Last year, the National Parks Service celebrated its centennial. 100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson signed a bill aimed at conserving nature, wildlife and historic objects in order to leave them unimpaired for future generations to enjoy. Today, more than 80 million acres of national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, shorelines, rivers and trails are available throughout the country for education, recreation and inspiration.
1. Can You Touch the Bottom?
Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, lies in a volcanic basin and was created 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama collapsed. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake could easily hide the entire Empire State building.
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2. See You At the Top
Standing at 20,320 feet, Denali is in Denali National park in Alaska. It is the highest point in all of North America. In 2015, the mountain was officially renamed from Mount McKinley as a way to remember to the original name given to it in 1896 by Athabaskan natives.
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3. How Low Can You Go?
Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California, is the lowest point in all of the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. Death Valley National Park is also the driest and the hottest area in the country. Fun Fact: Death Valley was the setting for Tatooine in “Star Wars”.
4. Out of the Woods
National Parks are more than forestry, mountains and wildlife. A few of the most popular parks are historic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz Island.
5. Large and In Charge
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the largest park. It covers a whopping 13.2 million acres (bigger than Switzerland and 6x bigger than Yellowstone), and falls encompasses three climate zones. Inside, you’ll find wetlands, glaciers and even one of the largest volcanoes in North America.
6. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
There are nearly 300 waterfalls within Yellowstone National Park. The Lower Falls of Yellowstone Falls is actually has the highest plunge at 308 feet tall.
7. It’s Not a Popularity Contest…
…but if it was, the Great Smoky Mountains would be the winner. Overall, U.S. National Parks have never been more popular. Every year they draw in more and more visitors. Here are the top 5 parks according to average annual visitors for the past 20 years:
- Great Smoky Mountains – 9.5 million average annual visitors
- Grand Canyon – 4.4 million
- Yosemite – 3.6 million
- Olympic – 3.2 million
- Yellowstone – 3.15 million
8. How’s The Weather Up There?
The redwoods in Redwood National Park, Oregon and California, are the tallest trees on Earth. Many redwoods are more than 30 stories tall, but the tallest tree in the world, named Hyperion, stands at 379 feet tall.
9. Underground and Overwhelmed
It’s no surprise that Mammoth Cave National Park is home to a mammoth-sized cave. In Kentucky resides the longest cave system in the world. There is currently more than 3454 miles mapped and that’s not all of it. The largest part of the cave is two acres in size. The deepest cave is 1,593 feet deep in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
Did you know that the White House is on land managed by the National Park Service? The president lives in President’s Park.
11. First State, Last Park
Delaware may have been our first state, but it was our last state with a national park. After years of fighting for recognition, Delaware finally got approval for the First State National Historic Park in 2014. The parks will run up and down the state and tell of its unique colonial history. Fun Fact: Delaware is small enough to fit inside Yellowstone.