Each spring the National Park Service and National Park Foundation celebrate America’s national parks through National Park Week (sorry for all the “national” mentions in that sentence). This year’s festivities are taking place this week from April 19 through the 27.
While the first national park in the United States (and the world) was not established until 1872 (Yellowstone National Park would have this honor), as early as 1832 President Andrew Jackson signed legislation that the 22nd United States Congress had enacted to set aside four sections of land around what is now Hot Springs, Arkansas, to protect the natural, thermal springs and adjacent mountainsides for the future disposal of the United States government. No legal authority was ever established there and federal control of the area did not occur until 1877. However, what made President Jackson’s signing this legislation so significant was that it was the first effort by any government to set aside protected lands for conservation purposes. Considering that by 1832, the United States was just over 50 years old, this was pretty amazing.
I was inspired recently to document all of the national parks I have visited in the United States. I’ve been to a decent number of ones here on the East Coast but have yet to visit those parks out west which look incredible. My top three that I would love to see one day are Mesa Verde in Colorado, Grand Teton in Wyoming, and Arches National Park in Utah.
Here’s a thing about growing up on the East Coast, you’re surrounded by history. So yes, a dominant theme on my list are those national park sites that have a history connection.
For now here is my list grouped by state.
Statue of Liberty
Delaware Water Gap
Valley Forge National Park
Arlington House-Robert E. Lee Memorial
Blue Ridge Parkway
Fredericksburg Battlefield Park
Richmond Battlefield Park
Shenandoah National Park
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
National parks would go on to become a “worldwide craze” but it was the United States that truly set the bar. If you haven’t already done so, go visit a national park this week to enjoy their pure awesomeness but if not this week, then make it your travel goal of 2014.