By Brandi M. Seals
The National Park Service is a wonderful part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is responsible for the preservation and maintenance of several unique parks, monuments, forests and more across the nation that are home to amazing sights – like the geysers in Yellowstone National Park or the naturally formed arches that dot across Arches National Park.
The National Park Service’s mission is “…to promote and regulate the use of the…national parks…which purpose is 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.” (www.nps.gov/legacy/mission.html)
President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that creating the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. The National Park Service was deemed responsible for the protecting the 40 national parks and monuments in the United States at the time of its signing as well as those that would be formed later.
The first National Park to be founded in the United States was Yellowstone National Park. Created by Congress on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park was located in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming at the time of its founding. The park is now located in the northwest corner of Wyoming.
When looking for an excellent vacation destination, simple turn to the National Park Service for help. Today the National Park System of the United States is an extensive network comprised of 384 areas that cover more than 83 million acres in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Nature lovers will want to head to the southwest. Here they can visit Canyonlands National Park. Located in the southeast corner of Utah, Canyonlands feature vistas more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. Because it is further from the beaten path, Canyonlands is a lot less crowded then the Grand Canyon.
The park is separated into four distinct districts – Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. Island in the Sky is the most accessible region and provides breathtaking views of the Green River below. Travel the .25 mile trail down to see Mesa Arch and see a more spectacular arch then can be seen elsewhere. Visitors can check out all four districts or as many as they like.
Located only a stones throw away from Canyonlands are Arches National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area, Hovenweep National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Yucca House National Monument, and Navajo National Monument. With so many parks and monuments so close together, this area makes for a great travel destination; just be sure to dust off those hiking boots. Many of these locales offer wonderful hiking trails and offer an opportunity to get a look at some wild horses. Just be careful while driving in the area. There are lots of open cattle ranges and it is not uncommon to find cows in the road.
Civil War buffs will want to check out the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. This park marks the site of where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 which marked the end of the Civil War. While in the area, stop by the Manassas National Battlefield Park which preserves the site of the Battles of First and Second Manassas (also known as Bull Run). Both are located in Virginia amongst several other great parks and monuments.
If heading to multiple National Park destinations check into getting a National Park Pass. The passes, sold at the entrance to most national parks and online, runs $50 and gets the cardholder and anyone in his private vehicle in for free at National Parks charging an entrance fee.
It may not be feasible to check out all the National Parks in an area, but with a National Park in every state except Idaho (which does feature the Nez Perce National Historic Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Minidoka Internment National Monument and the City of Rocks National Reserve) there is one nearby for almost everyone. Get out and see what your country has deemed important enough to be preserved by the federal government.