Reader Participation Day: What is the Most Iconic Image Associated With the National Park System?

Would you say Half Dome is the most iconic image associated with national parks? Photo copyright QT Luong,, used with permission.

Yellowstone has Old Faithful, in Yosemite looms Half Dome, and Arches has Delicate Arch.

Those are just three settings that are readily identified with national parks. But which view in the National Park System do you think is the most iconic of all when talk turns to parks?

Do you think of the bison that is on the Interior Department logo or on the National Park Service shield? What about the presidential images chiseled into Mount Rushmore?

Tell us, what is the most iconic image of the National Park System?


As much as I love the natural wonders that you have mentioned and there are many, many more, Mt. Rushmore speaks volumes to me!! In my opinion, the representation of the 4 American Presidents on its rock face embody the essence of our country!

George Washington, our country's 1 President! As a brand new nation, trying its wings in such a "grand experiment" of Democracy, the eyes of the world were upon us. What we did would echo through the history of the civilized world!

Thomas Jefferson, a visionary President who expanded our borders, adding some of the most beautiful landscapes ever seen! His foresight to explore this new territory has left our nation all the more richer for it!

Abraham Lincoln, a President whose strength needs no explanation. He held this country together in one of the most tumultuous times in our nation's history. Had he not have worked tirelessly to re-unify our divided nation, who knows where our landmarks might be today?

Theodore Roosevelt, (my personal favorite, fascinating person I would have liked to have met) the Conservationist President! In an era of the wealthy having privilege he realized the necessity of preserving wild places for generations to follow! In his remarks to the Governor's Conference in November 1908 he catalogued irresponsibility and abuses against our Nation's natural resources. He charged the Governors to develop a "philosophy of conservation",
"We have to , as a nation, exercise foresight...and if we do not exercise that foresight, dark will be the future!"

Old Faithful is the most iconic, I think, although Delicate Arch is way more dramatic in real life. Once you've been to Yellowstone, you realize that while, yes, geysers are bizarre and cool, Old Faithful is not that much different than so many other geysers in the area, and its setting has become such a touristy location that it hardly feels like you're out enjoying nature anymore. But Delicate Arch...coming around that final bend in the trail and seeing it for the first's an experience you will never forget. As my then nine year old daughter so aptly put it, "Every time I go up to it and actually touch it, I feel like I should call it 'Sir.'"

How about our ARROWHEAD emblem? It represents ALL our parks, monuments, sites, rivers . . . . all our whatever you choose to call thems and all the dedicated people who preserve them. To me, it's the universal symbol of our pride.

I have to go with Lee on the Arrowhead, but so many visitors don't know what it means or even notice it. So many times, while looking at the Arrowhead, visitors talk about how nice the National Forests are! Picking the most iconic is difficult. I would say some of the Washington DC monuments, or the Statue of Liberty, but a lot of people don't know they are NPS sites.

Liberty Island is a national monument, not a park, but I'd say that the Statue of Liberty would easily win.

If we are strictly talking about national parks, I think it's a toss-up between Half Dome and Old Faithful.

RangerLady, I really do believe that most anyone who has ever visited a national park area will associate the Arrowhead with it in some way.

But as for the never ending confusion between NPS and USFS, it's hopeless.

Once while I was stationed at Greenbelt Park just outside Wash D.C., I had an opportunity to go out to the Greenbelt Experimental Farm when President Nixon was there to look at a cow with a window in its stomach. As he left the barn, I was standing in a line of U.S. Park policemen proudly wearing my best dress uniform. He walked a couple of steps past me before my flat hat registered on him. He popped back, stuck his hand out to shake mine and said, "I'm always glad to meet a FOREST RANGER!" I knew right then and there that he should be impeached.

But the real reason is that it's all the Forest Service's fault. After all, they stole our noble hat and put it on their silly bear. At least they never got hold of the Arrowhead.

Geez, and I almost forgot. It was Nixon who tried to rob us of that precious emblem back in the 70's when he was trying to "Modernize" the government image. Along with trying to outfit the White House guards in uniforms straight of Kaiser Willhelm's Prussian army, (those hats were almost dead ringers for the cavalry helmets shown in Traveler pictures recently from Ft. Laramie) he tried to replace the arrowhead with a modernistic thingamajigger that can't be described in words. Not polite ones, anyway. It caused a near mutiny within our ranks.

And a few years ago, while visiting Navajo National Monument, I noticed that emblem pasted on some trash cans outside the VC. When I asked about it, the ranger lady at the desk explained that they had found it on some paperwork in the files and thought it was a recycling emblem. (Honest. That's a true story!)

