Park History

This Park Has Scenery, History and a Treasure Trove of Art and Photos

Jackson painting of covered wagons. NPS image.
This park offers dramatic views from a trail named Saddle Rock, formations with names such as Eagle Rock, and compelling tales of pioneers who made their way over Mitchell Pass. It also houses the world's largest collection of original sketches, paintings, and photographs by a famous American artist and photographer.

Did the Great Depression Save the Yorktown Battlefield?

Yorktown battlefield scene.
I don't know of anyone who is happy about the current economic situation, but while we're waiting for a turn-around, here's a question to ponder: Can a bad economy ever be good for parks? Here's how the Great Depression helped save the Yorktown Battlefield from private development.

28 Years Ago, the National Park System Gained Millions of Acres

Imagine if the National Park System could grow, overnight, by 43 million acres. That's exactly what happened nearly three decades ago in a place called Alaska.

Reading the Fine Print – Did the NPS Ever Manage This National Monument?

Misty Fjords scene
The political and legal process required to create a new unit for the national park system can be long and complicated. In some cases, it's almost as difficult figuring out later exactly what happened in that process! That's the situation for a large national monument that's sometimes described as "another Yosemite." The question of the day is …was it ever part of the national park system?

This Park Nourishes Its Forest Service Roots

Walnut Canyon National Monument
This park celebrates its 93rd anniversary today, but the area was first protected in 1904 as part of the San Francisco Mountain Reserve. It's not in California, however, and it was managed by the U.S. Forest Service until 1934.

Glacier National Park Coffee Shop Honored For Its Mission 66 Style

While Mount Rainier National Park officials tore down their reminder of Mission 66 "parkitecture," at Glacier National Park a coffee shop from that era has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Zion National Park Has Lured Artists For Decades

Kolob Arch, Zion NP. Kurt Repanshek photo.
As you enter Zion Canyon, it's impossible to avert your eyes from the sandstone ramparts that frame the cleft cut by the Virgin River. They're just that impressive.

That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears

Woman next to bell on Piegan Pass in 1942.
Julie Andrews made some Austrian mountains come alive with the sound of music, but for seventeen years visitors to the backcountry in Glacier National Park played a different kind of tune. That ringing sound heard in some pretty remote sections of the park wasn't exactly melodious, since it was limited to a single note from a large bell, but it was apparently dramatic.

This Park Wins the "Most Visits by a President" Award

Catoctin Mountain Park view.
Which unit in the national park system outside of Washington, D.C., has received the most visits by presidents and other heads of state? Here are two clues: An answer to the question, "Where in blue blazes…" is found in this park, and in years past Shangri-La was just up the road.

You Still Can Visit Herman Melville's New Bedford

Books can take us on adventures and to places we never thought possible. Through Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, one can travel the mid-19th Century world's oceans and return to a tiny East Coast sea port once viewed as the world's richest cities.

Colonial America and the Other San Juan Capistrano

Mission Concepción
When we hear the term "Colonial America," locations west of the Mississippi aren't often the first to come to mind. Long before the Liberty Bell became a symbol of the United States, however, a story involving a European power other than Great Britain was already well underway in another part of our country.

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Home of the Buffalo Soldiers

Dining room of commander's residence. Claire Walter photo.
With Barack Obama set to become the first American president of African-American descent, 3,000 or so of the 19th Century Army veterans who served at Fort Davis must be high-fiving each other somewhere in the beyond.

Poets, Ports and Politics – The Long Battle for a New Kind of Park

NPS Director Steven Mather and others tour Indiana Dunes in 1916.
According to this park's administrative history, it was the first area considered for addition to the newly-established national park system by the agency's first director, Stephen T. Mather. Mather visited the area in October 1916, but fifty years would elapse before a bill authorizing the park was finally passed.

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial - War and Peace and Two Memorable Phrases

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. NPS photo.
On a clear day, you can't see forever from the top of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial …but you can spot Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland, and enjoy learning about a key event in our nation's history. Do you know which oft-quoted phrases are associated with this park's story?

Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins

As the country careened toward what is beginning to look like a second Great Depression, citizens in North Carolina and Virginia paused on October 9 and 10 to consider the history of one of the great public accomplishments of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal 75 years ago: the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

Park History: Biscayne National Park

Having already seen snow this fall in the Rockies, the thought of heading to a nice, warm patch of sand being slapped by warm Atlantic waters sounds pretty good right about now. And if airfares weren't what they are, a quick jaunt to Biscayne National Park to commemorate the park's birthday would seem just about right.

