Park History

Camping In Sequoia National Park, Circa 1912

With the camping season upon us, be sure you pack accordingly. And if you're heading to Sequoia National Park, that means "for marching purposes, the sleeping bag will give better service on account of its compactness. ... For camping out, a mess kit, frying pan, coffee pot, dutch oven, or baking reflector is absolutely necessary." At least that's what the Interior Department recommended in 1912 in its booklet for "Sequoia and General Grant National Parks."

Olympic National Park At 75: A Planetary Legacy

Seventy-five years ago, in June, 1938, Congress passed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the bill creating Olympic National Park. With this act Americans embarked on something new in land conservation: creating a wilderness preserve large enough to protect intact old-growth forest communities and the hosts of forest-dependent wildlife they contained.

Denali And Rainier: Classic Climbs And Challenges

Mountaineers have a mystique all their own. They are the stuff of legends.

Facts And Figures On National Monuments In And Out Of The National Park System

With President Obama's recent designation of five new national monuments, there now are 77 national monuments within the National Park System. Curious about the history of national monuments? Read on.

Frank Jay Haynes, A Photography Pioneer In Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park was a wild and remote place in the late 1800s, and in winter it beckoned only the heartiest, most adventurous souls. Renowned photographer Frank Jay Haynes was certainly one of those adventuresome explorers.

Historic Preservation In The National Park System And The 1916 National Park Service Act, Part II

In the second part of this series Richard West Sellars, a long-time historian for the National Park Service, takes a look back at what precipitated the historic preservation movement in the National Park System.

Historic Preservation In The National Park System And The 1916 National Park Service Act, Part I

It took a natural resource issue of epic proportions—the proposal to dam Yosemite National Park’s magnificent Hetch Hetchy Valley—to spark what would become a prolonged campaign to establish a central federal office to administer the national parks.

Washington's Headquarters at Morristown National Historical Park Reopens

Once again you can see where General George Washington was headquartered during the harsh winter of 1779-1780 as he plotted the colonies' rebellion against England. After being closed since last October, the Ford Mansion at Morristown National Historical Park is open for tours.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument Turns 100 on Sunday

Though Native Americans have been gathering at Rainbow Bridge for at least 10,000 years, it's only been a century since the stone bridge along the Utah-Arizona border has been recognized as a national monument.

The Way We Used To Describe And Enjoy National Parks

The written word is a marvelous thing, so much more so when it's used to describe a place. In the early part of the 21st century, those employed by the Government Printing Office had a stylish way to describe national parks. Perhaps not as eloquent as some of today's finer writers, but stylish just the same.

Researchers Exploring Cave Dwellers From Bandelier National Monument's Long Ago Past

The American Southwest is honeycombed with ruins from long-past civilizations. Mesa Verde National Park and Canyon de Chelly National Monument are well-known for their cliff dwellings, while at Bandelier National Monument the sandstone walls are pocked with "cavates" used as shelter centuries ago.

Next Time You're In Washington, Stop By the Old Stone House

Nestled in along M Street, in the heart of Georgetown, you'll stumble upon The Old Stone House, one of the oldest homes remaining in Washington, DC. Built in 1765, the house is maintained and operated by the National Park Service, and is part of the National Park System's Rock Creek Park unit.

Rockfalls In Yosemite National Park Are Part of Life

My first visit to Yosemite National Park back in June 1999 coincided with a rockfall that forced me out of a tent cabin in Curry Village and into one in Tuolumne Meadows. Ever since, I've been intrigued by rockfalls in the park's iconic valley. While the frequency of rockfalls in recent years might be alarming to park visitors, they are calling cards evidencing the active geology that's ongoing in Yosemite.

The Bridges of Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island

One of the glories of Acadia National Park are the carriage paths that wend their way through the forests of Mount Desert Island. And one of the wonders of those paths are the bridges that you pass under, and cross over, while exploring the paths on foot, carriage, or bike.

