Gone and Mostly Forgotten: 26 Abolished National Parks

In 1895, Mackinac National Park became the first national park to be abolished. It would not be the last. More than two dozen other sites or areas with independent identities have been pruned from the National Park System.

Pruning the Parks: White Plains National Battlefield Site (1933-1956) Was a Stillborn National Park

The National Park Service administered the White Plains National Battlefield Site for several decades, but no national park materialized there and the property was eventually delisted.

Pruning the Parks: Mackinac National Park (1875-1895)

Though few people seem to know or care, Michigan's long-ago abolished Mackinac National Park was America's second national park. Yellowstone got there first, but not by much.

Pruning the Parks: Holy Cross National Monument (1933-1950)

Colorado's Mount of the Holy Cross was once a national park.

Pruning the Parks: Lewis and Clark Cavern National Monument (1908-1937)

Proclaimed in 1908, Montana's Lewis and Clark Cavern National Monument never could muster get the monetary support needed to develop and operate it as a viable national park. Congress abolished it in 1937 and it subsequently became Montana's first state park.

Pruning the Parks: Verendrye National Monument (1917-1956)

On July 30, 1956, Verendrye National Monument was delisted from the National Park System and transferred to the state of North Dakota. Congress decided that the claim of historical significance on which the 1917 national monument proclamation had been based was spurious.

Pruning the Parks: Shasta Lake Recreation Area (1945-1948)

California's Shasta Lake Recreation Area was a National Park System property for only three years before it was transferred to the Forest Service on July 1, 1948. The Forest Service now administers the lake as a component of Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area.

Pruning the Parks: Lake Texoma Recreation Area (1946-1949)

Lake Texoma is a hugely popular flatwater playground on the Texas-Oklahoma border. It was once, albeit briefly, a national park.

Pruning the Parks: North Dakota’s Sullys Hill National Park (1904-1931)

Using authority granted by Congress on April 27, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Sullys Hill Park, a hilly tract of woods and wetlands in North Dakota that was named for a hill that was named for a general who didn’t show up. The park, which turned out to be pretty much of a no-show too, was delisted in 1931 and re-purposed as a wildlife refuge.

Pruning the Parks: Platt National Park (1906-1976)

On March 17, 1976, Congress corrected a 70-year old mistake by de-listing Platt National Park and folding the property into Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

Pruning the Parks: Shadow Mountain Recreation Area (1952-1979)

The National Park Service once managed a recreation area focused on Shadow Mountain Lake, a West Slope Collection System reservoir located near Grand Lake, Colorado. Transferred to Forest Service management more than 30 years ago, this property is now a component of the huge Arapaho National Recreation Area.

2009 in Review: Abolished National Parks Were Highlighted in Park Pruning Series

During 2009, Traveler posted histories of ten of the many national parks that have been abolished/deauthorized/decommissioned/delisted since 1895.

Pruning the Parks: Chattanooga National Cemetery (NPS 1933-1944) Was Born on Christmas Day

For the 11 years it was administered by the National Park Service, Chattanooga National Cemetery enjoyed a distinction among NPS units that we’re unlikely to ever see again. It was, at least in the historical sense, born on Christmas Day.

Pruning the Parks: St. Thomas National Historic Site (1960-1975) Left the Park System as Quietly as It Entered

St. Thomas National Historic Site left the National Park System as quietly as it entered. Getting abolished without ever being activated didn’t make it unique, but getting established on Christmas Eve put it in a class of its own.

Pruning the Parks: Moving the Totems Changed Everything for Old Kasaan National Monument (1916-1955) –

Old Kasaan National Monument was established on October 25, 1916 to preserve an abandoned Haida Indian village site in the Alaska panhandle. The Park Service moved historic totems to a different site, and Congress abolished the park in 1955.

Pruning the Parks: Castle Pinckney National Monument (1933-1956)

The Park Service acquired South Carolina’s Castle Pinckney National Monument in 1933, but was glad to see it abolished and transferred in the 1950s. Lacking a glorious past, and too expensive to restore, the old island fort now sits rotting in Charleston harbor.

