The National Parks, from 1832 to Today

A quick (and somewhat flawed) look at how "America's best idea" has evolved
Staff Writer


Canyonlands National Park

With all of the financial problems our prized National Parks have faced since sequestration went into effect, it's good to take a break every once in a while and think about how lucky Americans are to have the world's most extensive, geography- and wildlife-rich park system in the world. To consider how rich each and every one of us is, and how important it is to maintain and protect the parks for future generations.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Government created this handy little infographic as a quick, easy way to see what natural treasures the parks protect, and how the the parks came into being in the first place.

Unfortunately, the creators didn't fact-check their data before publishing (see below the graphic for clarifications). Still, we think it offers a good glance at "America's best idea," and how it's evolved over the past couple centuries (click on the image to go to the source and enlarge it).

Mistakes (UPDATE on 4/15: These mistakes have mostly been fixed!)
• In the timeline: Where it says that George Catlin worried for the bison roaming "Yosemite" Valley, it was almost certainly supposed to be "Yellowstone" Valley, as bison never lived in California. Anyway, Catlin never even made it to Yellowstone (much less Yosemite), and made his observations and call for a "nation's park" after traveling to the Dakotas, particularly the area around the North Dakota/Montana border.

• In the "Today" section: The NPS oversees 78 (or 77, depending on who you ask) national monuments, not 103. There are an additional 18 administered by the Bureau of Land Management, plus more under the Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA.

• Under the "In National Parks You'll Find" section, some of the stats are slightly off. Crater Lake is 1,946 feet deep at its maximum, Carlsbad Caverns' deepest point is at 1,604 feet in Lechuguilla Cave, and just more than 400 miles of caves have been mapped in Mammoth Cave (not 3,454 miles).

• In the profile of Yellowstone National Park, the map neglects to show Wyoming (where the vast majority of the park is located), and incorrectly lists the counties in which it lies, which are: Teton and Park counties in Wyoming, Gallatin and Park counties in Montana and Fremont County in Idaho.

Via National Parks Traveler.


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