Picks and Pans Review: Yellowstone National Park

updated 08/27/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/27/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Wildflowers, rusty slopes, deer, ducks and water are all underscored by an appealing sound track. There's muddy goop bubbling like hot paint, Old Faithful gushing on cue, geysers with bases like large steamy anthills and others with fountains spread against the azure sky. This one-hour postcard-perfect portrait also captures the splendor of Yellowstone Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake and Yellowstone Upper Falls. (Wilderness, $29.95; 800-383-8811)

MUIR WOODS—THE MAJESTY AND SPLENDOR OF THE REDWOODS

Just 17 miles from San Francisco lies one of the world's most spectacular sights. No, we're not talking about Jose Canseco's biceps, but Muir Woods—named after the environmentalist responsible for making Yosemite a national park. Its 510 acres of redwoods are, at age 1,200 or so, among the oldest living things on earth.

Produced by the same team that made the Smokies tape, this equally well done video is as much about redwoods as it is about the park itself and is loaded with tidbits on the giant trees. We are told, for instance, that they covered the earth during the dinosaur era, but climate changes caused the death of the redwoods everywhere except in California.

The tape's title is incomplete. Since few people would go to this park without a side trip to San Francisco, most of the first hour of the 80-minute video is devoted to the bay city and all its attractions, from Alcatraz to Chinatown. But Muir Woods, which lies north over the Golden Gate bridge, is clearly an attraction in itself—even diminished as it inevitably is by the TV screen. (Panorama, $29.95; 415-388-7059)

ACADIA

Picturesque and concise, this video celebrates Maine's Acadia National Park, where "blueberries cushion the hills." Since 1850, Acadia, the first national park east of the Mississippi, has drawn artists and nature lovers to its "glistening seascapes, quaint harbors and abundance of wildlife."

A 30-minute mix of light music, brief narration and serene images takes the viewer to shallow water brushing over brown rocks, to a clear sky where "seagulls float above foothills that lead nowhere," and along carriage trails built between 1917 and 1933 by the Rockefellers, part of the area's summer community. (Stamats Film and Video, Inc., $19.95; 800-553-8878)

MESA VERDE—WHERE THE SPIRITS RISE

High atop Colorado plateau country, hidden underneath huge outcroppings on the vertical faces of the canyons, sits a strange, captivating world. Established in 1906, Mesa Verde National Park is the largest archaeological preserve in the U.S., containing more than 600 cliff dwellings built by the Anasazi people, ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians.

There's plenty of practical information in this hypnotic tour. For example, it tells you where to stay—in one of 500 campsites or at the spectacular Far View Lodge, the only hotel in the 52,036-acre park.

Most of this brisk, 45-minute video, however, centers on the history of the Anasazi Indians, who were, we are told, "a Stone Age people, without metal of any kind." Elaborately staged reenactments of the tribe's rituals give viewers a vivid sense of their life-style. The Anasazi lived on the mesa for hundreds of years before returning to the cliff dwellings of their forebears around 1100 A.D., perhaps for protection from raiders. Mysteriously, they abandoned the cliffs 150 years later and never came back.

The dwellings are fascinating and extremely well preserved. The largest of them, the Cliff Palace, housed from 200 to 250 people in its 217 rooms. Like this video, it is not to be missed. (Panorama, $29.95; 303-533-7731)

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