on February 4, 2016
Back in the 1800s, when members of Congress first began to hear reports of the land that is now Yellowstone National Park, they didn’t quite believe it. Ground that bubbled and spewed with odd smells and colors was not something most people had encountered at the time. Newspaper and magazine editors wouldn’t publish the stories because they didn’t believe it either.
Despite all of that, in an era of limited black-and-white photographs and artists’ renderings, and no video, based on the passionate pleas of men like conservationist John Muir, in 1872, Congress did something that had never been done before. They set aside land and dedicated it “as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” It was the world’s first national park.
By 1916, a year after Rocky Mountain National Park had become our ninth such pleasuring ground, Congress did something even better. It created the National Park Service.
Today, the Park Service oversees 409 places that preserve our nation’s greatest treasures. They are located in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands and include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.
This year, at each one of those sites, we celebrate the 100th birthday of the service created to oversee the National Parks, commonly regarded as “America’s Best Idea.”
‘Your park’ is that moment when you witness nature and weep at its beauty.
Find “your Park”
In celebration of the National Park Service’s centennial, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation invite you to “find your park.” Discover a part of yourself by exploring the great places of nature as well as the historic and cultural sites preserved by the National Park Service, as well as state and local organizations.
“Your park” is that moment when you explore a historic monument and realize you are who you are because your ancestors were a part of that history. It is a cultural treasure that helps you better understand the world around you. It is when you witness nature and weep at its beauty.
You are encouraged to claim as many parks as you like and to share you park experience in a song, photo, painting, poem, dance, video—or whatever inspires you. Visit findyourpark.com for details.
Every Kid In A Park
To help you find your park, families with a child in the fourth grade have been able to receive free admission to the National Parks since Sept. 1, 2015, as part of the Every Kid in a Park program created by the White House and the Federal Land Management agencies. The program runs through Aug. 31, 2016.
However, to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, the bargain escalates with a yearlong gift from award-winning adventure tour operator Austin Adventures, which offers tours to nearly a dozen national parks, from the Grand Canyon to Kenai Fjords. Throughout the centennial year, Austin Adventures allows all fourth-grade children to travel for free on any of its National Park adventures, a birthday present to the parks that can save $2,000 or more for each family with a fourth grader on the tour.
New Imax Film
Had we had IMAX movies back in the 1870s, there would have been no question about the authenticity of Yellowstone’s magnificence, or any of the other places that have eventually come under purview of the National Park Service.
National Park Adventures is a breathtaking big-screen, 3-D documentary narrated by Robert Redford that celebrates the centennial by showcasing the wonders found in many of our parks, such as Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite and Arches. Follow world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker, adventure photographer Max Lowe and artist Rachel Pohl as they hike, climb and explore their way through the national parks.
The film opens on Feb. 12 and runs throughout 2016 in 52 big-screen movie theaters or museums around the country. See nationalparkdadventures.com/theatres for locations and schedule.
Centennial Event At Yellowstone
On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the law creating the National Park Service, so the official birthday celebration is Aug. 25-28 at all national parks. There are 282 units of the NPS that are free all of the time, but for this weekend, admission is free at the remaining 127 units.
A key centennial event will take place on Aug. 25 at Yellowstone at the north entrance at Gardiner, Mont., otherwise known as the Roosevelt Arch—named for Theodore Roosevelt, a seminal figure in the creation of the national parks. The evening event is called “An Evening Under the Arch – Yellowstone Celebrates the NPS.” Free food, music and other events are planned.
Centennial Events At Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon Railway will be featuring special steam train departures in honor of the centennial in August. These special runs will feature Locomotive #4960 and possibly double header departures with Locomotive #29. Reservations and information is at thetrain.com.
Grand Canyon National Park Lodges at the South Rim will be offering a one-night presentation by noted Fred Harvey expert and author Stephen Fried in June. The presentation will be at the Shrine of Ages and will be free to the public. Additional book signings and opportunities to meet Fried will be available over the weekend. Visit findyourpark.com or grandcanyonlodges.com for more information.
For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit Xanterra.com/explore.