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Reader Participation Day: Which Songs Do You Connect With National Parks?


Few pieces of music evoke a clearer picture of a park experience that the "On the Trail" movement in Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite. NPS photo.

Are there one or more pieces of music that remind you of a national park – or a park experience?

Some compositions, such as Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, have clear connections to a park. Others, such as "Rocky Mountain High," might bring to mind a specific park - or a whole state with lots of great parks.

A quick Google search will turn up a surprising number of tunes with park connections. Not many of us have likely heard the Disney long playing album, Songs of the National Parks with Stan Jones and the Ranger Chorus ... but this old-timer is still available from iTunes!

How about you? Do you have any favorite pieces of music that you associate with one or more parks, or just national parks in general?

If so, what are they ... and which parks do they bring to mind?


"They took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum

And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em

Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you got till it's gone

They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot"

- Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

The entrance fee has apparently increased ten-fold in the past fifty years here at Mount Rainier. Local legend has it that Joni was a maid at the Paradise Inn during the Mission 66 road-building mania. There are still a couple "boutiques", but the longtime "swinging hot spot" from a previous verse was converted to accessible rooms recently. This dismayed the local alcoholics, but made life a bit easier for the poor late-shift road patrol rangers.

"Country Roads" by John Denver, definitely--Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway...

Our friend David Walburn performs at the Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier NP during the summer and we catch his shows every time we're there! One of his multi-media presentations is, "Montana: Life Under The Big Sky" and our favorite song is "Going To The Sun" where he sings of the building of the famous and beautiful, "Going To The Sun Road!"

Gonna build a road Going to the Sun

Pack up your horses men move them up the hill
She’ll take a ton of powder and a hundred strong willed
But don’t look up and tell us there’s no place to build a road
‘Cause we’ll bury disbelievers when that powder blows

CHORUS We’re gonna build a road Going to the Sun
We’re gonna move mountains one by one
It may take a lifetime Lord but when the work is done
We’re gonna have a road Going to the Sun

Now it’s silver dollar wages plus your room and board
You won’t get rich but will receive good standing with the Lord
So swing your hammer steady and be faithful to the task
‘Cause if we want to get to heaven boys we must cross Logan Pass

CHORUS (Repeat)

A million years of limestone must me moved by hand
Wide enough along sheer cliff for thirty men to stand
From St. Mary’s to Lake McDonald along the Garden Wall
Where once only a few could go - will now be shared by all

CHORUS (Repeat)

When that faithful day comes and eastside meets the west
We’ll gather on the great divide and weary bones will rest
And we’ll smoke the pipe of peace and we’ll honor all the ones
Who dared to dream the dream of Going to the Sun

- The (sadly defunct) Brooklyn indie rock band Oxford Collapse had a song called "Please Visit your National Parks" ( )

- The Go! Team had a beautiful instrumental on their 2011 album "Rolling Blackouts" called "Yosemite Theme" ( ) which always seemed to me quite fitting

- Then there is a young band called Point Reyes with a self-titled EP as their only release so far, on it is another atmospherical song called "Yosemite" ( )

That's an easy one...Conviction of the Heart!

Park Ranger by Raldo Schneider & The Swaybacks

"I wanna wear olive green

I wanna keep outhouses clean

I wanna shake hands with mother nature

I wanna dig post holes

I wanna whip weeds

I wanna meet the public's needs

I, I wanna be a park ranger"

There's also a new song that I've only heard played on a country station in Virginia. It's called Shenandoah and it's by a local girl. I always get tears in my eyes when I hear it because it brings back images of growing up in the foothills outside the park.

Rocky Mountain High.

I believe John Denver was camping in the Rockies with friends watching a meteor shower "fire in the sky" when he was inspired to write the song.

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