By the Numbers: National Monuments

On September 24, 1906, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming became the first national monument created by presidential proclamation. Photo by Zimbres via Wikimedia Commons.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized the president to create national monuments by presidential proclamation. Since then, presidents have invoked the act to protect numerous sites with nationally significant natural and cultural resources. Here are some salient statistics..

2.03 million acres

Total area of the national monuments in the National Park System. That's nearly 3,600 square miles.

140,000 square miles

Area of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the largest protected area proclaimed under authority of the Antiquities Act. Larger than all but four states, this national monument was proclaimed by President George W. Bush in 2006. It is co-administered by NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

5,000 acres

Maximum size of a national monument that a president may proclaim in Alaska without first getting the explicit consent of Congress. The 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) included this stipulation, which was prompted by President Jimmy Carter's use of the Antiquities Act in 1978 to proclaim 15 national monuments in Alaska totaling 56 million acres.

840 miles

Approximate length of the BLM-managed California Coastal National Monument, which protects all islets, reefs, and rock outcroppings with 12 nautical miles along the entire coast of California.


Number of national monuments. Proclamations and redesignations cause the count to change frequently.


National monuments in the National Park System. The National Park Service manages or co-manages three-quarters of the extant national monuments, which is a far larger share than any other federal agency.


National monuments created primarily to preserve natural resources such as geologic, marine, and volcanic sites.


States with national monuments. There are also national monuments in American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, the Minor Outlying Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.


National monuments established to preserve Native American sites, such as Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the Southwest.


National monuments proclaimed by President Bill Clinton during his two terms of office. He proclaimed seven of these in 2001 just before he left office.


National monuments in Arizona, which has the most of any state. Next come New Mexico (12) and California (10).


Presidents who have invoked the Antiquities Act to proclaim national monuments. Since the Antiquities Act became law in 1906, all but three presidents -- Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush -- have used it to proclaim national monuments.


National Monuments in the National Park System with "fort" as part of their official name. This category includes Fort Frederica, Fort Matanzas, Fort McHenry, Fort Pulaski, Fort Stanwix, Fort Sumter, and Fort Union National Monuments.


Federal agencies that administer or co-administer national monuments. In additional to the National Park Service, national monuments are administered or co-administered by the Bureau of Land Management (16), the U.S. Forest Service (6), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (6), The Armed Forces Retirement Home (1), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (1).


National monuments co-administered by more than one federal agency. The National Park Service co-administers three national monuments, including two with the Bureau of Land Management (Craters of the Moon and Grand Canyon-Parashant) and one with the Fish & Wildlife Service (World War II Valor in the Pacific)..


National monuments that can be created or expanded by presidential proclamation in Wyoming without the express permission of the state of Wyoming. Congress granted this concession to Wyoming (via a 1950 amendment to the Antiquities Act) after state residents vehemently objected to the proclamation of Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943.


I'm not familiar with a National Monument in DC and could not find one on the NPS website. Can you point me to the unit you refer to? If you are thinking of Washington Monument, that one is - despite the name - designated as a National Memorial, not a National Monument.

[MRC is quite correct. The reference to Washington, DC was incorrect and has been deleted. BJ]

Not all national monuments are sites established under the Antiquities Act. For example, Homestead National Monument of America and Alibates Flint Quarries and Texas Panhandle Pueblo Culture National Monument (since renamed) are Congressionally created parks. Not sure how that affects your statistics, but is another example of the "nonsense of nomenclature" used to denote units of the National Park System.

@Rangertoo, there are many more National Monuments that were created by congress, not by presidential proclamation. The two Alaskan National Monuments of the Forest Service come to my mind: While they were originally proclaimed by Jimmy Carter in 1978, they were reformed and redesignated by congress with ANILCA in 1980.

Curious factoid, no extra charge: Carter proclaimed one of them as Misty Fiords National Monument, congress confirmed it as Misty Fjords National Monument. Does anyone know of another case in which congress did copy editing?

MRC, good catch!

Just goes to show that you shouldn't let the name get in the way of the facts!

South Carolina's Congaree National Park is another example of a Congressionally-created national monument. Created by Congress in 1976, it started out as Congaree Swamp National Monument.

Is "National Monument" the most common unit type or designation in the NPS system? I suspect that it is, but I'm too brain-dead on a Friday evening to look it up myself.


I had the data in front of me from another analysis I was running.

I was wrong, "National Historic Site" is the most common unit designation in the NPS system. Just to ruin it for a future quiz:

National Historic Site 82
National Monument 78
National Park 59
National Historical Park 47
National Memorial 40
National Recreation Area 20
National Preserve 18
National Cemetery 14
National Wild And Scenic River 13
National Battlefield 12
National Seashore 10
National Military Park 9
National Parkway 9
Park 6
National River 5
National Battlefield Park 4
National Lakeshore 4
National Scenic Trail 4
National Reserve 2
International Historic Site 1
National Battlefield Site 1

I challenge Bob to name the 6 designated as "Park"!


Isn't President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C. a National Monument?


The only "Park" designation I recall is Anacostia Park in D.C. Doing a little research, there appear to be a total of 7 places designated "Park" as part of National Capital Parks - East. Are they really separate units though?

@MM: Great find. Yes, President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument is situated in Washington D.C. And I could not find it, because it is not a unit of the NPS but administrated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the Armed Forces Retirement Home. But it is a designated National Monument, so Bob's original listing of D.C. was correct and should be restored. I stand corrected and have learned something new.

I am on vacation and not accepting challenges. I will chip in President's Park, though, just to keep this thread going. Bob Janiskee


Don't forget the "National Scenic Riverways", such as Ozark and St. Croix.

Great Falls Park
Catoctin Mountain Park

The NPS lists that Pres. George H. W. Bush established Petroglyph National Monument on 6/27/90. Why does the paragraph above say he was one of 3 presidents who didn't use the antiquities act to create monuments? Did he establish it some other way?

Not all national monuments have been established by presidential proclamation, Anon. Some have been established by Act of Congress. Petroglyph National Monument is one example. President Bush signed the bill into law.

Thanks Bob! Let me add some words of our president
Franklin D. Roosevelt:

"There is nothing so American as our national parks.... The fundamental idea
behind the that the country belongs to the people, that it
is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."