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Tauck And Ken Burns Reveal First Co-Designed Itinerary

“Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest” Will Explore Six Parks In Southwestern U.S.

NORWALK, CT (November 2, 2010)  An in-depth, 10-day tour exploring six iconic National Parks of the southwestern U.S. will be the first new itinerary designed by filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan in collaboration with leading tour operator Tauck, it was announced today. Besides leveraging Tauck’s extensive experience in the region, the new itinerary will incorporate Burns’s and Duncan’s insider knowledge and draw on the filmmakers’ extensive network of local experts amassed during the decade they spent making their widely acclaimed documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”  Tauck will operate the new tour, “Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest,” beginning in May of next year with departures running through October.

“Partnering with Tauck is a way for us to carry on the work that Dayton and I began with the National Parks film,” said Burns.  “Just as the film did, this itinerary will encourage Americans to experience and celebrate their National Parks.”  Burns explained that increasing visitation is in the long-term best interest of the parks. “I’m sometimes asked if there’s a downside to having more people visit the parks, but actually, apathy and indifference are far greater threats.  By getting people into the parks, and by sharing the incredible stories of the people behind the parks, we’re inspiring Americans to embrace the parks and preserve them for future generations.  People are far more likely to defend what they know and value.”

According to Tauck CEO Dan Mahar, the new itinerary goes beyond the parks’ incredible landscapes to examine their profound influence on the human spirit.  “We’ve been bringing guests to the Southwest for over 40 years, and we’re continually amazed by the transformational power of these parks,” said Mahar.  “With Ken’s and Dayton’s help our guests will experience the parks’ grandeur, but they’ll go deeper to learn about a handful of visionary Americans whose spirits were so moved by these places that they devoted themselves to their protection and preservation.  And in addition, our guests will explore the landscapes’ deep spiritual significance in Native American culture.”

Mahar explained that the new journey will benefit greatly from the personal participation of local experts who were instrumental in the Burns/Duncan National Parks film, either appearing on-screen or serving as behind-the-scenes contributors to the documentary.  “These are the kinds of authorities on local history and culture that anyone traveling on their own wouldn’t have access to,” said Mahar.  “Ken and Dayton have been incredibly gracious in connecting us – and by extension, our guests – with these relatively unknown experts whose passion and knowledge make the parks come alive in such a compelling way.”

Among the revolving cadre of experts featured on “Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest” are John Cook, a third-generation Park Ranger who appeared in the parks documentary, and who speaks to both the Grand Canyon’s history as a National Park and the challenges it faces today.  Other authorities include Ryan Paul, a consultant on the film and an expert on the complex relationship between the expansion of the Union Pacific railroad and the development of the National Parks.  Alfred Runte, an author and environmental historian who appeared in every episode of the National Parks film, will also share his perspectives with Tauck guests on selected departures.

The “Spirit of the Desert” itinerary begins with an overnight in Moab, Utah, followed by a sunrise exploration of Arches National Park and an afternoon rafting trip on the Colorado River.  Two subsequent nights are also spent in Moab, with daytime activities including a lecture from an expert on Navajo culture, a visit to Canyonlands National Park, flight seeing above Capitol Reef National Park, and free time for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, or relaxing.

Following an overnight at the historic lodge inside Bryce Canyon National Park, guests will hike down into the canyon to experience its unique “hoodoos,” before traveling on to Zion National Park where accommodations will also be in a historic park lodge.  At Zion, guests will have a variety of options for experiencing the park, from challenging hikes to more relaxed motorcoach or shuttle bus-based exploration, and lecturers will discuss the unique history of the park lodges and the influence of the railroads on the National Parks. 

The itinerary next explores the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which, although hosting far fewer visitors each year, is acknowledged as providing the most dramatic views of the canyon.  During a two-night stay, guests will learn about the canyon and the North Rim through a variety of activities including hikes, a mule ride into the canyon, a photo expedition, a naturalist-led walk, and a lecture examining the sanctity of special places in Native American culture.  The Grand Canyon stay culminates with an extensive flight seeing expedition above the canyon before guests fly on to Las Vegas for the final night of their journey

Pricing for “Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest” is from $4,390 per person, double, plus air.  Those interested in more information can contact their local travel professional, call Tauck at 1 800 468 2825, or visit




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