Since its inception in 1916, the National Park Service has managed each of the United States' national parks. There are 58 National Parks, 74 National Monuments that have a total of 3,565 miles of scenic trails.
The largest national park is Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The largest in the contiguous 48 states is Death Valley at 3.3M acres The smallest site is The Thaddeus Kosciuszko N. Memorial. The total area of national parks in the US is 3.6 percent of the total area of the US.
Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the world. In 1872, there was no state government to manage it, so the Federal Government assumed direct control. Yosemite National Park began as a state park; the land for the park was donated by the Federal Government to the State of California in 1864 for perpetual conservation. Yosemite was later returned to Federal ownership.
Notable national parks in the USA today include:
- Grand Canyon National Park largely contains the Grand Canyon. It is usually included in every list of 7 Natural Wonders of the World, often as the only U.S. site. The park includes a extensive system of steep tributary canyons which are valued for the combination of large size, depth, and the exposed layering of colorful rocks dating back to Precambrian times.
- Yosemite National Park approaches the size of Rhode Island. Its fierce granite cliffs make it a world-renowned destination for rock climbers, but Yosemite's giant sequoia groves and scenery make it popular.
- Yellowstone National Park is famous for its geysers, free-roaming bison, and grizzly bears. Yellowstone was America's and the worlds first national park.
- Olympic National Park contains Pacific Ocean beaches, rain forest valleys, glacier-capped peaks, and a stunning variety of plants and animals.
- Rocky Mountain National Park contains the Rocky Mountains and includes 60 mountains above 12,000 feet. The park also has stunning alpine wildflower meadows, pristine lakes and streams, and impressive wildlife.
- Zion National Park contains the creamy red cliffs of Zion Canyon, a 15-mile-long gash that reaches nearly half a mile into the earth at its deepest. Home to 271 bird species, Zion (place of refuge in Hebrew) is a true sanctuary for wildlife, as well as for people. Wildflowers bloom in the spring, and the trees turn multi-coloured in the fall (autumn).
- Grand Teton National Park is stunningly beautiful. The park's beauty comes from its nine rugged peaks, a dramatic stretch of the Rockies over 12,000 feet, combined with flat grassland and glacial lakes at their base.
- Glacier National Park contains two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), which are sometimes referred to as the southern extension of the Canadian Rockies. The park encompasses over 1 million acres, with 300 lakes, more than 1,100 different species of vascular plants, 400 species of moss and hundreds of species of animals. Nowhere on the North American continent are the prairies of the Great Plains so proximal to the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest.
- Denali National Park is located in Alaska and contains Mount McKinley (Denali), the tallest mountain in North America. Denali is home to a variety of Alaskan birds and mammals, including a healthy population of grizzly bears and black bears. Herds of caribou roam throughout the park. Dall sheep are often seen on mountainsides, and moose feed on the aquatic plants of the small lakes and swamps.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts 800 miles of hiking trails, up rugged Appalachian Mountain peaks. 16 of them greater than 6,000 feet. Straddling the mountainous border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the park is traversed by rivers and streams that reveal countless waterfalls.
- Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest, lowest place in North America. At 282 feet below the level of the sea, it is the driest place in North America with an average rainfall of only 1.96 inches a year and one of the hottest places on the surface of the Earth with summer temperatures averaging well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, it contains the southern 25 percent of the original Everglades marshland region of southwestern Florida. The Everglades is a slow-moving system of rivers, flowing southwest at about .25 miles (0.40 km) per day, fed by the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee. Unlike all other American National Parks, the Everglades National Park was created to protect a fragile ecosystem (instead of safeguarding a geographic feature). Thirty six species designated as threatened or protected live in the park, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee.
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