Park History: Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Believe it or not, Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Mammoth Cave National Park have something in common. Both owe their discovery, in part, to hunters. At least that's the local lore.

Boulder Dam National Recreation Area – Forgotten but Not Gone?

October 13, 1936, marked the creation of Boulder Dam National Recreation Area and a brand-new category of management units for the National Park Service. The recreation area no longer exists by its original name, but its legacy continues in one of the most heavily-visited parks in the country. During their first 30 years the park and the dam underwent more name changes than the rock entertainer formerly known as….

Park History: Dinosaur National Monument

If it were designated part of the National Park System today, what would we call Dinosaur National Monument? True, it offers a treasure trove of fossilized dinosaur remains, one that continues to be studied. But there's also the riverine component, mountains, and high desert that all offer outstanding experiences befitting a national park setting.

Park History: The Appalachian Trail

Zigzagging 2,175 miles between Mount Katahdin in northern Maine and Springer Mountain in Georgia, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail gained life through an article Benton MacKaye wrote for the Journal of the American Institute of Architects in 1921. In it the forester ruminated on the need for Americans to spend more time at leisure, preferably in the outdoors.

Park History: Yosemite National Park

Older than Yellowstone National Park in terms of being set aside for the public's enjoyment, Yosemite National Park could fairly be called the elder statesman of the National Park System. And, no doubt, there are those who would say Yosemite's scenery is second to none in the system.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: It's Really About the Islands

No one postcard can fully capture Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Indeed, "lakeshore" might just be the wrong category for this jewel of Lake Superior, as the park's essence is an archipelago of 21 islands.

At Statue of Liberty National Monument, Save Ellis Island, Inc., Works to Restore Ellis Island’s Time-Ravaged Buildings

When Ellis Island became part of Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, its buildings were in terrible condition. By 1990, only the Main Building and some other north side buildings had been restored. In 2000, Save Ellis Island, Inc. and its partners began the expensive task of stabilizing and restoring the south side buildings.

Pruning the Parks: Shoshone Cavern National Monument (1909-1954) Would Have Cost Too Much to Develop

Wyoming’s Shoshone Cavern National Monument was established by presidential proclamation on September 21, 1909. Because it would have cost too much to develop and operate this minor park, it was abolished in 1954 after nearly half a century of benign neglect.

Park History: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

The scenic, recreational Big South Fork River in eastern Tennessee/Kentucky might well have been dammed and flooded. But a national park was created instead, and now Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area offers high quality recreation opportunities of many types.

Minnesota’s Grand Portage National Monument Commemorates the Historic Fur Trade Era

Located on an Indian reservation in northeastern Minnesota, Grand Portage National Monument was established September 15, 1951, to commemorate the historic North American fur trade. A British fur trading company operated a summer headquarters and western supply depot at Grand Portage from 1778 until 1802.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps

On Saturday, September 27, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a day of activities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps. At various times during 1933-1942, around 4,000 enrollees assigned to 22 CCC camps built roads, trails, fire towers, and other structures in the park.

Pilgrim Places: Civil War Battlefields, Historic Preservation, and America’s First National Military Parks, 1863-1900, Part VII

After Vicksburg’s establishment as a military park in 1899, it was not until 1917 that Congress authorized the next Civil War battlefield park at Kennesaw Mountain, northwest of Atlanta, where the Confederates stalled, if only for a while, the Union army’s southward march through Georgia. In the mid-1920s, other famous Civil War battlefields became military parks, including Petersburg and Fredericksburg, in Virginia.

Canyonlands National Park, Still A Work in Progress After All These Years

It is one of the most rugged and physically demanding parks of the continental United States. And it also is one of the most beautiful works of landscape architecture, one that continues to evolve. And yet, Canyonlands National Park is still not a completed work.

The 9/11 Anniversary Draws Attention to the Flight 93 National Memorial, an Extraordinary Work in Progress

The seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has propelled Pennsylvania’s Flight 93 National Memorial into the national spotlight. This park is a work in progress. The temporary memorial that visitors see there now will be replaced with a permanent one of exceptional quality.
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