4 Natural Firework Displays for Fourth of July
Fireworks have long been a staple of Fourth of July revelry — but at what environmental cost? America's favorite explosives are made from heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds, and toxic chemicals. When detonated, the smoke and dust produced by fireworks can pose serious health risks for humans and animals alike. Plus, igniting fireworks can start fires and contaminate water, harming the environments that surround us. Enjoy (and spare) the environment around you by observing these natural displays of beauty.
1.) Bioluminescent waters: Next time you're in Florida, skip the crowded beaches and theme parks. Many of the state's small rivers and lakes are filled with bioluminescent dinoflagellates, which light up the waters after the sun goes down. Take a kayak trip through places like the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge to watch these microorganisms in action. If Florida is inaccessible, California, Washington, and Puerto Rico also boast bioluminescent waters. Isn't a calmly glowing river preferable to loud bangs and the smell of sulfur?
2.) Alaska's aurora borealis: The prime season for Alaska's world-famous aurora borealis is winter, but it still qualifies as one of the best natural fireworks displays the United States has to offer. Because the aurora borealis — glowing veins of colorful light that streak across the sky — is only visible at night, experts advise tourists to seek the phenomena out in the winter, when the Alaskan nights are long. Briefly flashing aerial fireworks can't hold a candle to the shimmering, enduring beauty of the aurora borealis. Plus, who decided that Americans could only celebrate their patriotism once a year? The aurora borealis offers a gorgeous way to enjoy one of the country's final frontiers.
3.) Lightning storms: A little more dangerous, but far more accessible than the aurora borealis, consider local lightning storms to be the cheap alternative to a full-blown Alaskan getaway. Next time the humid, summer skies open up and the sound of thunder echoes through the air, appreciate the natural beauty of electrical storms. The best place to stake one out is in the Midwest, based on sheer frequency. The snaps and crackles of a thunder storm probably mean rain is replenishing local ecosystems, too. Just be careful to watch from indoors if things seem too risky!
4.) Sunsets: They won't provide the auditory excitement of a typical fireworks display, but sunsets are about as beautiful a spectacle as nature presents. Climb to the top of a hill — or better yet, trek to the nearest state or national park — to observe splotches of colors and clouds in the sky. On the right evening, a sunset can be perfect from almost any locale, but some of our dream locations include the peak of Hawaii's Mount Haleakala, on the shores of a California beach, or on the precipice of the Grand Canyon.
--Image by iStockphoto/suman
Eric Brown is an editorial intern at Sierra. An Eagle Scout who has hiked in Denali National Park and kayaked down the Snake River, Eric thinks the world is worth saving, even if it has given him his fair share of sunburns. In the fall, he will be a senior at Northwestern University's Medill School, where he enjoys music writing for North by Northwestern.