Keep smiling!

Just to clarify: Statue of Liberty National Monument has been managed by the National Park System since 1924 and is still counted as one of the 393 NPS units. Ellis Island National Monument has been an administrative unit of Statue of Liberty National Monument since 1965.

The Grand Canyon.

Hat is a great answer, as is Old Faithful itself.

Mt. Rushmore and Grand Canyon are iconic for sure, but I bet there are a lot of people out there who don't know that they are under the national park system. But I think Yellowstone is the iconic national park, and Old Faithful is the icon of that park.

Thanks made me laugh during a day of endless online trainings!

Can't believe no one has put the image of the south rim of the grand canyon.

Actually, Rich up high put in a link to an image of mules heading down from the South Rim.

If it is any indication on how the interested public sees the NPS and the national parks, Wikipedia opens their List of National Parks of the United States with a poster of Old Faithful:

For me, a Park Ranger in a flat hat symbolizes National Parks. Where else do you see that, except in a National Park?

Anonymous :
For me, a Park Ranger in a flat hat symbolizes National Parks. Where else do you see that, except in a National Park?
Well - it's been hinted already that the US Forest Service has also adopted the "campaign hat" in its dress uniform. It's still part of the drill instructor uniform in the US Armed Forces.

It's not unique to the NPS, but I suppose that's where the general public is most likely to see it.

The California Highway Patrol uses the campaign hat (although its use depends on area), as well as several other state law enforcement agencies and county sheriff departments around the US.

And of course there's the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Neat stuff, y_p_w. And since you've brought Canadian Mounties into the picture, you've given me an opening for one of my favorite little anecdotes. The recently-deceased actor/comedian Leslie Nielson (the "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" guy) was born in Saskatchewan and his father was a Mountie. OK; that's the trivia line; here's my story. While on a business/pleasure visit to to Hawaii some years ago (thank you, South Carolina taxpayers), Sandy and I were at the Four Seasons on Maui waiting to be seated. Suddenly, a very loud -- how shall I describe this? -- "embarrassing sound" reverberated through the restaurant foyer. The cute 'lil greeter standing in front of us turned a brilliant red and looked like she was fixin' to die on the spot. We all looked around for the perpetrator, and lo and behold, there stood Leslie Nielsen looking innocent as a lamb. We later found out that he carried the working mechanism of a whoopie cushion in his pocket nearly everywhere he went and used it every chance he got. Lord, how I will miss that man.

Leslie Nielsen?

I remember one of the Naked Gun movies featured a "Canadian restaurant" where the waiter was wearing a Mountie uniform and served "chocolate moose".

Since this is an unrelated set of comments, that reminds me. I love the comments sections, which assorted readers use to vent. However - how come there's no general forum here?

YP, a lot of the real fun of Traveler is the wide variety of comments from so many varied readers. It provides a lot of entertainment and a host of viewpoints that might be severely diminished if there was some kind of rule regarding posts. Sometimes the comments are vents, sometimes they are educational, sometimes they are humorous and sometimes downright solemnly serious.

But the VERY BEST THING about it all is that the vast majority of comments are civil and usually in reasonably good taste. Maybe that has something to do with the quality of people who have become fans of the Traveler.

This gray headed old fossil would absolutely hate to see anything change here.

Y_P_W, there's no general forum here because we lack the workforce to fight all the spam. A couple years ago we had a whole section of forums on various topics, and every morning we'd awake to dozens of spam filings. Requiring manual approval of comments doesn't solve the problem, it just transfers it to our in-boxes.

No doubt in my mind:

National Park Foundation already uses the Ranger Hat. I think the arrow head is iconic but I bet if they were to choose a new symbol they would avoid the arrowhead for its native American reference.

Lee - I wasn't suggesting any sort of rules other than maybe the obvious civility, profanity, etc. I've noticed that a lot of comments venture off-topic, which doesn't really bother me. I frankly enjoy the venting.

I was just wondering why there weren't any general forums here, which could get interesting. Now that would be a place to vent. I do suppose the problem is increased bandwidth used, as well as the problems with general spam postings.

Dave Crowl:
National Park Foundation already uses the Ranger Hat. I think the arrow head is iconic but I bet if they were to choose a new symbol they would avoid the arrowhead for its native American reference.
I didn't get any sense that the arrowhead was controversial. My understanding is that it represents "historical and archeological values".

My first thought was Lady Liberty as well, but how about this nomine.... Martin Luther KIng Jr. standing at a podium in front of the Lincoln Memorial - or the shot of the vast crowds participating in the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" lining West Potomac Park along the reflecting pool?