The National Parks


The National Parks (2009) is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the country should be preserved for everyone. 

  • Yellowstone National Park | Ken Burns: The National Parks

    View images of tourists and wildlife taken at Yellowstone National Park. In 1872, Yellowstone became the first National Park in the world. Located in the state of Wyoming, with parts stretching into Montana and Idaho, it boasts two million miles of remote terrain. Yellowstone has mountain ranges, deep canyons, rock formations, rivers and lakes, diverse wildlife, and geothermal activity in the form of sulphur springs and geysers. Theodore Roosevelt fought to protect the Park from poachers and vandals. Photographers like Ansel Adams, presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt, and biologists like George Melendez Wright were drawn to its unearthly beauty.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Yosemite National Park | Ken Burns: The National Parks

    View images of photographer Ansel Adams, biologist George Wright, John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as tourists and park vistas taken at Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is located in Northern California. The area was home to the Ahwaneechee Indians for thousands of years before white men arrived. Beginning in the mid-1800s, Yosemite became a tourist destination. Visitors were drawn to the region’s awe-inspiring landscape, which includes cliffs, glaciers, waterfalls, wilderness, and giant, ancient sequoia trees that stretch more than 200 feet into the air. The area was declared a National Park in 1890, through the efforts of conservationists like John Muir. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Visitors and Tourists | Ken Burns: The National Parks

    View images of tourists exploring National Parks across the country. As the United States grew and its population expanded and settled westward, regions of the country that displayed natural beauty and ecological diversity became a source of pride. An idea formed that these areas should be maintained and protected for all to enjoy as part of the country’s heritage. This idea would develop into the National Park System over the next 150 years. America’s National Parks draw as many as 330 million visitors every year who are drawn to the unique beauty, geographic, and ecological diversity on display.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Writers, Leaders, Conservationists, and Scientists | Ken Burns: The National Parks

    View images of National Park supporters like George Dorr, Horace Albright, Stephen Mather, and John Muir. See images of scientists who studied the parks, like Adolph Murie and George Wright. Artists, like George Masa and Horace Kephart, and inspired political figures, like Martin Luther King and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The creation of America’s National Parks was an idea that grew out of a sense of pride in the country’s ecological and geographic diversity. The park system would never be a reality if not for the passion and dedication of the conservationists, philanthropists, scientists, artists, and tourists who believed in the idea. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Images from the National Parks | Ken Burns: The National Parks

    View images from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier to Kings Canyon and Glacier Bay. As the United States grew and its population expanded and settled westward, regions of the country that displayed natural beauty and ecological diversity became a source of pride. An idea formed that these areas should be maintained and protected for all to enjoy as part of the country’s heritage. This idea would develop into the National Park System over the next 150 years. There are now 58 National Parks and 333 National Monuments and Historic Sites in the United States. 

    Grades: 6-12

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