Pruning the Parks: New Echota Marker National Memorial (1933-1950) Commemorated the Cherokee Nation Seat of Government

Congress authorized New Echota Marker in 1930, the NPS acquired it in 1933, and Congress abolished it on September 21, 1950. It’s a pity that so few have ever heard of this historic site, now a Georgia state park, because it commemorates a place and events that should not be forgotten.

Pruning the Parks: It Took the Park Service Over 20 Years to Get Out from Under the Kennedy Center (1972-1994)

When Congress added the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to the National Park System on June 16, 1972, the Park Service acquired a difficult and expensive set of managerial obligations not fitting well with its traditional functions. Abolishing this NPS unit in 1994 was the right thing to do.

Pruning the Parks: Papago Saguaro National Monument (1914-1930)

Proclaimed on January 31, 1914, Arizona’s Papago Saguaro National Monument became the first national monument to be abolished. It was transferred out of the National Park System in 1930, basically because it was being trashed.

Pruning the Parks: Whatever Became of Marble Canyon National Monument (1969-1975)?

Outgoing presidents long have made a practice on January 20, their last day in office, of leaving parting gifts. For Lyndon Johnson, his gift to the nation 40 years ago was a national monument that served to protect the Grand Canyon from further dam building.

Pruning the Parks: The $100 Million National Visitor Center Fiasco

The National Visitor Center was a bad idea that came to a bad end. When it was abolished on December 29, 1981, the NPS breathed a huge sigh of relief. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that $100 million back?

Pruning the Parks: Millerton Lake Recreation Area, 1945-1957

Millerton Lake near Fresno, California is a 1940s era impoundment that the NPS administered as a (National) Recreation Area from May 22, 1945, to November 1, 1957. The recreation resources of the property are now administered by the state of California as Millerton Lake State Recreation Area.

Pruning the Parks: Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site (1972-1980) Was a Gift the National Park Service Couldn’t Afford to Keep

Established October 21, 1972, and abolished in 1980, the Mar-A-Lago National Historic Site is an interesting story. Marjorie Merriweather Post’s opulent Palm Beach estate first became a magnet for socialites, then a national park the NPS couldn't afford, then a Donald Trump estate, and finally the lavish Mar-a-Lago Club.

Pruning the Parks: Atlanta Campaign National Historic Site (1944-1950) was Developed as a Dixie Highway Tourist Attraction

Atlanta Campaign National Historic Site was established by order of the Secretary of the Interior on October 13, 1944. Less than six years later, Congress transferred the components, five pocket parks along the historic Dixie Highway, to the state of Georgia. Interestingly, one of the Atlanta Campaign markers commemorates a strategically significant non-event.

Pruning the Parks: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Was a National Park for Just Five Years

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in Utah-Wyoming had been in the National Park System for only five years when, on October 1, 1968, Congress transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service. There was little sense of loss. Congress hadn’t mandated NPS administration and the NPS wasn’t deeply committed to reservoir recreation management.

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.

Pruning the Parks: Delisted Over a Half-Century Ago, Fossil Cycad National Monument (1922-1956) is a Cautionary Tale

South Dakota’s Fossil Cycad National Monument was supposed to protect a geologic treasure when it was established in 1922, but its marvelous surface deposits of fossilized plants had already been stripped from the site. A bill signed into law on August 1, 1956, abolished the park, which has served ever since as a cautionary tale. If you don’t protect park resources, they won’t be there for future generations.

Decommissioning National Parks: Some History, And Some Ominous Clouds

My recent post on decommissioned national parks drew fairly good readership on the Traveler, but it garnered much more outcry on a private listserv delivered to retired National Park Service employees. Which spurs a number of questions, foremost among them being the obvious "Why?"

Whatever Became of the Decommissioned National Parks?

Once upon a time, there was a national park unit centered around fossilized plants. And there was another -- the country's second national park -- that was located on an island in Lake Huron. But no more.