Decades in the Making, the Uproar Over Great Smoky Mountains National Park's North Shore Road Almost Settled

In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, every trail has a history. That’s what makes hiking here so fascinating. But no trail is as historic or as controversial as the Lake Shore Trail, which skirts Fontana Lake in North Carolina. The issue surrounding it is currently the longest-running open item on the park's agenda, but there’s hope it will be resolved soon.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park Honored By Sainthood Bestowed On Father Damien

Sainthood recently bestowed on a 19th century Catholic priest who cared for Hawaiians afflicted with leprosy was celebrated at Kalaupapa National Historical Park, which tells the stories of those who were isolated on the northern shores of Molokai.

John Muir Buffs, Here's The Mother Lode

John Muir long has been closely associated with nature and the national parks, and rightly so. If you admire him and his writings, let us point you to a site where you can peruse thousands of his letters, sketches, photos and journals.

Pancho Villa, the Army Air Corps and Big Bend National Park

Douglas airplane on the field at Johnson's Ranch.
Every NPS area, even if it wasn't created specifically to commemorate a historical event, includes some interesting tales from the past. At Big Bend National Park, one of those stories involves Pancho Villa and the Army Air Corps.

True Tales From the National Parks: Get Me Off Devils Tower!

In the fall of 1941 the Tower made the headlines of the nation's leading newspapers. This was brought about through the fool-hardy stunt of a professional parachutist named George Hopkins. Without the consent or knowledge of National Park Service officials, Hopkins, who held a number of United States and world's records for spectacular jumps, on October 1 parachuted from an airplane to the top of the Tower.

Each Generation Seems To Stamp Its Imprint on the National Parks

For those who see the national parks as being preserved time immemorial under gigantic bell jars, there is evidence that each succeeding generation makes an imprint or two on the parks. It wasn't too terribly long ago, for instance, that you climbed into the bleachers to watch the bear buffets in Yellowstone National Park, or that the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon National Park had separate dining areas for men and women.

New Video Commemorates USS Arizona And Those Who Died At Pearl Harbor

It's been nearly 67 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, yet it still is sharp in many Americans' minds. Spanning nearly all of the Pacific Ocean, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument preserves and interprets the stories and key events in the Pacific Theater during World War II. A new video sheds some light on the history of those who went down with the USS Arizona.

Where Can You Go to Get Your Post-Ken Burns National Parks Fix?

Well, the big event is over. If you managed to make it through each and every minute of The National Parks: America's Best Idea, congratulations! If you're wanting more, read on to find out where you can get another fix of national parks.

New “Roots in the River” Documentary Chronicles Congaree National Park History

South Carolina ETV’s new documentary “Roots in the River: The Story of Congaree National Park” will be aired in association with Ken Burns’ six-part documentary on America's national parks. A sneak preview of clips from both documentaries will be screened for the general public at the Congaree National Park visitor center on Sunday, September 20.

Anniversary of Landmark Environmental Law Case at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Photo of participants at anniversary event.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of two related events: the establishment of the park and a landmark court case that helped lay the foundation for modern environmental law.

"Bad Times" Aren't Always All Bad – These Two Ideas for "Improving the Parks" Fizzled

Crater Lake
In the early 1900s, there were plenty of ideas for ways the new agency called the National Park Service could "improve" the parks. Here are a couple whose time never came, perhaps in part due to the "bad times" during World War I and the Great Depression.

The Park Under the Bridge

Fort Point.
Over 39 million vehicles a year travel across a famous bridge—and pass over an NPS historic site, both literally and figuratively. The park under the bridge is often overlooked by locals and tourists alike, but it offers both interesting history and a fine scenic view.

New Virtual Exhibit on Siege of Vicksburg is a Treat for History Buffs and Teachers

Painting of siege of Vicksburg.
Abraham Lincoln said, "Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket." A new virtual exhibit on the siege of Vicksburg is now available on-line for the enjoyment of history buffs, and its also a useful tool for teachers.

Zuni-Cibola National Historical Park, the Park that Died A-Borning

Congress authorized a Zuni-Cibola National Historical Park several decades ago, but no such NPS unit ever materialized. The people of Zuni Pueblo didn’t like the idea.

Recalling the Wonderland Hotel in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Demolition by Neglect?

Once a popular stopping spot in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Wonderland Hotel no longer exists. This video explains some of the hotel's history.

The National Park to Park Highway

In the early 1900s, some national parks existed, but getting to them was problematic. Then was born the idea to develop a "National Park-to-Park Highway," one that would run through 11 states and connect 13 national parks.
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