The Purpose & Power of Celebrating our National Park Centennial

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ICYMI( In Case You Missed It): We're Celebrating our Centennial

The National Park Service celebrated its centennial recently and this represents a unique time for RVers, campers, backpackers and the youth of the United States.

This has been celebrated from the marble steps of the White House to the granite peaks of the North Cascades. The National Park Service has turned 100. When it was created back in 1916, there were just 35 national parks and monuments for the Park Service to oversee. Today, the National Park Service system manages more than 400 sites, everything from battlefields like Gettysburg to the historic Oregon Trail, and of course the national parks themselves.

From 1872 when the first national park called Yellowstone (named after a mighty river) was created to the present day, there have been naysayers to oppose the creation of national parks and monuments. But America has taken the longer view and protected our natural, historic and cultural resources for future generations.

One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson and Congress created the National Park Service to conserve areas of natural, cultural and historic importance and leave them "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Places like Yellowstone and Yosemite were already in federal protection, but in the next 100 years, America's "best idea" would include 413 areas and more than 84 million acres of vast wilderness, scenic rivers, military battlefields, presidential homes and more. It was a radical idea to put large tracts of land into federal custody on the heels of the Industrial Age when almost nothing was untouched by development.

Americans on this centennial anniversary are encouraged to "find your park" and enjoy these wonders that are the collective conscious of our nation. And with President Obama's expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument from 50 to 200 miles out from the Northern Hawaiian Islands, it is now the world's largest marine protected area. History will remember this anniversary and next century as the "blue centennial"—the time when the national park idea was brought to the ocean. It couldn't come at a more important time.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is now the world's largest marine protected area.


Most of the 307 million annual visitors to the National Parks today draw from the same segments of the population that started visiting them during their revitalization in the 1950s and 60s. Visitors' demographics have not kept up with the country's increasingly diverse population, or with the younger generations. So because of the times there's been new initiatives launched such as the Find Your Park and Every Kid in a Park campaigns for increasing engagement among diverse audiences and committed her department to growing such outreach efforts.


Stamps Celebrate National Parks on Agency's Centennial

Recently issued U.S. postage stamps provide a snapshot of the beauty and diversity of the vast system of national parks managed and maintained by the U.S. National Park Service, which celebrates its 100th birthday today.

A 16-stamp sheet, issued on 2 June by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), includes stunning photographs and paintings of National Park Service lands, wildlife, and more across the country. The sheet features imagery from some of the park system's most iconic treasures, including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks.

In consultation with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), the postal service also included lesser known gems such as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and the small, urban Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D. C., to highlight the variety of park system locales, according to William Gicker, creative director, and manager of the USPS stamp program. "We think of stamps as miniature works of art that showcase the best of our country," Gicker said.

A heron at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which includes barrier islands in Florida and Mississippi. Photo by John Funderburk. Credit: © 2016 USPS

The centennial is celebrating the achievements of the past 100 years, but it is really about the future. It's about kicking off the second century of stewardship for America's national parks and for communities across the nation. Most importantly, it's about inviting you to join the National Park Community. We all have a role to play in ensuring that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy the thrilling experiences of nature and wildlife, history and culture, and the spirit of adventure that is waiting at every national park.

What is your favorite national park?

The centennial is celebrating the achievements of the past 100 years, but it is really about the future. It's about kicking off the second century of stewardship for America's national parks and for communities across the nation. Most importantly, it's about inviting you to join the National Park Community. We all have a role to play in ensuring that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy the thrilling experiences of nature and wildlife, history and culture, and the spirit of adventure that is waiting at every national park.


Ways to Celebrate:
Join the national park community
Join the national park community and get access to park guides, travel tips, news, and more! Together we can celebrate our national parks and begin looking forward to the next 100 years of the National Park Service.
Support the National Park Foundation
Support the National Park Foundation and local park Friends Groups to ensure that the legacy of our national parks continues into the next century. The parks cannot thrive without your support and now is the time for all of us to come together in our efforts. Donate to NPF »
Enjoy free admission
Did you know you can visit these wonderful parks for free for the centennial celebration? Enjoy free admission to all 413 national parks from August 25-28 and find your park during the centennial year. Learn more »


Fast facts on the History of National Parks:
  • Gettysburg National Military Park was the turning point of the Civil War and the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" was often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion"
  • Before Yellowstone became America's first national park in 1872, Congress sent a group of surveyors led by geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden to explore and document the prospective park.
  • Hawaii National Park became the 11th park in 1916, just weeks before the Park Service was formed.
  • In 1961, the park was split into Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island and Haleakalā National Park on Maui. 
  • Today the National Parks Service has 59 national parks in its charge, as well as 82 national monuments, 78 national historic sites, 11 national battlefields, 15 national rivers, 19 national preserves, and 147 other units of various types.
Other Ways to Get Involved

There are so many ways to get involved and enjoy America's 413 national parks and even more ways to support these special places and their programs.
  • Find a park to visit and explore.
  • Learn about events at a park near you.
  • Celebrate the centennial in style with official centennial and Find Your Park gear.
  • Volunteer and give back to our national parks.
  • Collect National Park Service commemorative coins, available through the United States Mint. 



US National Park Availability, Amenities and Fees Vary and Can Change Often
We hope you enjoy this article because it's written specifically for RV travelers who are looking for basic travel information about the US National Parks.
Although all  parks all belong to the same system, they differ significantly in type, amenities, and pricing. Also, availability and fees can change in certain parks from one season and year to the next, so you want to plan your trips in advance.

 Make Sure You Know Before You Go
Because these parks are located all throughout the country, it is likely that most RV travelers will not get to see all of them during one trip unless they are willing to drive great distances to do so. Each is beautiful and unique in its own way, and all are well worth visiting. Happy Centennial and make sure you take the time to enjoy these parks.


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  2. National parks should be preserve for the next generation success. Congratulations on celebrating your centennial year! Will spread this wonderful news over Smart Paper Help website, so others can celebrate with you.

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