Park History

Park History: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established 74 years ago this month. Now this big, automobile-convenient park attracts more than 9 million visitors a year and entertains them with forested mountainsides, winding roads, flowering shrubs, pioneer-era relics, and other delights. Great Smoky has great scenery, interesting history, and amazing biodiversity.

Park History: Lowell National Historical Park

Lowell National Historical Park tells the story of the farm-to-factory transition, immigrant and labor history, and the emergence of America’s industrial technology. Key attractions include a cotton mill museum, boarding houses, guided tours, special programs, and canal boat rides.

CCC To Be Remembered at Grand Canyon National Park

It was 75 years ago that the first Civilian Conservation Corps teams arrived at Grand Canyon National Park. To mark that anniversary, the park is holding a symposium recalling the CCC's efforts in the Southwest.

Park History: Crater Lake National Park

With waters that shimmer azure and forested flanks, the cataclysmic birth of Crater Lake National Park is usually little more than an afterthought for most visitors to this jewel.

Battlefield National Parks: Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

May is a month that looms large in the annals of the Civil War. Battles fought in northern Virginia during that month had major implications for the war’s outcome. Today, visitors can walk the hallowed ground of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and reflect on the deeper meaning of the pivotal events, gallant deeds, and unspeakable suffering that took place there nearly a century and a half ago.

Park History: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

How times have changed. These days when you drop down into the underworld that is Carlsbad Caverns National Park you do it via stairs, not old guano buckets as was the custom early on in the park's history.

Park History: Glacier National Park

Avalanche Gorge photo copyright Jane Timmerman.
I am in a small gaggle of tourists busily training our armament of camera lenses on goateed mountain goats as they grazed contentedly on wildflower-strewn emerald slopes that rise above Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. The goats are so close and nonchalant they could be models strutting a runway.

Park History: Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument is one of the more remote corners of the national park system, but make the effort to find it and you'll be richly rewarded with an amazing landscape, rich human history, and glorious solitude.

Park History: Isle Royale National Park

Journeying to Isle Royale National Park is almost as difficult as visiting a foreign country, perhaps more so, due to its remote location. An island fortress in Lake Superior, the national park has endured so magnificently in large part thanks to its remoteness.

Park History: De Soto National Memorial

The park marking the spot where Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto probably didn’t land in North America in 1539 turns 60 today. On March 11, 1948, Congress created the De Soto National Memorial in the mangrove swamp on Shaw’s Point, in Bradenton, Florida.

Park History: Channel Islands National Park

Santa Rosa Island, Channel Islands NP. NPS photo
Early March sure is full of national park birthdays. Today, for instance, is the 28th birthday of Channel Islands National Park, which is composed of a clutch of islands off the California coast. One of the park's claims to fame is the fact that its eight islands are said to host the largest seal and sea lion breeding colony in the United States.

Park History: Hot Springs National Park

If you just focus on its "national park" status, then today is the 87th birthday of Hot Springs National Park.

Park History: Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon NP. Pat Cone photo.
Kings Canyon National Park is an alpine wonderland, set amongst the rugged lands of the Sierra Mountains in California, just north of Sequoia National Park and to the southeast of Yosemite National Park. The park, administered with Sequoia, is one of America’s oldest. While it still protects the ancient sequoia trees of the Grant Grove that were the park’s original focal point, it is rapidly becoming known as one of America’s premier backcountry destinations.

Park History: Mount Rainier National Park

Paradise. NPS photo.
“Does any skeptic suppose that a true mountaineer regrets any heroic mountain exploit because of some mishap…does he suppose that any of the many zealous navigators who sailed in that vain quest, the discovery of the mild open sea about the North Pole, bewailed the suffering he endured or the brave efforts he made? Does he imagine that man will ever cease his attempts…to reach the summit of unconquered peaks, simply because of possible mishaps and sufferings attendant thereon?”

Park History: Grand Canyon National Park

Toroweap Overlook. NPS Photo
Quick now, how old is Grand Canyon National Park, 100, or 89? Some might say both answers are correct.

Park History: Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton sunrise. Kurt Repanshek photo.
Grand Teton National Park not only is one of America’s most photogenic national parks but, oddly enough, it's one of our most controversial.

Park History: Rocky Mountain National Park

Though a relatively short drive from Denver, and joined at the hip to the bustling gateway town of Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park is a pretty wild place.

Park History: Acadia National Park

Spend any time in Acadia National Park during the summer and early fall and you'll understand why the "rusticators" descended on the park in the mid-1800s.

Park History: Wind Cave National Park

Nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Wind Cave National Park preserves not only its namesake cave, but one of the last remnants of the mixed-grass prairie that once covered the majority of the Northern Plains.

Park History: Shenandoah National Park

Cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is perhaps best described as Great Smoky Mountains National Park's sister park.

Park History: Exploring the National Parkways

Along with "parks," "seashores," "lakeshores" and "battlefields," the National Park System counts a number of "parkways" that fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Though most are incredibly scenic byways, there also are two major metropolitan arterials in this collection.

Park History: Capitol Reef National Park

Walking out of the visitor center at Capitol Reef National Park will be one of the most surreal experiences of your life, as you pass through a portal not only into a red-rock cathedral but also back into the past. The park is a pure slice of heaven in the desert, seemingly waiting for Irma to open up a pie stand.

Park History: Petrified Forest National Park

Stumps of stone. Rock palettes that tell stories. Prehistory frozen in place for hundreds of millions of years. Colorful badlands. That's a pretty good way to sum up what you'll find at Petrified Forest National Park.

Park History: Everglades National Park

Rooted in the "River of Grass' that once was the dominant landmark in south Florida, Everglades National Park is in a state of flux due to environmental pressures.

Park History: How the National Lakeshores Came to Be

There are parks across the national park system that have decidedly watery settings: Voyagers National Park, Isle Royale National Park, Channel Islands National Park, Acadia National Park, Biscayne National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park, just to name some of the most obvious. And then there are the national lakeshores.

Park History: Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Though not one of the most remote national parks in Alaska, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve isn't at a loss for rugged and spectacular terrain. Across its 4-million-plus acres you can find plenty of places to achieve solitude.

Twenty-seven Years Ago, Eight National Parks Came to Be

Never before have, and probably never again will, so many national parks come into existence on the same date. Given birth by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act were Denali, Gates of Arctic, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias national parks.

Park History: How the National Seashores Came to Be

For years, summer trips to Cape Cod were an annual ritual for my family. My parents had retired to the Cape, and our boys loved romping in the surf and building castles in the sand. Lobster feasts, game-fishing, and whale watching were added benefits, as were exploring the seashore’s lighthouses, roaming its dunes, and looking for sea creatures in its mudflats.

Park History: Zion National Park

Sandstone monoliths and a tight slot canyon are what most stands out about Zion National Park, and rightfully so. When you enter Zion Canyon your eyes can't help but be drawn to the Sentinel, the Three Patriarchs, and the Mountain of the Sun.

Park History: National Parks Built Around Caves and Caverns

One of the most intriguing interpretive tours I’ve joined across the national park system was the “wild cave tour” offered at Mammoth Cave National Park. For six or more hours in sections of the cave off-limits to the more traditional tours we scooted through tight places on our bellies when not able to get by on hands and knees.
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