald eagle and the California brown pelican.

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Statue of Liberty

Cropped Image Of Statue Of Liberty Against Clear Blue Sky

 Frank Schiefelbein / EyeEm / Getty Images

A veritable symbol of the United States, the Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor, where she has welcomed new immigrants and tourists since 1886. The Statue of Liberty is indeed one of the must-see attractions in the U.S. Its history and its size - to wit, the torch alone measures 150 feet in length - make this one of the most recognizable UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA.

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Waterton Glacier International Peace Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Besides being home to five unique ecosystems - alpine tundra, subalpine forest, montane forest, aspen parkland and fescue grassland - the Waterton Glacier area on the border of Montana and the Canadian province of Alberta is the world's first International Peace Park. This UNESCO site actually combines Montana's Glacier National Park and Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park.

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Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

Chris Connell / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Located primarily in Wyoming (but also in Idaho and Montana), Yellowstone National Park was the very first park to be designated a national park in the United States. The spectacular natural attractions in the park, such as the geyser "Old Faithful," make this park a universal treasure.

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Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Tom Saint / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Like Yellowstone National Park (above), Yosemite was an early member of the National Park System and continues to be one of Ameica's best known national parks. This UNESCO site is particularly known for its geology, shaped by glaciation into granite domes, waterfalls, and awesome overhangs. Yosemite National Park lies in the heart of California.

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