The National Park Service is turning 106 this Thursday, and you’re invited to help celebrate. With more than 400 park units across the country, there are countless ways to join in the fun.
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson charged the Department of the Interior with establishing a new federal bureau to protect the 35 national parks and monuments then managed by the department. The new agency, dubbed the National Park Service, was directed “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The creation of the iconic Yellowstone National Park in 1872 actually pre-dated the establishment of the Park Service. In subsequent years Congress authorized additional national parks and monuments, many of them carved from the federal lands of the West. But it was not until the National Park Service was created that all of these parklands were administered by one centralized agency.
Today, the national park system has expanded to 423 sites, covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. These sites range from national battlefields and military parks to national rivers and lakeshores to national historic sites and monuments.
In honor of its 106th birthday, the Park Service wants you to share your favorite WOW moments from past visits to any NPS location. These could include an occasion when you encountered breath-taking scenery, heard an inspirational ranger talk, or were surprised when you learned about a compelling historical event. You’re invited to share your WOW moments via social media and tag it with #NPSBirthday.
You’re also encouraged to experience parks virtually. There’s the NPS app, where you can learn about all of the national park sites and get tips to help you on your next visit, as well a number of podcast series that highlight the stories and wonders of various national parks. And for kids (of all ages), be sure to check out NPS Games and Challenges where you can test your park knowledge or learn something new about many national parks. One of our favorites is Where the “Park” Am I? – it’s not as easy as it sounds!
However you decide to celebrate the long history of the National Park Service, we’re sure you agree with author Wallace Stegner, who famously said “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
Happy Birthday, NPS!!!